A 5-year-old kindergarten student at Southeast Elementary in Brighton, CO was suspended from school after she brought a *gun onto school grounds.
*a clear, plastic princess bubble-blowing gun
The young girl’s mother said she had no idea the little girl took the toy in her backpack with her to school Monday morning.
The kindergartener took out the bubble gun out of her backpack to show friends her new toy before school had begun. Once faculty became aware of the dangerous weapon on school grounds, the girl’s mother received a phone call instructing her to come pick up her daughter, saying she had been suspended – effective immediately.
The little girl was so shaken by the event that Monday night, she asked if she could stay home and offered to clean the house instead of going to school.
“It’s a shame because it’s the end of the school year, and it’s kind of ending on a bad note now,” she said. “And she didn’t deserve that. She didn’t deserve a punishment like that.”
A spokesman with School District 27J in Brighton released a statement defending the action, saying, “This suspension is consistent with our district policy as well as how Southeast has handled similar situations throughout this school year.”
“It’s absurd to send a 5-year-old home for a bubble-maker,” said Nathan Woodliff, the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado. “This is a silly example of a very real problem. Zero-tolerance policies often mean zero common sense.”
After the Columbine shootings, many districts enacted zero-tolerance policies for weapons on school grounds, and there have since been numerous reports of children being suspended or expelled for obviously fake weapons such as pastry guns, Hello Kitty bubble guns, and even their own fingers as guns.
“We are given a brain, and we should use it,” said Tom Mauser, a spokesman for Colorado Ceasefire, whose son died in the Columbine shooting.
Colorado Ceasefire advocates for stricter gun control laws, and Mauser initially supported zero-tolerance policies.
“But the more stories I heard like this the more I became against zero-tolerance policies,” said Mauser, who now thinks schools must find the difficult balance between public safety and common sense.
Colorado set a national example by passing School Discipline Reform in 2012, making it easier for schools to have discretion in disciplinary action.
Still, Woodliff-Stanley said the bubble gun case in Brighton is a clear example that “out-of-proportion punishment” is still a serious issue.
“It is counterproductive in a lot of different ways,” said Woodliff-Stanley. “When children are disciplined in ways that don’t make sense, they actually lose respect for the school they don’t gain respect.”
The ACLU monitors zero tolerance policies around the country, and considers them part of the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”
“They’re part of how we end up criminalizing our children rather than having a better school environment,” he said.
The mother of the 5-year-old girl suspended Monday said she had her own reasons for calling attention to her school’s harsh disciplinary action toward her daughter.
“My 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,” said the mother. “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.”