Sunday 10 September 2023

School suspends first-grader for pretending fingers were a gun during game of cops and robbers

 A school in Alabama suspended a first-grader for pretending his fingers were a gun during a game of cops and robbers with another student, according to reports.

Jarrod Belcher said his six-year-old son was suspended from Bagley Elementary School in Jefferson County, Alabama. The first-grade student was reportedly suspended for using his "index fingers as a gun" while playing a game of cops and robbers with another boy at school. 

Belcher said he was called by school administrators, and he was instructed to remove his young son from school for the alleged infraction.

Belcher told WBRC, "I asked her, I said, 'Well did he threaten anyone?' 'No.' 'Was there violence?' 'No.' 'Was there any indication of a current or future threat?' 'No.' 'I said, 'Well this kind of seems benign to me, it sounds like two students playing,' and she said it was but in this climate, this day and age, we have to take all incidents very seriously." 

The school claimed that the boy committed a "3.22 Threat" violation, which the Student and Parent Handbook for Bagley Elementary defined as making a threat or intimidation of another student.

Fox News reported, "Potential violations include 'A threat to do serious bodily harm or violence to another student by word or act, cyberbullying, or intimidation that may induce fear into another.'" 

The handbook gives examples such as "a threat to kill, maim, or inflict serious harm; a threat to inflict harm involving the use of any weapon, explosive, firearm, knife, prohibited object, or other object which may be perceived by the individual being threatened as capable of inflicting bodily harm."

The other boy playing cops and robbers was also suspended, according to reports.

Belcher said school administrators later contacted him to say that his son's was downgraded to a class II violation. However, Belcher said that a class II infraction would stay on his son's record.

Belcher advised, "What they should have done was pulled him to the side and said, 'Hey, this is not appropriate at school,' and that should have solved it, or they could have called me, and I would have handled it. What I would like is for this incident to be removed from his record, he doesn’t deserve to be branded as potentially violent, because he was playing cops and robbers."

Belcher's attorney, M. Reed Martz, fired off a letter demanding the Jefferson County school system to "immediately and publicly confirm it will remove any record of an infraction, disciplinary action, or other sort of report" from the boy's record.

"In other words, the school charged a six-year-old boy with an infraction equivalent to a felony crime," Martz wrote. "The irony is not lost on J.B.’s parents that '[i]ntentionally hitting, pushing, kicking, or otherwise being physically aggressive with another student' is only a Class II Infraction. In other words, J.B. would be subject to a lesser maximum penalty had he punched the other student in the face!"

Initially, school administrators allegedly said Belcher's son would be banned from attending the school until there was a hearing on the incident.

The boy has been permitted to return to the school, but Martz said it is "too little, too late."

Jefferson County School Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin issued a statement on the situation:

In this particular case, the parents were contacted and took the student home for the remainder of the day because of the initial information we received. After further review of the circumstances, it was determined that no further action, other than a discussion with the student, was needed. The student was back in class the next school day. We stand ready to meet with the parent to talk about any remaining concerns.

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