In a recent incident that has left many scratching their heads, a first-grader was suspended from Bagley Elementary School for a seemingly harmless game of cops and robbers.
Sharing his frustration, Jarrod Belcher, the concerned father, explained that his six-year-old son, James, was suspended after he and another student engaged in a playful game of cops and robbers during recess. The young boys innocently used their index fingers as imaginary guns, a common trope in such childhood games.
Alabama school suspends 1st-grader for making finger gun while playing cops and robbers, says outraged parent https://t.co/m3v1Q85qwj
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 8, 2023
Belcher was baffled when he received a call from school administrators instructing him to remove his son from school due to this incident.
He recounted, “I asked her, I said, ‘Well did he threaten anyone?’ ‘No.’ ‘Was there violence?’ ‘No.’ ‘Was there any indication of a current or future threat?’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, this kind of seems benign to me, it sounds like two students playing,’ and she said it was but in this climate, this day and age, we have to take all incidents very seriously.”
The school cited a “3.22 Threat” violation, as outlined in the Student and Parent Handbook for Bagley Elementary, which defines it as making a threat or intimidation of another student. This raised eyebrows, as the handbook includes examples like “a threat to kill, maim, or inflict serious harm.” It begs the question of whether using imaginary finger guns falls into the same category as actual threats of violence.
While he reportedly faced rustication initially, school administrators later downgraded James’ infraction to a class II violation, but Belcher remained concerned about the long-term consequences on his son’s record. Per reports, the other boy involved in the game was also suspended. That did not cool Belcher’s frustration, as he expressed the belief that the school could have handled the situation differently.
Proposing a better response, he said, “What they should have done was pulled him to the side and said, ‘Hey, this is not appropriate at school,’ and that should have solved it, or they could have called me, and I would have handled it. What I would like is for this incident to be removed from his record, he doesn’t deserve to be branded as potentially violent, because he was playing cops and robbers.”
While he was permitted to return to class, the incident could mark the boy’s last days in the school as Belcher’s attorney, M. Reed Martz, said it is “too little, too late.”
In a letter sent to the Jefferson County school system demanding the immediate removal of any record of the infraction from James’ file, Martz highlighted the irony that James was charged with an infraction equivalent to a felony crime despite no real harm being caused.
“In other words, the school charged a six-year-old boy with an infraction equivalent to a felony crime,” the letter read.
“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!” Martz wrote further.
Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin confirmed in a statement that the Jefferson County School system suspended the student in a statement obtained by The Messenger. According to him, the decision to suspend the little boy was based on “the initial information we received.”