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Second-grade Loveland student reportedly suspended for imaginary weapon

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A 7-year-old Mary Blair Elementary School student says he’s confused about getting in trouble for trying to save the world from evil, though Thompson School District officials contend that the boy broke one of the school’s “absolutes.”

Parent Mandie Watkins said Mary Blair principal Valerie Lara-Black called her Friday afternoon to inform her that her second-grade son, Alex, had been suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade during recess on the playground.

Alex did not have anything in his hand at the time and made no threats toward other people, Watkins reportedly was told.

Watkins said Alex’s story matched up with the principal’s account: He threw the pretend grenade at an imaginary box that had something evil inside.

He was going to save the earth this way, and when he threw the grenade he pretended that the box exploded, in apparent success.

“He is very confused,” Watkins told the Reporter-Herald on Tuesday. “I’m confused as well, so it makes it hard for me to enforce these rules when I don’t even understand them.”

The rules are laid out by Mary Blair Elementary School in a list of “absolutes” that are posted on the school’s website and are aimed at making Mary Blair a safe environment.

Included in those absolutes are no physical abuse or fighting – real or play – and the no-weapons absolute also covers real or play weapons.

District policy does not prohibit imaginary weapons, but Superintendent Stan Scheer said individual schools are permitted to add enhancements to the general student code of conduct.

“It fell under that set of local policy they have in the building, and it was shared with all parents in the community at the beginning of the year,” Scheer said.

The district does not discuss disciplinary issues, but Scheer said there’s more to the story than he was able to comment on.

“There’s a whole student side that we just don’t talk about,” he said. “It’s a bit one-sided with the parent’s point of view.”

Watkins said her son has been in trouble one other time at the school, for accessing other students’ reading accounts on the computer, but she has not been informed of him making threats or acting violent.

According to Mary Blair’s absolutes procedure, a student is allowed two non-severe, non-suspension occurrences, and a third occurrence leads to a formal suspension. Every absolute that is broken following the first suspension automatically results in a suspension.

Watkins has a meeting Wednesday with Lara-Black and Paul Bankes, director of elementary education. She’s hoping to get the suspension lifted and would also like the rule itself to be revised.

“They need to have rules that are clear-cut, easy to understand and realistic for this age group,” Watkins said.

By Jessica Maher Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

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  • comment avatar Paul February 6, 2013

    This kind of idiocy has to stop. I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance anymore. How about we go back to using good judgment when dealing with things like this. And, for the record, there really was nothing to “deal with” in this case, except for the spineless stupidity of the school administrators.

  • comment avatar Ecopathy February 6, 2013

    What is happening to this country? So tired of hearing stories of young kids being ridiculed by schools for things like a pink bubble gun, fingers being used as guns, and now an imaginary grenade. Oh, my! Are the schools so inept that they cannot differentiate between a kid playing or a serious threat? All these schools and teachers just want our kids doped up, sitting in their chairs drooling. No independence, no spirit, no imagination

  • comment avatar Ray February 6, 2013

    We have GOT to get the anti gun liberals out of the schools and everywhere else. What is wrong with a kid playing? Totally outlandish. Kids cannot play tag, they cannot play cops and robbers, they cannot play ….

  • comment avatar Karie February 6, 2013

    Stupidest act by a school administrator since the 6 year old who was expelled because her mother put a plastic knife in her lunch bag to spread jelly on a peanut butter sandwich.

  • comment avatar Kathryn February 6, 2013

    If there is indeed more to the story (which I doubt), why hide it?

    The article said that the boy’s story and the principal’s matched, that he made no threats, that there was no actual weapon, and that he was just playing (“trying to save the world from evil” — a GOOD thing!), so what else could there be to the story unless the boy cussed at the authority or resisted being taken to the principal’s office or something like that — and those excuses are not anything that a school would hide, in my opinion. In fact, if something like resisting authority had happened, I would think that the school would want that to get out as an example to other students; and/or if he had been repeatedly warned for similar “offenses”, that should have been reported to the media and appeared in the article.

    Until I hear that there IS more to story, I am of the opinion this was much ado about almost nothing and is another example of “zero tolerance” run amok.

  • comment avatar Kathryn February 6, 2013

    Leaving your anti-liberal sentiment out of it, your comment about kids not being permitted to play tag really struck a note with me. When my kids were in elementary school, I became an educational assistant. One of my duties was lunch recess playground supervision, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when told that one of the rules was that kids could not run on or near the playground!! (No, I am not making that up!) The older kids could only run if they were playing some sort of team sport in the outer field, but the little kids could not run at all.

    And people wonder why so many kids are overweight and couch potatoes!

  • comment avatar Jer February 6, 2013

    I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard for a while. Suspended… for playing pretend? “zomg he threw a imaginary grenade pretending to kill people” yes, lets march every child who’s playing the cowboy in cowboys and indians to the hague and charge them with war crimes/genocide.

  • comment avatar Dave February 6, 2013

    Principal Valerie Lara-Black should be suspended from her job for empty-headedness.

    Just how moronic can a bureaucrat get?

    However, let’s be clear — this act by this principal is not about ‘liberals’ and ‘guns’. The gun nuts these days want to turn everything into a fight about their rights (gun nuts are very narcissistic).

    This incident is about a certain segment of school administrators who are actually afraid of childhood, the creativity and imaginations of children, and the fact that a lot of children can see that adults like Valerie Lara-Black are really incompetent dolts.

  • comment avatar Candy February 6, 2013

    Boooo! Let the kids play and have fun. My son got in trouble in 1st grade at his old school for playing make believe gun with his finger but he wasn’t suspended. Fortunately we moved to find a better school where he is now. If there is more to the story it better be a heck of a lot more than that.

  • comment avatar Denver Resident February 6, 2013

    Good luck to the parents trying to explain this lunacy to their son. With things like this happening all the time in our schools nowadays, it’s no wonder our country is so screwed up. Basically the poor kid is hearing that ‘heroism’ (saving the universe from evil) is not allowed. But at the same time, I’m sure mediocrity is awarded all the time at this and many other schools. Though I don’t have school-aged children, if I were the parents of this boy, I’d sure be looking for another school/school district.

    It’s just so asinine I can still hardly believe it actually took place…

    How did things get so messed up? The world has truly been turned on its head.

  • comment avatar Riz February 6, 2013

    Not in my family. I tend to be a realist towards my kids like when my 9 yr old was complaining about a teacher being unfair and picked someone over him for an activity I said that the world is not fair (I do support him and will stand up for him when it is needed, but told him like it was — no flying unicorns and magic land).

  • comment avatar Kayla February 6, 2013

    I’m not trying to be rude but these things have been common over the past few years… So why not discuss those things with your children before sending them to school? Our daughter plays with the boys on the street and they all pretend to have guns and say, “Die, die, die” or “I’m going to kill/ shoot you.” We’ve told her those words are not appropriate in a school setting our inside our home. She’s been able to follow those instructions since she was four… While I think the policies are somewhat of a joke, many schools have them and parents should be prepared to know them and discuss the schools expectations/ guidelines prior to starting in August.

  • comment avatar Anna February 6, 2013

    I think there is much more to this story in terms of behavioral issues that we aren’t aware of. Let the schools do their job, and leave it alone.

    • comment avatar KAS February 6, 2013

      It seems to me that if this rule were a reasonable one, it would have been adopted by the entire district and not just one school. The fact that it has not is, at the very least, a reasonable basis for thinking that other principals and educators do not think it a good rule. In my opinion, this situation is less a case of a school doing its job, as a principal who has misguided notions about discipline.

  • comment avatar Kelly S February 6, 2013

    This is absurd. A child throwing a male-believe hand grenade is a “teaching” moment, not a reason for automatic suspension. I can understand zero tolerance rules when they involve actual weapons or someone being hurt, but in cases like these it just absolves the school from their responsibility to TEACH. We are asking our children to understand and remember from a very young age that they should not imitate the violence and gun play they see all around them in popular culture, but it is too much to ask our schools to help teach and gently remind them of this rather than simply suspending them? This principle should be relieved of her responsibilities.

  • comment avatar KAS February 6, 2013

    This is absurd. A 7-year old child throwing a make-believe hand-grenade is a “teaching” moment, not a reason for automatic suspension. I can understand zero tolerance rules when it comes to actual weapons, or acts of physical aggression toward another person, but in cases like these they just to serve to absolve the school of their responsibility to TEACH. We are asking our children to understand and remember from a very young age that they should not imitate the violence and gun play they see all around them in popular culture, but it is too much to ask our schools to help teach and gently remind them of this rather than simply suspending them? The lesson that this child has learned is that the world is unpredictable and unfair, and that he is bad for imitating behaviors in school that in other contexts society considers “good” (i.e., ridding the world of evil). Properly internalized, this lesson provides a great foundation for anxiety, apathy, and depression. If I were his parents, I would explain to him that sometimes grownups are simply WRONG.

  • comment avatar Marcy February 14, 2013

    The mother has a long history of wanting Newsie Limelight. It has been released that the boy was throwing rocks at children and it was an in-school suspension after many warnings and intervention. Having a son in this district who has had to “serve his time” the school has been unjustifiably vilified. I think you should do more research them repeating the first Denver Post article.

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