Mother Criticizes Handling of Fifth-Grader With Toy Gun

Police dropping charges against boy

An Alexandria mother whose 10-year-old son was arrested for having a toy gun on a school bus spoke with News4 about what she considers an overreaction by Alexandria Public School District administrators.

Police took the fifth-grader into police custody after he arrived at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School the morning of Feb. 5. The investigation began the previous day when a fellow student saw him with the toy gun on the bus after school and reported the incident to her mother, who then contacted school officials. When the boy arrived at school the next morning, administrators confronted him and found the toy gun in his backpack.

The boy’s mother doesn't excuse his actions but said the school response was too heavy-handed.

"With the kids and the shootings and the school (The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting), I hold him responsible and I hope he understands you can't have these things in school, but in the same sense, you locked up my son for having a toy gun?" she said.

She’s also angry that she was not present when her son was questioned by school administrators. They say they had difficulty reaching her. She says she should have been contacted as soon as they learned about the allegation aboard the bus.

"As a parent, I would have liked to have known Monday afternoon," she said.

By the time she reached the school late Tuesday morning, her son had been taken by police to juvenile detention, where he was fingerprinted.

She broke into tears recalling the boy being questioned in a court proceeding later that day. He was released to her custody after the hearing.

The school district said it can't comment on the police action but issued a statement explaining, "In accordance with our Student Guidelines, appropriate discipline and corrective action for possessing a weapon at school (including look-alike weapons) include suspension with the option of expulsion. ACPS does not adhere to a zero tolerance policy which allows each individual incident to be addressed appropriately."

School officials said they are reviewing their response to the incident.

The boy's mother said his 10-day suspension was reduced to six. He has returned to a different elementary school. She said the public defender's office told her the charge against her son -- brandishing a weapon -- will be dismissed.

(News4 is concealing the mother's identity to protect the boy's identity.)

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