Isaiah Elliott, a 12-year-old boy who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is fond of his neon green Nerf gun—which has the words “ZOMBIE HUNTER” written on it.
Last week, during a virtual classroom session, Elliott briefly picked up his toy gun, causing it to appear on screen for just a few seconds. This was noticed by his teacher, who promptly alerted the authorities. As a result, the police paid a visit to Elliott’s home and the school suspended him for five days.
The teacher was fairly certain the gun was a toy, according to local news station KDVR. But instead of checking with the parents to assuage any doubts, the school went straight to the cops.
In a statement, the district explained that all school board policies would be enforced regardless of whether “we are in-person learning or distance learning.”
“We take the safety of all our students and staff very seriously,” said the district. “Safety is always our number one priority.”
This explanation—we are just enforcing the policy equally—might make make more sense if the policy itself was logical, but deploying the police to deal with a nerf gun would have been ridiculous even if the incident took place in a physical classroom. The fact that the other students were, in this case, even further removed from the nonexistent danger just makes the situation even more ridiculous.
“For them to go as extreme as suspending him for five days, sending the police out, having the police threaten to press charges against him because they want to compare the virtual environment to the actual in-school environment is insane,” said Dani Elliott, the boy’s mother.
Another kid, an 11-year-old whose airsoft gun briefly appeared on screen during a Zoom class, was similarly suspended. There are many reasons to oppose virtual learning as the new default for American public K-12 education: Perhaps most importantly, it neglects school’s vital role as a form of daycare. But the opportunity for the state to invite itself into the home and make trouble for hard-working parents and innocent children is also a serious concern.
There’s one more wrinkle here: Unbeknownst to parents, Elliott’s school had been recording the Zoom session. The school did say it would abandon this practice, though it makes little difference to Elliott’s parents: They wisely decided to transfer him to a private or charter school.