A 5-year-old girl from North Carolina was suspended from school March 24 after she was caught playing with a stick that resembled a gun and pointing it at other schoolchildren.
Caitlin Miller's mother, Brandy, was called by school officials and ordered to come pick up Caitlin from school, as she had been suspended for a day for playing with a "stick gun," according to reports.
Caitlin claimed she and two of her friends were playing a game called "King and Queen," where Caitlin was a guard to the "royalty" and was pretending to "shoot an intruder." Schoolyard supervisors noticed Caitlin's stick gun and took her to the administration office to be disciplined.
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"Hoke County Schools will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student," the school system said in a statement. "Any student engaging in such behavior will be removed from the classroom or school environment for as long as is necessary to provide a safe and orderly environment for learning."
Brandy told WTVD that she understands the school's position, and it would be entirely appropriate if applied to a student old enough to understand the context of their actions.
"We know why it's bad," she said. "We watch the news, but then I have to tell my kid you're not allowed to play like that in school because people do bad things to kids your age."
She also expressed her displeasure on Facebook.
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"I can see a suspension for an older kid who knows better and who is actually threatening other kids. Who the hell felt so threatened by a five-year-old girl that they thought she needed to be suspended?"
The Twitter account for WTVD ran a poll about the suspension, asking followers if they felt Caitlin should have been disciplined for her actions. Of those who answered the question, 95 percent had said "no," as of March 29.
"When I showed up to get her, she looked so confused and didn't understand why I was there or what a suspension was or why it was happening to her," wrote Brandy. "It was sad. And trying to explain to her that playing like that is wrong was a challenge. One minute she's running around playing with her friends, and the next minute her teacher is snatching her up and dragging her to the office to get suspended. She was so scared and confused. Caitlin is a handful, but I feel like this was way blown out of proportion."
North Carolina is one of several states that issue concealed-carry permits for firearms. The state has a slightly above-average rate for firearm deaths, with 12.5 deaths per 100,000 people from gun-related incidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.