A seven-year-old Missouri student was reprimanded by officials at his school and threatened with suspension Tuesday for bringing an empty shell casing to class, the boy’s mother said.
Sherry Falke told WDAF she thinks the Norborne School District is making too big a deal out of her son’s mistake.
“He felt it in his pocket, and he took it out and was showing some of his friends at school,” she said.
Falke said her son Zane received the casing at a Veterans of Foreign War’s ceremony commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks. Members of the VFW reportedly passed out casings to each member of her son’s Cub Scout troop. She said her son forgot the casing was in his pocket.
When Zane’s teacher discovered he had the casing at school, she took him to the principal’s office. Falke said her son was told he could be suspended from school for up to ten days. Instead he was punished by having to eat one lunch by himself and missing two recesses.
Falke said her son came home from school that day crying.
“The principal proceeded to reprimand him as though he were bringing live ammunition to school. I understand that’s in the policy, in the handbook, that they can’t bring guns to school, I fully support that, but it’s an empty blank casing,” she said.
Superintendent of the district Dr. Roger Feagan defended the principal’s decision.
“In today’s society, unfortunately, we do have to be concerned with those types of things in schools,” he said. “Though this seems minor, if we don’t handle the minor things, they can unfortunately escalate into major things down the road.”
Falke said she tried to explain the significance of her son’s souvenir and asked for the punishment to be reduced.
“Had he brought a war medal to school, would he have been punished?” she said. “They also passed out American flags to all the kids, if he brought that to school would he have been punished?”
Feagan said that if Zane had notified the school beforehand, the souvenir could have made for an interesting discussion topic. But he said the punishment would stand and felt it was appropriate for the level of the offense.
“We didn’t want anything to lead to anything further with that student or think that was OK to bring to school,” Feagan said.
Zane is not the first student to get in trouble for bringing empty casings to school. But given past punishments for similar offenses, the two-recess and one-lunch consequence is pretty mild.
In 2009, KCCI reported Brody Middle School in Iowa suspended a student for one day for bringing empty shotgun shells to school.
In April this year, officials at Connecticut’s Torrington Middle School put the entire school on lockdown for 90 minutes after a student discovered an empty shell casing under a cafeteria table.
The school called in police to investigate and they eventually determined the casing was brought to school by a 12-year-old student. Police searched the student’s possessions and determined he was not armed and that the student’s parents didn’t even have guns in their home.
“It is harmless,” police spokesman Lt. Bruce Whiteley told The Register Citizen. “However, due to the fact it was located within the school, it did cause alarm.”
The school suspended the unnamed student for ten days.
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