A suburban Washington, D.C. family has retained legal counsel after their six-year-old son was suspended from school for making a gun gesture with his thumb and forefinger, pointing at another student and saying “pow.”
The boy, a student at Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, made the universal kid sign for a gun a week after 20-year-old Adam Lanza massacred 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The boy’s parents received a letter explaining that his punishment would be a one-day suspension, to be served January 2, the first day students return from winter break, reports WRC-TV.
Robin Ficker, an attorney representing the family, maintains that school officials overreacted to the pretend gesture. The boy is too young to comprehend in any meaningful way the significance of his actions, Ficker argued.
“He doesn’t understand,” Ficker told the NBC affiliate. “The law says he is not old enough to form intent.”
“What they’re doing is looking at the worst possible interpretation of a young, naive six-year-old,” Ficker added, according to the Washington Examiner.
Ficker also said school officials were wrong not to discuss the situation with the boy’s mother and not to consider the long-term repercussions of a suspension.
“They could have called the mother in. They didn’t do that,” Ficker told the Examiner. “They just said, ‘You’re suspended.’ Five years from now, when someone in to Montgomery County looks at his permanent record, they’re going to see that he threatened to shoot another student.”
In the letter the boy’s parents received, Assistant Principal Renee Garraway alluded to the boy’s previous involvement in a comparable event.
“He was spoken to earlier today about a similar incident,” the letter read.
Ficker alleges that school officials never notified the boy’s parents of any prior issues. “They won’t say what the similar incident is,” he told the Examiner.
Garraway declined comment, says the Examiner.
“Generally, in an incident involving the behavior of our younger students, we will make sure that the student and his family are well-informed of any behavior that needs to change and understand the consequences if the behavior does not change,” a spokesperson for the school district told WRC-TV.
The policy of the Montgomery County Public Schools provides a 10-day window to appeal student suspensions.