5-Year-Old Suspended for Playing With 'Stick Gun' at Recess


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Parents often look to schools as a resource not just for academic endeavors, but also for teachable moments that can help guide children in the right direction. Going to school helps our kids learn about responsibility, consequences, and how to behave. But, sometimes the methods schools use to teach these important lessons aren't necessarily the best methods for getting a message across. Caitlin Miller is a 5-year-old girl who was suspended from school for using a stick as a "gun" on the playground, and now her mom is questioning whether or not the punishment fit the crime.

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Caitlin and her friends were playing a game of "King and Queen" on the playground, WTVD ABC 11 News reports, where the 5-year-old was tasked with "guarding the royals from harm." Accepting her badass position in the land of make-believe, Caitlin stumbled across a wooden stick that looked like a gun and used it to keep her king and queen safe from intruders.

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Sounds pretty harmless and probably something you did growing up, right?

As it turns out, Caitlin's North Carolina school wasn't thrilled she imagined a stick was a weapon, and they suspended the little girl. The suspension lasted a full school day, and officials told WTVD ABC 11 News, "Hoke County Schools will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student. Any student engaging in such behavior will be removed from the classroom or school environment for as long as is necessary to provide a safe and orderly environment for learning."

Here's a picture of the "gun" in question, BTW.

Piece of wood that looks like a gun
MorganABC11/Twitter

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Well ... okay.

While violence against kids in school -- including unthinkable shootings -- is a scary reality that should make us all pay attention to any and every potential threat, somehow I don't feel like a 5-year-old using a wooden stick as a "weapon" to defend an imaginary kingdom screams assault. She certainly doesn't deserve an immediate suspension as a punishment.

And it seems others are also in agreement, as a WTVD ABC 11 News poll shows the majority of people don't agree with the suspension either.

Poll shows people don't agree with 5-year-old getting suspended from school over wood stick
ABC11_WTVD/Twitter

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As a mom of 3- and almost-2-year-old boys -- who at any moment can reimagine a random branch into a walking stick or sword -- I feel this rush to suspend a 5-year-old was a bit excessive. (Hell, I probably would've been expelled for reenacting 3 Ninjas or Mortal Kombat with my friends.) 

Was there no way for a teacher to explain to Caitlin that pretending to have a gun at school isn't good? Is there no middle ground between doing nothing and suspension, especially if this was Caitlin's first time doing something like this at school?

I would hate for my boys to make a classmate or teacher feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way. But, as much as I'm willing to make every effort to correct the situation, I would hope the school they're attending also leads with a bit of grace instead of rushing to throw the book at them for something that was likely harmless or ill-conceived.

... But, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe our society has become so twisted and frightening that the sight of a 5-year-old using a piece of wood she found on the playground as a gun is a threat that deserves such a serious punishment. Honestly, that thought scares me more than a "stick gun."

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