Colorado school suspends Black boy for playing with toy gun during virtual class

A 12-year-old boy in Colorado Springs was suspended from school for five days for playing with a toy gun during a virtual art class – an infraction that resulted in Grand Mountain school sending a police officer to the pupil’s home.

The boy’s parents, Curtis Elliott Jr and Dani Elliott, say the police visit terrified them and put their son Isaiah in danger.

“I never thought, ‘You can’t play with a Nerf gun in your own home because somebody may perceive it as a threat and call the police on you,’” Dani Elliott told the Washington Post.

Isaiah Elliot was not charged but he now has an entry on his disciplinary record saying he brought a “facsimile of a firearm to school”, and a record with the El Paso county sheriff’s office. Another boy who was studying at Elliott’s house was also reportedly suspended.

Dani Elliott accused school administrators of acting irresponsibly, given police violence against Black people that has caused protests across the US.

“With the cultural events going on right now, especially for young African Americans, you calling the police and telling them that he could have a gun, you put his life in jeopardy,” she said.

In a statement on Facebook, the school said it could not provide details on what happened during the class on 27 August, three days into a remote learning semester.

“We never have or ever will condone any form of racism or discrimination,” the statement said. “Safety will always be number one for our students and staff. We follow board policies and safety protocols consistently, whether we are in-person or distance learning.”

According to the Elliotts, the art teacher emailed them to say she had notified the vice-principal that her son was distracted and playing with a fake gun. The parents assured the teacher it was a toy gun, they said, sharing a photo of the “Zombie Hunter” in question, and said Isaiah would be dissuaded from displaying it in future.

The boy’s mother thinks the school’s response was out of line. She’s also troubled that the school records online lessons from students’ homes.

— KOAA News5 (@KOAA) September 4, 2020

But a school resource officer reviewed a recording of the class. According to a police report obtained by KOAA, an NBC affiliate TV station, the deputy wrote that the teacher told the vice-principal she “assumed it was a toy gun but was not certain”.

At the Elliotts’ home, deputies reportedly warned the boy that if he had brought a toy gun to school, they could have filed criminal charges.

Dani and Curtis Elliott said footage of the class revealed that their son was not waving the gun as the teacher alleged but moving it from one side of a couch to the other.

Dani Elliott questioned why the school called the police before notifying them and contended that the action put Isaiah’s life in danger, referencing Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was shot dead in 2014 by a Cleveland police officer while holding a BB gun.

“He was in tears when the police came,” she told the Post of her son. “He was very scared. He said: ‘Mommy, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was scared and thought I was going to jail.’”

The Elliotts have decided to pull their son out of school, hoping to find a place at a school adapted to working with students with attention deficit disorder. His mother said she told administrators: “Black children cannot have that sort of thing on their record. You are reducing his chances at success.”

Speaking to KOAA, she said: “This is not the first time my son has faced racism or discrimination or anything like that.”

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