GOLDEN, Colo. (KDVR) – A sixth-grade student in Colorado is suspended from school for four days for handling his Airsoft gun during a Zoom school session earlier this week, his parents say.
“I was just fiddling with it because I was bored, and so I just fiddled with the nearest object at hand,” said Maddox Blow, 11, who also said a Wheat Ridge police officer came to his house.
“I was crying. I just couldn’t handle it. I really thought I was going to jail, or something was going to happen to me or my family,” he said.
Maddox, a student at Bell Middle School in Golden, Colorado, said he was attending online class and finished a quiz early, so he pulled up other things on his computer screen and mindlessly grabbed the Airsoft pistol in his room. His actions were caught on a recording, but a teacher didn’t notice it until hours later when she was reviewing the recorded session, according to Justin Blow, Maddox’s father.
“This is a blatant overreaction on everyone’s part,” said Justin Blow. “Maddox is owed an apology.”
The case is separate from one in El Paso County, in which a 12-year-old boy was suspended for five days for briefly showing a toy gun on screen.
Justin Blow shared an email from the teacher that indicated she noticed “Maddox Blow was posing with what looked like a toy gun. He did this for a few minutes, showing the gun and putting in the gun clip on camera.”
The Jefferson County Communications Center Authority says a school resource officer reported the incident to Wheat Ridge police as a request for a welfare check involving a toy gun.
“We are not saying it was appropriate that he do it. What we are saying is that it is a gross overreaction,” said Justin Blow. “Maddox is a gifted student who loved school who now distrusts his teachers and the administration at the school. That’s going to be an issue for us.”
Maddox said he knows how serious firearms can be.
“I would never bring even a toy to the actual school because I know how serious that is. I was in my own home, and I felt that that was OK, and I thought that my camera was off, too,” he said.
A spokesperson for Jeffco Public Schools, Cameron Bell confirmed the incident and said, “The student has been disciplined according to our district code of conduct. We do not speak about specific student discipline issues due to confidentiality. Anything else is a law enforcement issue.”
The district’s policy related to “grounds for suspension/expulsion” says schools shall consider the age of the student, their disciplinary history, whether another student’s safety was threatened and whether lesser interventions would properly address the violation when considering discipline.
“Suspension should be the last tool in the toolbox,” said Steve Durham, the vice chair of the state board of education. Durham said his comments do not represent the board. He was the only board member who responded to a request for comments.
“It is completely irresponsible on the part of the education officials to deny this child four days of education for something that posed no danger to anyone,” he said.
The Colorado Board of Education has no control over a district’s disciplinary policies. Those are decided by the local districts. However, the state has previously sent guidance to districts related to discipline and the 2012 elimination of zero tolerance policies.