10-Year-Old Suspended For Making Fingers Into Shape Of Gun

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(CNN) — Ten-year-old Nathan Entingh doesn’t understand why he got suspended from school for three days.

According to his father, Paul Entingh, one moment the boy was “goofing off” with his friends in fifth grade science class, and the next the teacher was taking him out of the classroom invoking Ohio’s zero-tolerance policy.

The offense? Nathan was “making his fingers look like a gun, having the thumb up and the pointed finger sticking out,” said Entingh, describing the February 26 incident.

“He was pointing it at a friend’s head and he said ‘boom.’ The kid didn’t see it. No other kids saw it. But the teacher saw it,” he said. “It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t hostile. It was a 10-year-old kid playing.”

The next morning Paul Entingh escorted his son Nathan to the principal’s office, where they met with Devonshire Alternative Elementary School Principal Patricia Price.

“She said if it happened again the suspension would be longer, if not permanent,” said Entingh, who also received a letter explaining the reason for Nathan’s suspension as a “level 2 look alike firearm.”

The letter, which Entingh shared with CNN, read, “Nathan put his fingers up to another student’s head, simulating a gun, and said, ‘BOOM,’ ”

Price’s office referred CNN’s call to Columbus City Schools spokesman, Jeff Warner.

Price “has been warning the students for some weeks,” said Warner. “We’ve had a problem at this school. The boys have gone around fake shooting and making paper guns at class. It’s inappropriate. She has sent notes to parents for the past three weeks alerting them of the problem.”

Entingh said he never received a notice, but was aware of school authorities telling students, including Nathan, that any gun-related behavior would have serious consequences.

“I don’t know if it’s to the point it happened so much they needed to punish somebody to set an example, I don’t know, it blows my mind,” said Entingh.

Warner acknowledged there was likely no ill-intention in Nathan’s actions, “I know he (Nathan) felt it was funny and in jest, but the teacher felt it was inappropriate given the warnings that were given.”

Warner said Nathan wasn’t singled out as an example, but that he was the first incident after Price gave “her final notice last week.”

Common sense?

Ohio’s “zero-tolerance” rules in public schools came under attack in January when state Sen. Charleta Tavares introduced bill SB 167 to reverse or reform the original 1998 law introduced as part of SB 55. The 1998 bill mandated schools “adopt a policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior, including excessive truancy.”

SB 55 also called for schools to “establish strategies to address such behavior that range from prevention to intervention,” but Tavares believes schools have opted for punishment strategies instead.

“We have moved away from common sense, ensuring that the punishment fits the infraction,” said Tavares. “We should maintain the highest form of punishment which is expulsion or suspension to those cases that cause the most harm.”

Ohio Department of Education statistics show Nathan isn’t alone.

According to state disciplinary figures for the 2012-2013 school year, a total of 419 statewide students, from various grade levels, were suspended because of an incident in the category of “firearm look-a-likes,” and an additional 38 students were expelled.

In the Columbus City Schools District, where Nathan goes to school, 12 students were expelled because of incidents in the “firearm look-a-likes” category, while 69 students were suspended. Contrast that with categories such as harassment and intimidation, in which zero students were expelled, though 1527 were suspended district-wide.

Tavares has been trying to build consensus for her bill arguing that the current law is outdated because it doesn’t take into consideration other factors like behavior and mental health.

“The bigger issue is that we need more behavior health and counseling at school so we can look at the root cause of why this child is acting out and being disruptive,” said Tavares.

Entingh agrees and said he is planning to reach out to Tavares. He has struggled to help Nathan make sense of what happened.

“How much of a threat can it really be for a 10-year-old to hold up his fingers?” said a frustrated Entingh. “I would like for somebody to explain this to me because apparently I don’t get it. This is way over the boundary. A teacher could have talked to him and sat him down, given him detention, but a three days suspension?”

Entingh is the father of five children, including Nathan, and he says none of them have ever gotten in trouble at school. Until now.

When asked what has Nathan learned from this incident, Entingh paused, then scoffed: “He’s learned never to make his fingers like a gun a school again. I don’t know if you consider that a life lesson.”


  • R.R.

    This is ignorant! Let kids be kids. If the teacher had a problem with it they could have asked him not to do that and explain why they do not approve of a particular action. Being suspended from school for 3 days is just over the top in my opinion

  • Jim


  • Chuck M.

    How is it possible to educate children, when the “educators” are more ignorant than the students !?

  • Lakaen

    Kids will be kids! They do however need to understand why teachers take “gun” talk or “gun” play seriously. I am not sure how I would have handled the situation but the child does need a punishment.

    If the child would have killed that kid the next day someone would be questioning the teacher. This is a hard topic to discuss but I don’t think the teacher should be bashed for his/her actions.

  • happy happy happy

    Instead of getting angry, parents need to “parent” and teach their children that in today’s society any thing that smacks of “gun talk” is unacceptable. Education begins at home.

  • tara

    So much for making sure our kids get a good education one state doesn’t allow students eat if they don’t bring money and this one kicks kids out of school because they don’t understand they can’t play like that they sent letters out that may or maynot get to the parents but they don’t explain to kids why they will be in trouble if they do this it seems to me they are spending more time kicking kids out of school then actually teach them something useful

  • john

    I think this is overkill, but I always know that every story has at least two and even three sides.

    My guess is that the child was scolded and went home and told his parents and then the parents blew up at the school and then the school just played back the same way and suspended the child basically due to the parents.

    Years from now, if this particular child did shoot up a school, or even killed him self with a gun, people could sue the school and say that the school didn’t do anything back then and with these manipulative lawyers and low intelligence jury members, who just want to get back home and watch soap operas, they’d say guilty and leave.

    Until we reform these silly law suits, that are bankrupting school district tax payers, and truly start holding individuals accountable for their own actions, things will keep getting worse and worse.

    I understand the overly sensitive schools, when it comes to guns, as so many school children have been slaughtered, but I’d think maybe a simple verbal warning to the child would have been enough.

    I guess it just depends on who you are, I’d bet the Amish school that was slaughtered a few years back would also have zero tolerance for gun like activity, but if I remember right the Amish school was closed due to all the children being killed and not enough children left alive in the small town to justify keeping the school open.

    I think they need to put metal detectors in every school, but one girl got around that by simply dropping people at her school with a gun, as she shot from across the street. She killed the principal and others. They ask her why a and she simply said that she didn’t want to go to school that day because she hadn’t studied for a test that day.

  • Mark Smith

    The state of our county is perilous. Zero tolorance policies are the result of power in the minds of the policy makers. Their concern with power is so great that it ignores common sense and compassion. Compassion they should have for the students. Its an extreme example of people exerting power, ussually at the expense of past societal norms, so they get a sub-concious thrill out of their power. It is often ill-conceived.

    In the above story and some responses above – people actually overlook the fact that the boy was 10!

    In addition, with zero tolerance a student would have be suspended or expelled if he witnessed another student or adult with a gun and tried to panamime the idea to a person of authority without tipping the packing individual. Absolutely insane.

    This power at the exclusion of common sense has been the source of Liberals rise in power.

  • atc8824

    Thank a liberal today for all this gun stuff.I mean when you suspend a child for playing they are gonna quit liking school and not want to go anymore.I mean come on a school suspended a mentally handi-capped student because his sandwich looked like a gun. People at election time lets send a message to liberals we are sick of this dictation that they are inflicting on the American people!!!!!

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