A 10-year-old central Ohio boy was suspended for three days last week after he pointed his fingers like a gun at another student and pretended to shoot.
“I was just playing around,” fifth-grader Nathan Entingh told the Columbus Dispatch. “People play around like this a lot at my school.”
The boy said other students have been caught playing pretend gun games on the playground at Devonshire Alternative Elementary School and weren’t suspended.
But a school district spokesman said Principal Patricia Price has warned students about pretend gunplay numerous times during the year and all students should know the rules by now.
The spokesman said Nathan put his “lookalike firearm” to the side of another student’s head and pretended to shoot “kind of execution style.”
“The kids were told, ‘If you don’t stop doing this type of stuff, there would be consequences,’” said district spokesman Jeff Warner. “It’s just been escalating.”
Three newsletters have been sent home with students to warn them about that type of play, he said.
But Nathan’s father said no one felt threatened and accused school officials of acting childish in their response.
“He said he was playing,” Paul Entingh said. “It would even make more sense maybe if he brought a plastic gun that looked like a real gun or something, but it was his finger.”
Nathan has never been in trouble previously at school, his father said, and the other student didn’t even see the gesture – only a teacher.
“I was thinking it was dumb,” Nathan said of his punishment.
But the school’s zero-tolerance policy, adopted since the mid-1990s, mandates the suspension.
A Columbus Democrat has proposed legislation that would overturn a 1998 law requiring schools to adopt such discipline policies, saying they lead to unfair punishments.
“Many of us on both sides of the aisle want to find something that will give school administrators flexibility so they can be reasonable, remain safe and keep students in school,” said state Sen. Charleta Tavares.
The bill remains under consideration by the Senate’s education committee.
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