Plastic Toy Gun Gets First-Grader Suspended. Did The School Do The Right Thing?

Lauren Burgoon
When a boy is kicked out of class for an honest mistake, have zero tolerance policies gone too far?

A Pennsylvania first-grader was yanked out of class and threatened with expulsion all because he unknowingly brought a toy gun to school. 

In the age of zero tolerance for weapons in schools, even a plastic gun can get you booted from school for good, as first-grader Darin Samik is learning early in life. 

The 7-year-old wasn't even trying to flout the rules at Martin Elementary School in New Kensington, Pa. -- Darin didn't have his normal backpack and his mom sent him with a different bag, forgetting to empty out all of the pockets of toys.

Darin turned himself in when he discovered the plastic toy gun in his bag, Valley News Dispatch reported. The school immediately decided to suspend Darin pending a hearing; when his mom sent him to school anyway, given the situation, administrators kept him in the office all day. 

"He did the right thing, and we're trying to teach him the right way, and now they're teaching him the wrong way," Darin's father Chris Simak told the Valley News Dispatch.

After days of wondering, the Simaks finally learned Darin wouldn't be expelled; he was suspended for two days instead and allowed to return for the last day of the year. 

There's no denying school districts' worst nightmare is a real weapon in schools that puts students in danger. School shootings prompted many of the zero tolerance policies enacted, and Darin's school's policy includes weapons and replicas of weapons. 

But when a 7-year-old is missing instruction time because of a misunderstanding, have things gone too far? Any number of rules now restrict students at schools: you can't have a best friend in South West London, cake (or hugs!) in Maryland, wear Peyton Manning jerseys in Colorado or even sign your name as a deaf child in Nebraska.