Second-grade student suspended over toy gun

Ocala boy could be expelled or forced to transfer schools

By Lisa Bell - Anchor

OCALA, Fla. - A second-grade student has been suspended for 10 days after taking a toy gun to school.

The student, who brought his toy gun to Ocala Springs Elementary School in Ocala, may also be forced to transfer schools or be expelled.

"Ten days is too much for a second-grader," said Jennifer White, whose daughter is in the fifth grade at Ocala Springs Elementary.

"I think they need to give them some kind of warning, but not 10 days from school," said Denise Caskey, who has four children.

Marion County School officials say the young boy was showing off his toy gun to other students in class on Monday.  The Marion County School District has a zero-tolerance policy on all guns, including toys.

"The moment that we don't take a situation like this seriously, the next time it happens, that's when it's for real and that's when people get hurt," said Marion County School spokesman Kevin Christian.

School officials describe the toy gun as a plastic, spring-loaded pellet pistol with an orange tip. Officials say the student didn't have any pellets with him and the gun wouldn't hurt anyone, but the county's student code of conduct is clear: all guns, even toys, are prohibited.

"This policy has been in place for years. It has proven very useful and beneficial and I think we have to look at this as a moment when we can talk with all of our kids and say, 'Hey, I know you've got some toy guns in there in the chest, you're never to take those to school,'" said Christian.

Students who do take guns to school -- including toys -- are suspended and may be forced to transfer or be expelled. It may be strong punishment for a second-grader, but some parents said they understood why the rule is in place.

"I guess the teachers, you know, are scared.  They have to be," said Caskey. "They got to protect all the kids that are there."

It will ultimately be up to the principal and school board members to decide if the second-grade student should be transferred or expelled.

District officials say had the student accidentally brought the toy to school, realized the mistake and immediately told his teacher or administrators, he could have taken advantage of what they call the "amnesty clause" and would not have gotten into any trouble.

Local 6 checked with other school districts across Central Florida. While each has its own student code of conduct, many other districts also ban what they describe as "replica" firearms.

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