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School suspends 12-year-old boy after teachers call police on him for picking up toy gun during virtual class

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Overreach?

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A Colorado school district opted to suspend a 12-year-old boy who touched a toy gun during a virtual class.

School officials phoned authorities when they saw the toy gun, prompting police officers to visit the child's home for a welfare check.

What are the details?

According to Buzzfeed News, Isaiah Elliott, a seventh grader at Grand Mountain School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was taking part in an online art class on Aug. 27 when he absentmindedly picked up a neon green toy gun and "moved it from one side of his computer to the other."

His mother, Dani Elliott, said that she received an email that day from the child's art teacher who said Isaiah — who suffers from ADHD and has an IEP on file with the school — was "extremely distracted" during the day's lesson.

The unnamed teacher also reportedly said that there had been a "very serious issue with waving around a toy gun." The teacher admitted that she reported the incident to the school's vice principal.

It wasn't long after that Dani Elliott received a phone call from the school's vice principal, who told the concerned mother that a police officer was on the way to conduct a health and wellness check on Isaiah in the family's home.

"I had already explained to the teacher that it was a toy," she said. "I told [the vice principal] that it was a toy. She admitted that she knew it was a toy, but Isaiah's safety was of the utmost importance."

Dani Elliott told the outlet that she worries about how to properly protect her son.

"How do I protect my son, what do I have him do [when] playing with a toy in the privacy of your own home is a threat?" she said.

Soon after, El Paso County Sheriff's officers arrived at the home to carry out the wellness check and showed footage of the online classroom incident to the Elliotts.

Isaiah's mother said that she was very concerned — not because her son was playing with a toy gun, but that the school was reportedly recording the virtual classes without informing parents.

What did the school do next?

On Thursday, the school shared a Facebook update on the situation insisting that there were "several inaccuracies being spread on social media" about "an incident that took place during distance learning.

"We never have or ever will condone any form of racism or discrimination," the statement said. "Safety will always be number one for our students and staff."

It also pointed out that the only reason the school was recording virtual classes was to refine their practice of distance learning.

"During our first week of school, we were still becoming familiar with the platform," the school said in its Facebook statement.

The full post reads:

We understand there are many questions regarding an incident that took place during distance learning. There are also several inaccuracies being spread on social media. While we cannot get into details due to privacy laws, we want to clear up a few misconceptions. We never have or ever will condone any form of racism or discrimination. Safety will always be number one for our students and staff. We follow board policies and safety protocols consistently, whether we are in-person or distance learning. We utilize our School Resource Officers, who are trusted and trained professionals who work in our schools with our children, to ensure safety. 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. Isaiah's official notice of suspension, which Elliott provided to BuzzFeed News, said that he was guilty of "violation of district or building policies or procedures" and "behavior on or off school property which is detrimental to the welfare, safety, or morals of other pupils or school personnel."

As noted in the suspension notice, the school determined that the punishment would be appropriate because the child "displayed and waved a firearm facsimile during a virtual classroom" lesson.

Elliott says she has no plans to send her son back to the school, and reveals that Isaiah is now on the waiting list for a local charter school.

"Having toys in my house is something I thought I never had to think of," she told the outlet. "It never crossed my mind that toys could be seen as a threat."

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