January 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Don’t Toy With Us, School Tells Child Boy Wins Appeal Of Expulsion For Having Inch-Long Gi Joe Gun

Dee Norton And Jennifer Bjorhus The Seattle Times
 

The Seattle School District’s zero-tolerance weapons policy even extends to that 11-inch-tall warrior, GI Joe.

Just ask 10-year-old Jeffrey Parks, who was expelled from John Rogers Elementary School on Monday after he took the action figure’s handgun to school.

The molded plastic pistol is about an inch long.

“The district has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and it is mute on size,” Dorothy Dubia, district spokeswoman, said in defending the action of Rogers Principal Elaine Woo.

After Jeffrey’s parents appealed the decision and met with school officials for several hours Wednesday, officials agreed to lessen the seriousness of the boy’s infraction from a weapons violation - a criminal offense - to a rules violation, a district offense.

The violation will be cleared from the boy’s record at the end of the school year if the boy commits no further weapons infractions. Jeffrey, sans toys, will be back in school today.

Standing outside the school with his parents and holding his GI Joe, Jeffrey denied having pointed the silver plastic toy gun at anyone. He said it was in his pocket by mistake and that a friend saw it when he was fishing for lunch money in his pockets.

“I guess I’m going to have to check my pockets,” Jeffrey said. “I was kind of puzzled, because I didn’t think they’d kick me out for this.”

Jeffrey’s father, Sid Parks, a furniture salesman, said he supports the district’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons “100 percent.”

“But c’mon,” he said. “It gets to the point when someone has to stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is not a weapon.”’ “I was very angry that it could go as far as it went,” he said. “I wasn’t going to accept that on his record.”

Woo was not available for comment.

Parks said a compromise was reached with the help of a hearing officer hired by the district.

Several parents at the school Wednesday morning said they supported the district’s policy.

Berberian, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association, said she would rather see the school err on the side of caution than to have someone get hurt.

Dubia said the school’s policy on weapons had been made very clear. A sign saying “Weapons of any kind are prohibited” is posted on the school’s front door.

“The principal told me that she had talked with every classroom earlier this year, including first-grade classrooms, and told the students not to bring weapons or toy weapons to school, and that if they did so, there would be consequences,” Dubia said. The boy’s previous behavior record was also a factor in the decision, Dubia said Wednesday.

Jeffrey’s father said his son had never been reprimanded at school for aggressive behavior and that he was a “typical 10-year-old.”

Dubia said Wednesday the gun was displayed in an inappropriate way.

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