School record cleared for Alexandria boy who had toy gun on bus

School officials in Alexandria have cleared a disciplinary incident from the record of a 10-year-old boy who was arrested in February for showing a toy gun to students on his bus, according to the family and a lawyer.

The request to expunge the incident from the fifth-grader’s record was granted on the basis of a privacy rights violation, said Clint A. Carpenter, the family’s attorney. Carpenter said he believes the violation occurred when school officials showed a video recording of the bus ride to other children’s parents.

“I’m happy,” said the student’s mother, Nakicha Gilbert. “Records follow you, especially your school record. Once he starts a new school, he will be judged off of that.”

Gilbert’s son was suspended for 10 days with a recommendation for expulsion, a punishment cut short after a hearing related to his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He missed six days of classes, his mother said.

The school system has defended its actions in the case, which drew widespread attention in early February, at a time when sensitivities about guns had been heightened in the aftermath of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The Alexandria case started Feb. 4, when the boy showed a plastic gun with an orange tip to a friend on the bus ride home. The next morning, school officials searched the child’s backpack, found the toy and called police.

Discussing the case last week, Superintendent Morton Sherman told a meeting organized by the Alexandria branch of the NAACP that “a credible threat” justified the decision to bring in police, according to WRC (Channel 4). “I’m not sure, at least from the school point of view, that there was an injustice,” Sherman said.

School officials had no further comment on the case this week and said they do not discuss individual student records.

The child’s family is asking school officials for more clarity about why and how the case unfolded as it did. After police arrested the child, he was fingerprinted and charged with brandishing a weapon. The court case has been dropped.

Last week, a letter from the family’s attorney renewed a request for an explanation. On Wednesday, Gilbert said she still wants to know why police were called about a toy. “That’s what bothers me the most,” she said.

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