BRIGHTON, Colo. – The principal at Southeast Elementary in the Adams County School District apparently thinks a clear plastic bubble gun qualifies as “a firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm.”
At least that’s what one mother told ABC 7 after she was forced to pick up her kindergarten daughter from the school for blowing bubbles with the fake firearm during indoor recess. The girl brought her “princess” bubble gun to school in her backpack unbeknownst to her mother, and the principal dropped the hammer with a one-day suspension for violating school policy.
“I apologized right away and said that I am sorry she did that,” said the mother, who did not want to be identified. “I appreciate that they’re trying to keep kids safe, I really do. But there needs to be some common sense. It blows bubbles.”
The mother said she attempted to discuss the issue with school officials, but their attitude about the situation convinced her that exposing the issue in the media would be a better course of action.
“I asked, ‘Is it really necessary for me to come get her?’ And they said, ‘Yes, this is our zero tolerance policy, and somebody needs to come get her immediately,’” the mother said.
“The reason for doing this story is because the principal didn’t seem like she wanted to have a conversation with me this morning about it,” she said. “It was a very superior attitude. She made it very clear that she didn’t care what I had to say and that it didn’t matter what I said. It was something that she was going to enforce no matter what.”
District policy calls for a suspension if students bring in “a firearm facsimile that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm.”
The woman told Fox 31 the move means her daughter will end the school year on a sour note, and will now have a documented disciplinary action that could cause issues in the future.
“I don’t want her to miss out on class. That’s a silly reason not to go to school,” she said. “What bugs me is this is going to be something they can refer to if we have any issues in the future which I don’t foresee, but it’s always going to be lingering there in her school file.”
EAGnews has repeatedly highlighted zero-tolerance policies and over-reacting school officials who have suspended or punished young students in recent years for seemingly innocent gestures, including discipline for finger pistols, Nerf darts, Hello Kitty bubble guns, and a student who chewed him Pop-Tart into a gun shape.
Much of the hysteria stems from highly publicized school shootings that have convinced school officials that zero-tolerance bans on anything that resembles a gun better protect students, though Tom Mauser, whose son died in a shooting at Columbine High School disagrees with the approach.
“We are given a brain, and we should use it,” he told ABC 7, adding that he initially supported the zero-tolerance gun policies, but now advocates against them through the political action committee Colorado Ceasefire.
“It’s perhaps a little easier to say, ‘We’re going to enforce this all across the board the same way and treat them all the same,’” he said. “It’s very difficult for the school districts because you’ll have people complaining, ‘Why did they get this and my child got this?’ But it’s something you have to do to be fair.”
Nathan Woodliff, executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, agreed with Mauser’s assessment.
“It’s absurd to send a 5-year-old home for a bubble-maker,” he said. “This is a silly example of a very real problem. Zero-tolerance policies often mean zero common sense.”
District officials refused to speak with the media, but instead issued a statement that seemingly confirms Woodliff’s comments.
Adams County school district spokesman Kevin Denke wrote in an emailed statement that the bubble gun debacle isn’t the first time students at the school have been suspended for bringing in toy guns.
The bringing of weapons, real or facsimile, to our schools by students can not only create a potential safety concern but also cause a distraction for our students in the learning process,” Denke wrote.
“Our schools, particularly Southeast because of past instances with students bringing fake weapons to school, make a point of asking parents to be partners in making sure students are not bringing these items to school. This includes asking parents to check backpacks.”