Alabama school suspends 1st-grader for making finger gun while playing cops and robbers, says outraged parent
An outraged parent and gun rights groups are speaking out against an Alabama elementary school that suspended a first-grader, reportedly for making a finger gun.
Jerrod Belcher, whose six-year-old son J.B. attends Bagley Elementary School in Jefferson County, Alabama, says the school over-reacted to a game of “cops and robbers.” A notice of suspension shared with Fox News Digital states that Belcher’s son committed a “Class III” infraction on September 1 by “using his fingers to shoot at another student.”
In a letter sent to Jefferson County school officials on Friday, Belcher’s attorney M. Reed Martz demanded that the school “immediately and publicly confirm it will remove any record of an infraction, disciplinary action, or other sort of report” from J.B.’s record. Gun Owners of America, a national Second Amendment group, partnered with the attorney and state-based BamaCarry in Alabama to send the letter to school administrators. School officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Fox News Digital.
According to the attorney and school staff, on September 1, J.B. and another student were playing “cops and robbers” during recess. During the game, the children made pretend guns with their fingers and said “Bang, bang” at each other.
“As reported by shool staff, their play did not threaten any other students, did not disrupt any class activities, and did not interfere with school functions in any way,” the letter stated.
“Nevertheless, J.B.’s ‘gun fingers’ were reported to the school administration, whereupon Donna Page, Assistant Principal at Bagley Elementary School, who apparently lacked the insight and judgment to see the ordinary children’s play for what it was, immediately began a disciplinary process against J.B.,” Martz wrote.
“Candidly, I thought the story may be a hoax until I reviewed the paperwork generated by the school,” the attorney continued.
The suspension notice states that J.B. committed a “3.22 Threat” infraction. According to the Student and Parent Handbook for Bagley Elementary, Article 3.22 is “THREAT / INTIMIDATION (OF STUDENT).” Potential violations include “A threat to do serious bodily harm or violence to another student by word or act, cyber bullying, or intimidation that may induce fear into another.” Examples given are “a threat to kill, maim, or inflict serious harm; a threat to inflict harm involving the use of any weapon, explosive, firearm, knife, prohibited object, or other object which may be perceived by the individual being threatened as capable of inflicting bodily harm.”
Belcher’s attorney said, “No reasonable argument can be made that J.B.’s conduct fits with this prohibition,” noting that J.B. had been playing a make-believe game. The letter observes that “Class III” infractions are categorized as a “major infraction” under school policies. Other such infractions include arson; battery of a school board employee; bomb threats; burglary; sale of drugs or drug paraphernalia; possession of explosives or firearms on school property; robbery; and “other offenses reasonably likely to cause great harm to person or property or seriously disrupt the educational process.”
“In other words, the school charged a six year old boy with an infraction equivalent to a felony crime,” Martz wrote. “The irony is not lost on J.B.’s parents that ‘[i]ntentionally hitting, pushing, kicking, or otherwise being physically aggressive with another student’ is only a Class II Infraction. In other words, J.B. would be subject to a lesser maximum penalty had he punched the other student in the face!”
According to Martz, J.B.’s disciplinary action has since been downgraded to a “Class II Infraction,” and J.B. has been permitted to return to class — but the attorney says that is “too little, too late.”
“This letter calls on the school district to immediately and publicly confirm it will remove any record of an infraction, disciplinary action, or other sort of report of the activities of September 1, 2023, from J.B.’s records. Additionally, the school must remove any label, warning, or other sort of classification of J.B. as a potentially violent or dangerous student,” the letter concludes.
“Further, the school district should confirm that it will allow age and context appropriate playtime activities which cause no substantial disruption, contain no actual, implied, or perceived threat, and pose no danger to anyone, and that, in the future, no student will face punishment or removal, regardless of whether students or staff would prefer young boys not use “gun fingers” as part of their play.”
In a statement, Gun Owners of America Senior Vice President Erich Pratt said the incident demonstrates an “anti-gun mindset” that pervades many communities.
“This was a gross mishandling of a situation where children were simply being children. I imagine most men, young and old, hearing about this can recall having played in a similar fashion in their own youth,” said Pratt. “We will continue to demand action until a full apology is made and all disciplinary records tied to this incident are permanently destroyed.”
Jerrod Belcher expressed outrage at the treatment of his son.
“They labeled my six-year-old as a potentially violent and dangerous student because he was being a little boy and playing cops and robbers with another student (who was also suspended) and using his fingers like a gun,” Belcher said. “It should be noted that punching or hitting a student would have only been a Class II violation, so in the eyes of these school administrators, a finger gun is more serious than punching a classmate in the nose. Many noses have been broken by fists, but in the last 600 years since the invention of firearms, not a single person has been so much as bruised by a ‘finger gun.’”