After first-grader Darin Simak left his backpack in a friend's car on Tuesday night, his mother marshaled a substitute for her son to take to school on Wednesday.
Little did she know a toy gun was inside the stand-in.
Later on in the day, Simak discovered the toy during class. But instead of stuffing it back inside the backpack and perhaps scooting home without incident, the 7-year-old decided to take a different course.
He approached his teacher and handed over the toy gun: "I'm not a-sp'osed to have this," Simak recalled to WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh.
With that, Simak was sent to the office at Martin Elementary School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania — about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh — and suspended, said his mother, Jennifer Mathabel.
But by the next morning, Mathabel decided she wouldn't comply — and sent her son to school Thursday.
“I got a phone call from the principal at 9 a.m., and she said, ‘Darin is not to be in school,'" Mathabel told WTAE. "I said, ‘I'm sending him to school because he is entitled to be in school and be educated.'"
[sharequote align="center"]"Darin is not to be in school."[/sharequote]
So Simak was given an in-school suspension until his father picked him up and returned him home.
The superintendent told WTAE that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district’s policy at the highest level and requires an immediate suspension pending a meeting to discuss the matter and a possible punishment. A meeting is set for Friday, WPXI-TV reported.
According to the Associated Press, the district's policy calls for a one-year expulsion for "replicas of weapons" but allows for the superintendent to modify the punishment on a case-by-case basis.
“What kind of message are we sending to our kids? To tell the truth, yet you get in trouble for it and you get punished for it,” Mathabel told WPXI.
UPDATE, 3:33 p.m.: Simak can return to school on Monday, ruled superintendent John Pallone in a disciplinary hearing held Friday morning, TribLive reported. Monday is the last day of school at Martin Elementary.
“I'm glad he can go back to school on Monday and get his last couple of toys the teacher took throughout the year and of course his report card,” Chris Simak, the first-grader's father, told TribLive. “He was upset that he was going to miss the last day of school.”
Simak said his son's punishment is a two-day suspension, Thursday and Friday.
“They did what they had to do. No one is exempt from the rules,” Mathabel, Simak's mother, told TribLive. “My biggest issue with this is that I have worked so hard with him over the school year, aligning with his teachers and counselors, about making the right choice and making the right decision and think before you act," noting that her son got in trouble anyway.