Contact Us
Make My Homepage

Is Twirling a Pencil in School a Bona Fide Threat? [POLL/AUDIO]

A Vernon Township seventh-grader is now back in school after he was suspended several days for twirling a pencil between his fingers.

Joe Corrigan, Getty Images

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The youngster, Ethan Chaplin, was hustled out of the building when another student saw the pencil movement and yelled out, “He’s making gun motions, send him to juvie.”

According to Frank Belluscio, director of communications for the New Jersey School Boards Association, all districts are strongly urged to develop a policy covering threats of violence.

“It’s critical that the students report to a teacher, to the principal or a guidance counselor their knowledge of the threat of violence,” Belluscio said, “and the school would then take appropriate action in accordance with its own disciplinary policies.”

He said in some cases, local police would be notified about a potential threat.

“It’s understandable some people might think this is going overboard,” Belluscio said. “However, the school district is required to act on the side of caution. It does have to be investigated — and it is erring on the side of caution — this is a different world now and we can’t dismiss certain actions as childhood pranks.”

Child psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias said a certain balance has shifted after numerous instances of school violence.

“The pendulum is swinging over to not letting anything go by, where everything is assessed as a potential risk, but in some instances we are going overboard and labeling kids in certain situations that are really not necessary,” Tobias said.

He went on to say that kids will be kids, and schools should use judgment in situations like this.

“I could see one friend saying this about his friend, not to get him in trouble, but just to screw around,” Tobias said. “I mean, this is what boys do. They yell out things in class, they bust each other’s chops.”

Context is important, according to Tobias.

“Is this two kids fooling around,” he said, “or is this a serious situation? I think we’re all searching for a balance in these situations; I just don’t think we’ve found it yet.”


Best of NJ101.5

Recommended For You

Best of the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for New Jersey Insiders quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!

Sign up to have exclusive New Jersey Insiders contests, events, coupons, presales, and much more delivered to you for FREE.