10-Year-Old Gets Suspended for Playing With Imaginary Gun

finger gun gestureTen-year-old Nickolas Taylor is a fifth grader at Stacy Middle School in Milford, Pennsylvania. He was in the school lunch line when two girls accused him of cutting. Nickolas was standing behind them and he reportedly pointed his finger in the shape of an imaginary gun in "no particular direction" and made ray gun sounds. And the kid who has never been in big trouble before was suspended from school for two days.

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I understand that in these times, we can't be too careful. We worry. We cannot bear another school shooting. But I can't help but feel this was excessive. There was no gun. There wasn't even a toy gun. It was one kid making a hand gesture. Way back when I was in kindergarten, I was playing that "Where Is Thumbkin" game with friends in class. When I got to the middle finger part, the kids started laughing and then one went and told the teacher I was giving him the middle finger. I'm not sure I even knew what the middle finger meant until that day. My name was then placed on the "Bad People" list in class. If you didn't have this form of humiliation in your elementary school, be glad. Each day, every child was either on the "Good People" or "Bad People" list. It was a circle of each child's face that they drew themselves with their name on it. Seeing my name in "Bad People" was horrifying. So much so, I remember the moment so clearly and it was nearly 300 years ago. 

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I can't help but feel that Nickolas is feeling the same kind of anguish. Nickolas' dad, Brian, feels it's slanderous to insinuate he was being violent or threatening to the girls in line. "He’s just a typical boy with an imagination," his father said. But Assistant Principal Noah Collins says that what Nickolas did was a threat and therefore has been suspended. Not even the 30-minute-long meeting Brian had with the school changed their minds.

While he's never been in trouble to warrant a suspension before, Nickolas has been in detention for incomplete school work. His dad said that Nickolas has ADHD and trouble focusing and is sometimes hyperactive. But he strongly believes that a suspension for playing with an imaginary weapon is too harsh a sentence for his son. He added that Nickolas is confused about his suspension and didn't realize he did something wrong.

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Now is a good time for that talk, which I'm sure Brian is having with his son. The school doesn't want children pretending to shoot other kids with imaginary guns. Makes sense. I wouldn't want my kids going around doing that -- nor would I want other kids doing it to them. And even though Nickolas may very well have been just playing around and not meaning any harm, it will be perceived as such. Rules are rules. A two-day suspension, however, is a lot. Maybe a two-day after-school detention and a meeting with the school psychologist to explain why it's wrong would be more effective. 

I haven't played "Where Is Thumbkin" since.

What do you think of Nickolas being suspended for putting his finger in the form of an imaginary gun?

 

Image via Hakan Dahlstrom/Flickr

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