The South Eastern School District rescinded the suspension of the fifth-grader suspended for miming the use of a bow and arrow, according to the Rutherford Institute.
John Jones, a 10-year-old attending South Eastern Middle School/West, already served the in-school suspension. But John will not have a record of the incident on his permanent record, according to John Whitehead, founder and president of the institute.
The decision to clear John's record came after a face-to-face meeting with his mother, Beverly, and school officials. The meeting was arranged by attorneys on each side, according to the institute. Whitehead said the institute considers the school district's decision a victory, though he said there is lingering concern the suspension could appear later as a possible weapons violation if the offense is not expunged thoroughly.
Whitehead said in a November interview that clearing records can be difficult because everything is stored electronically, which can leave a digital trace.
But Whitehead added he hopes South Eastern's administrators and teachers will use this instance to take another look at the district's weapons policies and how they handle future disruptions in the classroom.
A call to Superintendent Rona Kaufmann for comment was not immediately returned.
Background: John and another student were suspended following an exchange of imaginary weapons in a classroom. John's classmate used a book in the manner of a gun and John returned "fire," miming the actions of drawing back the string of a bow to shoot an imaginary arrow.
A girl in the class reported the exchange to the teacher, who pulled the boys out of the classroom to reprimand them for the disruption.
That's where the incident should have ended, the institute said in a letter it sent to Superintendent Kaufmann, asking for John's suspension to be rescinded.
But instead, the boys were suspended according the school's zero-tolerance policy against weapons, regardless of whether the weapon was real, a replica or imagined.
Meeting: Whitehead said the school district was able to make John's mother happy by involving her in a discussion about the punishment, though it happened a few months after the incident.
Parents should be contacted before punishments are given for cases similar to John's, Whitehead said.
"Most parents can deal with this in five minutes outside the classroom," he said.
The Rutherford Institute is a civil-liberties organization based in Virginia that has worked on several incidents related to zero-tolerance weapons policies across the county. The institute became involved in John Jones' case at the request of the family, Whitehead said in a November interview.
Whitehead said results such as John's could impact how additional school policies are treated in the future.
"This is the best thing for the children," Whitehead said.
-- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.