Two Suffolk second graders have been suspended for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each another.
Media outlets report the 7-year-old boys were suspended for two days for a violation of the Suffolk school system's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. They were playing with one another in class Friday at Driver Elementary.
"When I asked him about it, he said, 'Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,'" said Paul Marshall, one of the boys' fathers. "It's as simple as that."
Marshall, a former Marine, said he believes school officials overreacted.
But Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said a pencil is considered a weapon when it's pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made.
"Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community," Bradshaw said. "Kids don't think about 'Cowboys and Indians' anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day."
Bradshaw said the policy has been in place for at least two decades. It also bans drawing a picture of a gun and pointing a finger in a threatening manner.
Marshall said his son has good grades and no history of being disruptive in class. On the suspension note, the teacher noted that the boy stopped when she told him to do so.
He said school administrators failed to use common sense.
"Enough is enough," said Paul Marshall. "I see it as the tail is now wagging the dog."
Bradshaw said the suspensions were effective Monday and Tuesday.
"It's an effort to try to get kids not to bring any form of violence, even if it's violent play, into the classroom," Bradshaw said. "There has to be a consequence because it's a rule. And it's a rule that the principals go over.