2nd Ariz. eighth-grader suspended for drawing images of gun

Sunday, September 2, 2007

MESA, Ariz. — Parents of a Florence student suspended for sketching a gun during class say his punishment is an overreaction by school officials.

The eighth-grader at Florence's Walker Butte K-8 school was suspended for three days on Aug. 24 for drawing images of a gun.

Stephanie Vardarkis said her son, Joshua, had drawn the images on index cards, sort of like a cartoon that included a stick figure holding a gun.

In one image, the boy included the name of the school resource officer. Rather than it being a threat, Vardarkis said the character was meant to be calling the officer for backup.

Larry Cline, a spokesman for the Florence Unified School District, said the student was told by the teacher to put the cards away. He didn't and the cards were confiscated.

Cline said the cartoon content warranted suspension “because it is the intent of the district to provide a safe environment in which to learn.”

Vardakas said her son should have received after-school detention for not following his teacher's instructions, rather than a three-day suspension.

Last week, a 13-year-old boy at Chandler's Payne Junior High School was suspended after a similar incident.

The eighth-grader drew what his parents described as a harmless doodle of a fake laser weapon.

Chandler school officials saw it differently and determined it was a “gun threat” and suspended the boy for five days, then reduced it to three.

That suspension followed an unrelated incident earlier this month in which Gilbert police were called to Payne to investigate a rumor that a girl was bringing a gun to school.

No gun was found and the school sent letters home warning there would be a zero-tolerance policy toward gun threats.

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