A Virginia school board is changing its weapons policy after two 7-year-old students were suspended for pretending their pencils were guns.
The two boys attend Driver Elementary School in Suffolk. They were suspended for pointing pencils at each other and making shooting noises. Second grader, Christopher Marshall, whose father is a former marine, told his mother they were “pretending they were in the military.”
Wendy Marshall called the pretend game harmless fun and was shocked to learn the school’s reaction. Officials considered the boys in violation of the Suffolk Public Schools' weapons policy, which carries a suspension of up to 10 days.
"I thought they were going overboard," the mother said.
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The school board is now revising its former zero-tolerance policy to consider the context: Was there intent to harm? Is the object listed as a weapon in the policy?
The board voted unanimously to approve the policy change last week. Ordinary objects will no longer be considered weapons. Punishment for violating the policy will be determined on a case by case basis.
Christopher’s father, Paul Marshall, said they are still waiting for an apology from the school.
"The school board could have done the right thing, not just on paper like they did at the meeting last night, but they could have actually apologized, said 'hey you know it's unfortunate that it happened, but we're coming to you to say things will be changed to mitigate the problem in the future,’” Marshall said.
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"It's a teachable moment. It's not a suspension moment for a 7-year-old," said Andrea DeBruin-Parecki, graduate program direct of early children education at Old Dominion University, to The Virginia Pilot. "You call the boys aside, and you explain to them why it's not appropriate to do this in school."