A 7-year-old boy, who was suspended for two days after playing a game of make-believe with his friend, returned to school on Wednesday.
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On Friday, Christopher Marshall, a second grader at Driver Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia and his classmate were playing with their pencils, pointing them at each other and making machine gun noises when a concerned teacher pulled them into the principals' office.
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"I got a call from Christopher's school at 12:30 on Friday," the boy's mother, Wendy Marshall, 34, a stay-at-home mother of five, told Yahoo! Shine. "His teacher told me that Christopher and his friend were playing with pencils, making machine gun and 'bang bang' noises. I asked if they were pointing the pencils at anyone else, if they were angry or hostile, disrupting class, or refused to stop when asked and the teacher said no. I told her that I would speak to Christopher but his teacher said she was under obligation to report them anyway."
Wendy immediately picked up her son from school and when she got there, the principal explained that due to the school's zero tolerance policy against weapons or anything that resembles a weapon, Christopher would be suspended on Monday and Tuesday, allowed to return on Wednesday. Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Suffolk Public Schools could not be reached for comment but according to a report from Fox43 she said, "A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made" and that "Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community. Kids don't think about 'Cowboys and Indians' anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day." According to the Suffolk News-Herald, the school had received hundreds of emails and on one day fielded about 75 phone calls per hour regarding the matter. Bradshaw wrote in an email to the paper that the reaction to the incident was overwhelming. “Opinions were very strong and mean-spirited, and often included abusive language and profanity.”
"I told the principal that Christopher's father is an ex-Marine and he was just emulating his dad," said Wendy. "Apparently the students were told at the beginning of the year that they couldn't pretend that objects were guns—there are only four weeks left in school. How could they remember that? Kids need to be reminded to bathe and brush their teeth. Besides, they were just being boys. The disciplinary report will be on Christopher's record forever." The report, below, was provided by the Marshall family.
Wendy took her son home and asked him to explain what happened. "He was shaking with fear and didn't understand why he was in trouble," she said. "So we reenacted the scene and I told him that he did nothing wrong." Christopher's father alerted the local news station and Wendy and Christopher spent the next two days eating ice cream, playing Mario Go Kart on Wii, and cleaning the house. "I let him drink soda too," she says. "I'm not going to punish him."
Wendy did not want to identify Christopher's friend but she says she believes he got a similar punishment. "I would understand the school's point better if the kids were older and they were being hostile toward each other," she says. "But these kids were laughing and playing and Christopher is being made into an example, which isn't right."
Watch the interview:
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