A 10th-grader was suspended from Lewiston High School this week after allegedly bringing a bright yellow squirt gun to school.
A source said the teen was disciplined after the squirt gun fell out of his backpack at the school.
The student was suspended for 10 days in accordance with school policy on firearms, real or otherwise. Some are calling it another case of zero tolerance run amok.
This squirt gun did not even have a real gun shape (in case the bright yellow plastic doesn’t tip you off). It is shaped almost like a rocket ship.
I think it is probably supposed to be some sort of Flash-Gordon-type ray gun.
I can understand confiscating squirt guns in case they might be used to disrupt class, but not a ten-day suspension.
Of course, the school insists it is in the right:
“Would anybody actually mistake this for a real weapon?” demanded the father of another high school student. “Time to get real.”
Not so fast, said Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster. Although he was not at liberty to discuss the details of the case, Webster insisted that suspensions are only handed out after the situation is thoroughly investigated and all facts are considered.
“Without comments on the specifics of this case,” Webster said, “I can say that a student bringing a water pistol to school will, at first, be told that they are being suspended from school for 10 days. We then work to get more facts and complete a review that often results in a reduction of the suspension period. Also, it is not uncommon for other factors to enter into the suspension decision, including the level of student cooperation.”
So basically they are accusing the boy of some other wrongdoing but not telling us what it is. But that doesn’t matter. A ten-day suspension is insane on its face even as a baseline.
Webster said the policy cracks down on toy guns for a purpose. The bright yellow toy brought to the high school this week “certainly looks innocent enough on one hand, but can be used in a disruptive way and lead, perhaps, to students bringing other water pistols that may not look so benign,” he said.
But no one is claiming that Webster has to allow students to carry water pistols. Obviously, they need to prevent class disruptions. So, again, just confiscate the gun. Maybe give him detention. A ten day suspension for merely possessing the gun is grotesque. What would happen if he had actually sprayed a fellow student with water? Expulsion?
The only helpful admission from Webster is that he acknowledges schools tend to be unreasonable.
“I can assure you,” Webster wrote in an email response to a reporter inquiry, “that unlike some districts, we will work to balance the discipline with the facts of the case. Some districts do not reduce the 10 days and some will even pursue expulsion.”
So some other districts are even worse. That’s not comforting.