Cowboy-style cap gun gets 5-year-old ousted from school in Calvert County

A kindergartner who brought a cowboy-style cap gun onto his Calvert County school bus was suspended for 10 days after showing a friend the orange-tipped toy, which he had tucked inside his backpack on his way to school, according to his family and a lawyer.

The child was questioned for more than two hours before his mother was called, she said, adding that he uncharacteristically wet his pants during the episode. The boy is 5 — “all bugs and frogs and cowboys,” his mother said.

“I have no problem that he had a consequence to his behavior,” said the mother, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her son’s privacy.

“What I have a problem with is the severity,” she said, and the way it was handled.

The family’s attorney appealed the suspension late Thursday, asking that the action be reversed and the child’s record be expunged.

If the punishment stands, it would become part of the boy’s permanent school record and keep him out of classes the rest of the school year, the family said. He would miss his end-of-year kindergarten program at Dowell Elementary School in Lusby.

The issue will be examined at a disciplinary conference Friday.

Kim Roof, executive director of administration for Calvert schools, said she could not comment on the case but pointed out that such incidents are fully reviewed at disciplinary conferences to determine the most appropriate outcome.

The case comes at a time of heightened sensitivity about guns in schools across the country. Locally, children in first and second grade have been disciplined for pointing their fingers like guns and for chewing a Pop-Tart-like pastry into the shape of a gun. In Pennsylvania, a 5-year-old was suspended for talking about shooting a Hello Kitty bubble gun that blows soap bubbles.

In Calvert County, the trouble began Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. on a 10-minute bus ride to school.

According to the family, the boy’s friend had brought a water gun on the bus a day earlier. On Wednesday, unbeknown to his parents, the boy stowed his cap gun — from Frontier Town near Ocean City — inside his backpack as he left for school.

He told his mother after the incident that he had “really, really” wanted to show his friend.

The mother was called by the principal at 10:50 a.m. and was told that her son had the cap gun and pretended to shoot someone on the bus. She said that both the kindergartner and his first-grade sister, sitting nearby on the bus, disputed that account.

The mother said the principal told her that if the cap gun had been loaded with caps, it would have been deemed an explosive and police would have been called in.

The child’s disciplinary referral said he was being suspended for possession of a look-alike gun.

The child’s mother is a high school teacher in Calvert who said she strongly supports the school system and loves the teachers at her son’s school. She and her husband, who coaches youth sports, are active community volunteers.

For the family, a major concern is the long period the 5-year-old was questioned without parental guidance or support. His sister was questioned, too, she said.

“The school was quite obviously taking it very seriously, and he’s 5 years old,” she said. “Why were we not immediately contacted?”

The family’s attorney, Robin Ficker, said that the age of the child is important and that the incident could have been used as a teachable moment.

“Kids play cowboys and Indians,” he said. “They play cops and robbers. You’re talking about a little 5-year-old here.”

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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