Mom: Kindergartner's suspension for make-believe gun an overreaction
Posted March 30
Raeford, N.C. — The Hoke County school board held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon to address the case of a 5-year-old girl who was suspended for pretending a stick was a gun.
Brandy Miller said her daughter, Catlin, a student at J.W. McLaughlin Elementary School, was playing a game where two girls pretended to be a princess and queen and she was their security guard. A boy on the playground approached the girls and Catlin pointed the stick at him, Miller said.
Two children on the playground told their teacher that Catlin was holding a gun and shouting “bang, bang.” In a letter to school administrators, the mother of the two children wrote that when a teacher asked Catlin what she was doing, she said she was going to kill them.
In the letter, Yashica Bratcher said that her boys were not told of the game Catlin was playing and that "from a distance, what she had in her hand looked just like a gun."
"As the parent of African-American boys, we have already had to have difficult conversatons about gun violence and hard to explain shootings of young black males. Our sons should be able to go to school and play with their friends on the playground without being threatened with being shot," Bratcher wrote.
School system spokeswoman Jodie Bryant said the principal took Catlin aside and, after considering the school policy against violence and threats, administrators suspended her.
“We have to ensure the safety of all of our students, and we look at each situation, each incident, on its own, and we look at all the facts and everything that has taken place, and in this instance, a child felt threatened and did not feel safe, so it’s our job to ensure that we do what we can from now on so he does feel safe,” Bryant said.
Miller said the one-day suspension for a kindergarten student was too extreme. She believes some other form of discipline, and an explanation to Catlin about why what she did was wrong, would have been more appropriate.
“I can understand that they have policies, but really are the same policies meant to apply to a 5-year-old doing a role-playing game with her friends as they are to a 16-year-old who brings a pistol to school? I just don’t see the correlation,” Miller said.
Miller said it would have been more appropriate for the stick to have been taken away from Catlin and to have her sit in time-out during recess if she did not cooperate.
Nick Sojka, an attorney for the school board, said the school used proper discretion in issuing the suspension and that there are no issues with the district policy on making threats.
Sojka said school system employees have been subject to harassing and threatening calls in response to the decision.