Three boys were suspended for bringing to school miniature toy guns from G.I. Joe action figures.
The toys are about one to three inches – about half the size of a pencil – but Bemiss Elementary School in Spokane, Wash., says it stands by its zero-tolerance policy on weapons, which does not specify the type or size, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.
“We’ve been very clear with our students and parents that you don’t bring anything that resembles a gun to school,” Bemiss Principal Lorna Spear told the paper.
The mother of one of the boys, Terry Wilson-Spence, called their suspension Friday an overreaction.
“I don’t think any child would look at it and be threatened,” she told he Spokane daily.
School officials argue, however, “At school you don’t need anything that’s going to make kids feel unsafe.”
Wilson-Spence’s son, John Spence, ran into trouble Friday when he put three plastic toy guns in his pocket as he was leaving for school.
His mother said he packed the toys in preparation for an overnight birthday party, and when he got to school one of the guns was sticking out.
“Apparently when he got to school, one of the guns was sticking out,” Wilson-Spence said.
The principal, Spear, said another child reported the guns to school officials.
The officials say during lunch, Spence and two other unidentified boys, who also had miniature guns, began to play with them at the lunch table.
Spear said the three boys were making threatening actions while playing with the toys, which made other students feel unsafe.
Wilson-Spence admitted one of the boys pointed the tiny plastic gun at other students but insists her son did not.
The school district’s Student Rights and Responsibilities policy guide says a threat is considered “any statement, written or spoken, or action which creates a reasonable fear of bodily harm.”
“I think that we need to be clear about what constitutes a threat, and what is plain and simply a toy,” Wilson-Spence told the Spokesman-Review. “We’re talking about Barbie and Ken here.”
Spear was away Friday and said the boys would be suspended until she met with their parents when she returned this week.
The punishment will depend on the circumstances, she said.
“Even these boys said they knew they weren’t supposed to bring these to school,” noted Spear, who added the situation would have amounted to nothing if they had given the toys to a teacher.
The Spokane paper noted a similar incident in Washington state 1997 when the Seattle School District suspended a 10-year-old boy for bringing an inch-long G.I. Joe gun to school.