With school shootings making headlines on an all-too-frequent basis, educational institutions are cracking down hard on weapons — even toy versions — on campus. In the case of Joseph Lyssikatos, 12, a toy keychain earned him a suspension. His family is now fighting the decision, claiming that school officials went too far in their punishment.
Joseph, a 7th-grader, won a 2-inch keychain at an arcade. He brought the prize with him to Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School, where one of his classmates saw the toy and began showing it to the rest of the class. When school authorities caught notice of it, they decided to suspend Joseph for bringing the keychain to school.
"This boy was the one waving it or showing it to other kids. Not Joseph. Joseph wasn't doing that so why weren't both of them reprimanded," said Joseph's mother, Bonnie Bonanno.
Although Joseph has already served his suspension, his parents are concerned that it will affect his record, barring him from achieving perfect attendance for the year. If they have their way, the suspension will be expunged, preventing future repercussions.
While suspension over a tiny toy seems harsh, some schools punish students for weilding common school supplies as "pretend weapons." In Virginia, 7-year-old Christopher Marshall was suspended for holding a pencil as a gun. He was pretending to be a Marine, and “shot” at his friend, who was pretending to be an enemy.
Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for the school, said, "It's an effort to try to get kids not to bring any form of violence into the classroom, even if it's violent play.”
Christopher’s father is a Marine, and his mother Wendy thought the school overstepped its boundaries. “I find it ridiculous that he cannot use his imagination and be a boy,” she said. “When my son wants to pretend he’s a Marine or a Navy pilot like his granddad or an auto mechanic like his other granddad, I don’t think that should be an issue.”