A 12-year-old Colorado Springs, Colorado, boy received a five-day suspension from school after one of his teachers spotted a toy gun in his hand during an online art class, local news reports.
Isaiah Elliot was participating in a group virtual learning session, a local Fox affiliate reports, when he allegedly “flashed” what looked to be a weapon. The gun was, in fact, toy — “a neon green and black handgun with an orange tip with the words ‘Zombie Hunter’ printed on the side.”
The teacher “notified the school principal who suspended Isaiah for five days” — a suspension reportedly consistent with threatening classmates, even though Elliot was in a virtual environment and not in the same classroom as his peers where a “threat” of violence might be more meaningful. The principal then took the additional step of contacting the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a “welfare check” on the family.
Local media reports that the principal never consulted the boy’s parents to get clarification on the incident, and Fox 31 says the teacher knew the item was a toy gun and not a real, usable weapon.
Elliot’s parents were furious, they say, especially because Elliot and his parents are black.
“It was really frightening and upsetting for me as a parent, especially as the parent of an African-American young man, especially given what’s going on in our country right now,” Curtis Elliot, Isaiah’s father told local media, referencing the recent national outcry over racism and racially motivated brutality in policing — an issue that can arise even from seemingly innocuous contacts with law enforcement, like a welfare check.
“He was in tears when the cops came. He was just in tears. He was scared. We all were scared. I literally was scared for his life,” he added.
“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,” Elliot’s mother, Dani, said.
Elliot’s mother noted that neither the teacher nor the principal bothered to check in with either her or her husband — a decision she can’t understand.
“If her main concern was his safety, a two-minute phone call to me or my husband could easily have alleviated this whole situation to where I told them it was fake,” she said.
It also appears, from a video of the incident, that Isaiah did not intend for his teacher or classmates to see the gun as he moved it from one side of his laptop to the other.
“A sheriff’s deputy recorded the video on his body cam and showed it to the boy’s father. Curtis Elliott told FOX31 the video shows his son sitting at home on his sofa when he momentarily picks up the toy gun on the right side of where he’s sitting and moves it to his left side, not realizing that in the process his teacher and fellow students saw him move the gun across the computer screen,” Fox 18 reported.
A second student, who also played with the toy gun, is believed to have received a similar suspension. That child allegedly handled the “Zombie Hunter” weapon and may have pointed it at the screen, but it’s not clear whether that student knew he was on video and in view of teachers at the time.
The school district refused to comment on the incident but did say that they were not yet “familiar” with all aspects of virtual learning.
“The platforms we use for distance learning have the feature to record classes for educational purposes. During our first week of school, we were still becoming familiar with the platform. It is not our current practice to record classes at this time. Parents will be notified if that changes. We will continue to support all families in our school to make sure they feel safe, respected, and educated.”