Alabama 6-Year-Old Suspended for Using ‘Finger Guns’ During Cops and Robbers Game

An attorney for the boy’s father said the game was “age-appropriate play for two young boys.”
Alabama 6-Year-Old Suspended for Using ‘Finger Guns’ During Cops and Robbers Game
The shadows of three children playing on swings on June 7, 2022. (Badru Katumba/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Clements
Updated:
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It’s become a cliché that when a student breaks a rule, a teacher or administrator may threaten them with punishment that will remain on their “permanent record.” But for one Alabama 6-year-old, that threat seems plausible, and the child’s father is not having any of it.

“They labeled my six-year-old as a potentially violent and dangerous student because he was being a little boy and playing cops and robbers with another student (who was also suspended) and using his fingers like a gun,” Jarrod Belcher, the boy’s father, wrote in a statement released Friday, Sept. 8.

According to a Jefferson County Board of Education “Due Process Referral for Class III Infractions” form released by Gun Owners of America (GOA), Mr. Belcher’s son was “using gun fingers to shoot at another student.”

The boy was suspended from school pending a hearing with his parents.

The Jefferson County School District did not respond to a request for comment.

Following the parents’ complaint, the disciplinary action has been downgraded to a less severe Class II Infraction. But Mr. Belcher said that is not enough.

Erich Pratt, senior vice president for Gun Owners of America, in an interview on NTD's Capitol Report on May 28, 2022. (NTD/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Erich Pratt, senior vice president for Gun Owners of America, in an interview on NTD's Capitol Report on May 28, 2022. (NTD/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“It should be noted that punching or hitting a student would have only been a Class II violation, so in the eyes of these school administrators, a finger gun is more serious than punching a classmate in the nose,” Mr. Belcher’s statement reads.

He said his son shouldn’t be punished as no one was hurt.

“Many noses have been broken by fists, but in the last 600 years since the invention of firearms, not a single person has been so much as bruised by a ‘finger gun,’” he wrote.

Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Freeland Martz Attorneys of Oxford, Mississippi, have joined Mr. Belcher in demanding the Jefferson County School District clear the boy’s disciplinary record.

The gun rights advocates got involved because they say this type of action portrays guns and gun owners negatively for children.

Perpetuating ‘Anti-Gun Mindset’

“This incident just goes to show how embedded the anti-gun mindset is in so many communities, including in red states like Alabama. I imagine most men ... can recall having played in a similar fashion in their own youth,” Erich Pratt, GOA senior vice president, wrote in a statement released Sept. 8. “We will continue to demand action until a full apology is made and all disciplinary records tied to this incident are permanently destroyed.”

An attorney representing Mr. Belcher sent a demand letter to the Jefferson County School District. In that letter, he calls the disciplinary action an “asinine” reaction to “age-appropriate play for two young boys.”

“Candidly, I thought the story may be a hoax until I reviewed the paperwork generated by the school,” attorney M. Reed Martz wrote in the demand letter.

According to the letter, on Sept. 1, 2023, two boys were playing “cops and robbers” during recess at Bagley Elementary School.

“During the course of their play, the children reportedly extended their index fingers and thumbs and said ‘bang-bang’ at each other,” the letter reads.

Class III: Drugs, Guns, Explosives

The child, identified as J.B., was suspended and accused of committing a Class III infraction. This is the district’s most serious infraction. According to the Jefferson County School District’s Student Parent Handbook, Class III infractions include possession of guns or explosives, sexual battery, battery of a school district employee, and robbery, among others.

The boy would only be allowed back in school after a hearing with his parents and the district.

Mr. Martz wrote that downgrading the infraction to a Class II Infraction was “too little, too late.” He noted that the district must ensure that the student’s disciplinary record is clear and that no other students are disciplined for this reason in the future.

“Further, the school district should confirm that it will allow age and context-appropriate playtime activities which cause no substantial disruption, contain no actual, implied or perceived threat and pose no danger to anyone, and that, in the future, no student will face punishment or removal, regardless of whether students or staff would prefer young boys not use ‘gun fingers’ as part of their play,” Mr. Martz’s letter reads.

Michael Clements is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter covering the Second Amendment and individual rights. Mr. Clements has 30 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including The Monroe Journal, The Panama City News Herald, The Alexander City Outlook, The Galveston County Daily News, The Texas City Sun, The Daily Court Review,
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