After 10-year-old Nickolas Taylor used his finger as an imaginary ray gun near two female students in their Massachusetts school cafeteria last Friday, they reported Taylor, telling staff they felt threatened.
Then Noah Collins, assistant principal at Stacy Middle School in Milford, wrote a conduct slip that listed Taylor's actions — which included mouthing laser sounds — as a threat. With that, the fifth-grader was suspended for two days this week, WFXT-TV in Boston reported.
“I think this is very slanderous toward Nickolas and his character,” his father Brian Taylor told the Milford Daily News. “It was non-threatening. He’s just a typical boy with an imagination.”
Saying the suspension represents abuse of the rules and a "complete disconnect” between policy and reality, Taylor is withdrawing his son from the school and has filed paperwork to have him homeschooled, the Daily News reported.
The school's position is that because students told staff they felt threatened by Taylor, he was dealt with more severely.
“It’s the difference between intent of the action and what the person feels receiving it,” Superintendent Robert Tremblay told the Daily News. “It’s just the same way you can't yell fire in a crowded movie theater. There are things you can and can't do.”
Taylor reportedly hadn't undergone formal discipline beyond detentions for incomplete school work, although he's been diagnosed with ADHD and sometimes was disciplined when hyperactivity made it hard for him to focus.
[sharequote align="center"]“It’s just the same way you can't yell fire in a crowded movie theater."[/sharequote]
Tremblay added to the paper that there's room for the school to be “not so caught up in the handbook,” which lists threats as punishable by detention, suspension or expulsion, based on their severity.
“It's almost as if society has forced us into behaving a certain way and unfortunately, we're the victims of circumstance,” Tremblay told the Daily News, adding that common gestures such as using a finger like a gun can't be taken lightly anymore.
Nickolas' grandfather had a different take.
"It's totally ridiculous," Rory O'Brien told WFXT, "it's not right at all."
Brian Taylor told the Daily News his son is "confused as to why he got suspended. He doesn’t realize he did something wrong.”