Although few would classify a novelty pen as a dangerous object, the toy earned one 7-year-old a suspension as a “weapons offender.” The parents are now suing the school in federal court.
The boy, named only as G.B., brought the trick pen onto his school bus in Harrisburg, Pa., and showed it to a fellow classmate. The bus driver then confiscated the toy and reported the 7-year-old to school officials.
According to G.B.’s parents, the pen is "similar to a 'clown' type buzzer that one would hold in the palm of one's hand to emit a small buzz when shaking hands," and that the whole incident "arose from his simple act of taking a toy onto a school bus — a toy that neither threatened nor caused harm to any person or property."
The parents are suing Hershey Elementary School, the principal, the acting superintendent and some members of the Derry Township School Board.
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They charge that by suspending their son, the school prevented him from getting his needed education, which he should have the right to receive. According to their statement, the school punished the boy "without due process of law based on the basis of nothing but hysterical and overly zealous application of a constitutionally deficient school policy.”
Earlier this year, two grade-school students in Suffolk, Va. were also suspended over writing utensils. The 7-year-olds were holding pencils in their hands while making gun noises and pointing them as though they were weapons. One of the students was reportedly impersonating his father.
According to the school’s zero-tolerance weapons policy, officials placed both boys on suspension. However, the local school board voted unanimously to revise the policy, and now ordinary objects will not be classified as weapons.
From now on, punishments at the Virginia school will be issued on an individual basis, and will not be dictated by a sweeping policy. Perhaps after the pending lawsuit, Hershey Elementary School will follow suit.