In what is quite possibly the most egregious misapplication of zero tolerance policies in the history of public education, three Virginia Beach 7th-graders have been suspended, with two of them placed on long-term suspension through next June for playing with Airsoft guns on private property. The three suspended boys were playing with the guns while waiting for the school bus in one of the boys’ front yard. A neighbor called 911 and reported it, noting that the gun was a toy and that the boys were shooting toward a target in a tree with a net behind it to catch the pellets. Despite acknowledging that it was a toy, the neighbor told the 911 dispatcher that . . .
“it makes people uncomfortable. I know that it makes me (uncomfortable), as a mom, to see a boy pointing a gun.” There were as many as six boys engaging in an “airsoft war” at one point, including the son of the 911 caller.
Virginia Beach’s WAVY reports that the suspensions were handed down after an investigation found that “children were firing pellet guns at each other, and at people near the bus stop.” The letter from the boys’ middle school principal says one child “was only 10 feet from the bus stop, and ran from the shots being fired, but was still hit.” (Measured how? My bus stop growing up was “the corner of Sunrise and Pine.” It’d be impossible to give a location more specific in that case than “near the bus stop.”) In this case, no one disputes that the kids were on private property, but they were still suspended for “possession, handling and use of a firearm.”
The boys don’t deny they were shooting at each other, but said that no one involved complained. “He knew we had the airsoft gun. He knew we were playing. He knew people were getting shot. We were shooting at the tree, but he still came and even after he was shot he still played,” referring to the son of the 911 caller.
The suspensions take effect immediately, and extend through June of next year, though there will be a hearing in January to determine if they will be allowed back into school. Both kids were offered a spot in the county’s alternative school. One child’s parents said the student will be homeschooled, the other will be attending the alternative school.
One of the boys is crying foul: “Yes, it’s unfair because we were in our yard. This had nothing to do with school. I didn’t have anything at school at anytime.” He went on to express serious concerns for his future due to this incident, saying “It’s terrible. I won’t get the chance to go to a good college. It’s on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren’t going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say ‘oh, we can’t accept you.'”
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