A lack of common sense or justified disciplinary action? That’s the debate that is happening in Ohio this week after it was reported a principal suspended a child for playing.
Last week, an Ohio elementary school principal issued a three-day suspension for a 10-year-old, fifth grade boy who had pointed his finger similar to a gun and had pretended to shoot one of his classmates, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Devonshire Alternative Elementary School penned the suspension letter and explained that Nathan Entingh used a “level 2 lookalike firearm” during the altercation. Jeff Warner, a spokesperson for the district, stated that Entingh applied his “lookalike firearm” against his peer’s head in an “execution style,” the United Press International (UPI) reported.
The students had been warned repeatedly and administrators had notified them of potential consequences, but the Feb. 26 situation just continued to escalate. “We’ve had a problem at this school. The boys have gone around fake shooting and making paper guns at class. It’s inappropriate. She [principal] has sent notes to parents for the past three weeks alerting them of the problem,” said Warner.
Paul Entingh took his son to the principal’s office the next morning, where Principal Patricia Price said that if the incident were to happen again then the suspension would be a lot longer.
According to the student and his father, he was just fooling around like other kids before him. “He was pointing it at a friend’s head and he said ‘boom.’ The kid didn’t see it. No other kids saw it. But the teacher saw it,” the child’s father said, notes CNN. “It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t hostile. It was a 10-year-old kid playing.”
Paul said the entire ordeal is befuddling and doesn’t think there is any validity to the suspension. He explained that he would understand if his son brought a fake plastic toy gun to school, but he didn’t. All his son did was play around and pretend to shoot someone with his fingers.
“It would even make more sense maybe if he brought a plastic gun that looked like a real gun or something, but it was his finger,” the father said. “I would have even been fine with them doing an in-school suspension.”
The student returned to class Tuesday and his father believes he will now have a target on his back by his teachers who are angry that his family criticized the decision. “I’m just worried that things will be taken out on him,’ he said. “He told me he regrets doing it.”
Data from the Ohio Department of Education indicates that Nathan isn’t the only student being punished for playing, according to the New York Daily News. Following a number of shooting incidents at schools in the past few years, educators have imposed tough disciplinary measures. During the 2012-2013 school year, there were a total of 419 statewide students in all grades who were suspended because of “firearm look-a-likes.” Another 38 students were expelled.
There have been numerous incidences across the country where schools have punished students for playing. Three kids were suspended for playing with toy guns in their own backyard, a teen was suspended and arrested for wearing an NRA T-shirt and a deaf preschooler was told to change his sign because depicting his name looked like a gun.
The Columbus Dispatch listed similar incidents that have occurred in the past in Ohio:
- Second grade student suspended for two days for cutting out a paper gun (2000)
- 14-year-old student expelled for using a Nerf foam dart-gun (2009)
- Eight-year-old child charged for allegedly assaulting a principal during a temper tantrum – the charges were dropped (1999)