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Boy arrested for bringing toy gun to school

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An eighth-grader at Naperville's Jefferson Junior High School was arrested Friday for allegedly bringing a pellet gun to school. Authorities petitioned him as a juvenile, and he'll likely face disciplinary action by the school district as well.

The school district says it must adopt a zero-tolerance policy these days, and understandably so. Should the boy be allowed to graduate, or be expelled? Aside from the school's right to administer discipline, was the arrest necessary? Should a child who breaks a rule by bringing a pellet gun to school face criminal consequences?

Tell us what you think.

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13 Comments

I am just wondering......if any of you saw a group of teenage boys running around with guns in a field or on a hill, would you really call 911 or the police even though it is obvious that no one is being hurt? Understandably anyone stupid enough to be shooting pellet guns at each other diserves to but hurt but what about airsofts? And when you saw these boys with "guns" but didnt hear firing like a real gun would you really be dumb enough to actualy beleive that they were real?

How big is your crystal ball? Is this the best example you can come up with to hype and exploit the fear in parents and teachers?

Let's not forget that all of the look alike guns are required to have bright orange markings at the end of the muzzle and it is against the law to remove these markings. If an officer killed a kid with a toy gun clearly marked he would have a difficult time indeed if a proper investigation was conducted.

Plus let's all hope these is little chance a police officer would actually take a shot in a crowded cafeteria out of fear for the safety of all the other kids present. I sure hope the police chief didn't assign any cops to school duty who have itchy trigger fingers.

Let's see, kid goes to bathroom. Kid finds handgun in bathroom stall. Kid picks up handgun to take to principal. Resource officer sees kid walking down hall with handgun, reaches for his own handgun to take kid out only to discover he is unarmed. Resource officer quickly recognizes kid has his handgun which he forgot in the bathroom.

Ok, I changed the story a bit from what really happened.... the kids never touched the gun... and it's a good thing they didn't because if they had touched it they would have been expelled. On the other hand we had a really, really dumb-ass cop and absolutely nothing was ever done to him despite what could have happened due to his incompetence and neglect. I hope the police chief isn't stupid enough to ever assign this jerk to jail duty.

Yes, adults can make really, really bad mistakes. Adults like police officers who are in a position of power, trust, and authority can make even worse mistakes and get away with it scott free. But an 8th grader makes an adolescent mistake and we are ready to expel him in a heartbeat.

If this is how justice is now being served in America... God help us all.

Lets see, kid brings a look like gun to school, is shot by the resource officer, parents sue school and district for over-reacting. If you don't think this could happen you are kidding yourself. People are constantly suing the schools over smaller issues then this. Not too hard to imagine the kid pulling a look alike gun in the lunch room, pointing it at someone the police officer seeing this and taking the kid out.

Southeast,

You obviously do not know much about pellet guns, if you did you would know that some are classified as firearms and others are not. The pellet guns that are powerful enough to be classified as a firearm might have the potential to be lethal under certain circumstances. The low powered pellet guns that are not classified as a firearm most likely would not be lethal. If the kid had brought a pellet gun to school that was strong enough to be classified as a firearm I am sure the Naperville police would have charged him with a weapons violation instead of disorderly conduct.

LOTS of things are POTENTIALLY lethal. A knife for example. Or even a fist. How about a chair? Or a fire extinguisher? Or a baseball bat? Or a gallon of gasoline?

Fact is there are lots of POTENTIALLY lethal objects in and around schools every single day. There are no shortages on how or what some people will use to harm other people. And there is no way to make any school totally safe.

Some people tend to get very emotional when talking about firearms. The fact is that, by themselves, firearms are no more dangerous than a lot of other objects. The danger comes into play based upon how the person possessing either chooses to handle or use them.

And as we have seen time after time what is really, really important is the persons mental state. There simply is no reasonable way to expect that the mere presence of a "law" or "rule" will act as any type of deterrent to someone who is not in a normal mental state. In fact someone in such a mental state, lacking access to a firearm is likely to resort to using another method to carry out whatever it is that they have planned.

Sorry we are looking in the wrong places and looking at the wrong kid with the false hope that ZERO TOLERANCE will make our schools safe when it won't. The kid who has brought a weapon to school to do harm is either going to walk in the door blazing away or is going to go to great lengths to hide and conceal and avoid detection until they are ready to use it.

A kid doing what this kid was doing is no harm to anyone and now he is going to pay a heck of a price because a bunch of adults are scared of their own shadows and don't know the difference.

Anonymous,

While an air-soft gun is a glorified toy, a .177 cal "pellet gun" can be lethal. The story above does not say air-soft.

That said, look-alike weapons have most of the problems or real weapons. While not deadly, only the weapon-holder knows that fact.

Sorry Southeast Side Dad,

Nice references, but not relevant. It was reported that the gun in question was an air soft gun. If this truly was an air soft gun it would not be classified as a firearm so the federal requirement does not apply. The devil is in the details and there is a legal definition of a firearm.

Google IS a wonderful thing if you know how to use it properly.

School policy is that "look alike" items are prohibited.

The Naperville Sun also reported that they youth was arrested for disorderly conduct, not a weapons charge. Most likely a halfway decent attorney could get the disorderly conduct thrown out because that is pretty much being used for a "catch all" charge since they couldn't come up with anything else to charge the kid.

Let's not forget that expelling the kid from school only prevents him from attending this school. The school district is still legally obligated to pay for his education for the next year and it is going to cost us taxpayers quite a lot of extra money to pay for the cost of his education at an alternative facility.

In the long run it would probably do the youth more good to get him some counseling and would probably cost the taxpayers a whole lot less than the cost of shipping him off somewhere for the next year. While we are doing counseling we probably should include his parents in a few sessions as well.

While Joe Dunn or Judy Biggert or any of our other elected officials are drafting legislation I would strongly suggest that they make ALL possession of firearms, pellet guns, paint ball guns, air soft guns, etc., etc. strictly prohibited by anyone under 21. These items should only be sold and allowed to be in the possession of adults. Further these should only be allowed to be handled by youth while being directly supervised by an adult, preferably a parent. Adult, legal owners should be held totally responsible for safe handling, securing, and storage.

A reasonable person should ask where the parents where when all of this was going on? How does your child leave home on their way to school and you had no clue what they were doing or what they were taking with them? Put the responsibility on the parents where it belongs. Know what your kids are up to! Talk to them. Try to understand them and what is going on in your life. At the very least take personal responsibility for any hazardous items you allow to be brought into your home.

For example, our family has guns in our house. All guns, including air soft and pellet guns have trigger locks. Firearms have trigger locks and are stored with ammunition and actions in a separate safe. Firearms and all other guns are stored in another locked cabinet. All guns are immediately placed in locked hard cases when removed from the cabinet to be taken somewhere to be used. All guns have bright orange muzzle guards or plugs in place at all times, expect when being used. Before purchasing any of these guns or firearms my son was required to attend safety training. My son knows and understands the rules and the consequences if he violates any of them.

However, I did not expect that he would know any of this by osmosis or through common sense. As a parent I was proactive to make sure that he learned what he needed to know to keep himself safe, others safe, and to comply with the law. While I many be a little more hard nosed than others with my own son, I do think it is for his own good.

I also think that in the case being discussed that all of this probably could have been avoided had this kids parents taken the time to educate their son and set some reasonable rules and expectations in their own home. The safety attitude and culture of this kid's parents doesn't seem very strong.

Others may disagree, but I do feel that this kid made a mistake and that it was a minor mistake that does not warrant expulsion. I also think this incident reflects a lot of other mistakes on the part of a whole bunch of other adults in his life. I will also include the school district and the Naperville Police Department in this equation.

Anyone who understands boys in this age group knows that a large number of them are fascinated by weapons of all types. Weapons are all around us. Weapons are all around our kids. TV, movies, video games, news, etc. A faceless rule in the book of rules put out by the school board is useless and meaningless. One rule among hundreds of others means little and gets lost in the shuffle.

If we want to keep our kids free from harm from weapons we need to properly educate them and we need to provide them with places and opportunities to safely use weapons that will help satisfy their natural curiosity and desires. If we can educated our children on the dangers of drugs thru programs like DARE then why can we not also provide them with proper education and training on weapons?

Hi Anonymous, if you really feel this way, I'd suggest you call or stop by Joe Dunn's office today. He's a cosponsor of a bill that would essentially make expulsion (for up to 2 years) very likely in cases like this. In addition to firearms, it includes knives, look-alikes (a pellet gun definitely looks like a pistol), and other stuff that is less lethal than a firearm but still is a weapon.

A quick keyword search at http://www.ilga.gov/ with the keywords "school" and "weapon" turned up a boatload of proposed legislation in this area. In particular this one :

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/95/HB/09500HB0038ham001.htm

is co-sponsored by Joe Dunn, our very own representative.

I had thought (and still think) what is proposed here is already a for-gone conclusion due to other laws. This just lays out what a school district in IL can do, or might be able to do soon. I believe kids have been expelled for far less than bringing a pellet gun, such as bringing a swiss army or pen knife to school. Not lock blades, 4" blades, just ridiculous things that would be more likely to hurt the person holding it than the person someone might use it against.

I agree we really take a lot of fun out of things for kids these days. But if I were a parent who got my kid a pellet gun, one of the first things I would tell him is I had better know about long before it leaves our property. Anyone past 3rd grade these days has to be completely aware of how unwise this is to do, unless you intentionally want to get kicked out of school.

So if you feel strongly about it, contact your reps. I know the response I got from Judy Biggert last year when I contacted her about another issue. It was a very, very, quiet silence.

Think about things like this the next time you head out to vote.

Times have changed. Children bring guns to school and kill other children with them. I don't want a police officer to be forced to make a snap decision and take a child down only to learn he was carrying a pellet gun. They look very much the same and lives can be at stake. The reason for zero tolerance is so that we don't have this very sad thing happen. The kids know the rules. It isn't a surprise that they are in trouble or about to be expelled. The parents are supposed to read and sign the rules and go over them with their children. Time and time again they plead ignorant to the rules while the school has a signed paper that they have read the rules and understand them! My child has a right to be safe in the school enviroment and I am all for the rules being backed up by what ever city ordinances are in place to give it teeth. As my children went through school there was a gun found in the bathroom ceiling tiles of her junior high and a stabbing in her hallway. She recently was on campus at Nothern during the shootings and I am greatful for law enforcment and their response.

I'm all for the zero tolerance. It is a way to make sure that "Bobby" and "B Dog" get treated the same.

People always judge based on the hue of the offender, they just can't help it. Little Bobby was going to a friends house. B Dog was going to kill someone. It is based on perception. It needs to be the same across the board.

Good thing it wasn't pot, the kid's photo could be all over the front page along with the family name.

Some pellet guns have the same delivered energy as gun powder propelled projectiles. Lethal.

Who was the kid trying to impress or more likely intimidate with his gun?

Has the kid been brainwashed by non-stop MTV and BET gang-rap videos?

Are the families that don't want to their kids in a dangerous environment required to pull their kids out of Naperville schools?

Or, should the parents of the deviants have to go around and beg the private schools to take their kid or home school them.

Currently, the rights of the very few usually trump the rights of the many.

There are government (and/or private) programs out there that can now get this kid a free car, spending money, lower thresholds in school, individual instruction on campus, free legal service and an unlimited talk time cell phone.

Maybe he can be turned into a roll-model for the other kids after the school and police apologize for harassing him.

>>The school district says it must adopt a zero-tolerance policy

This is not the school district policy - This is a FEDERAL requirement.

>>Are school boards compelled to use Zero Tolerance in this and other similar cases? Absolutlely not.

You are absolutely wrong.

Here are the citations:

"Under federal law, all states must adopt zero-tolerance policies for firearms."

http://www.stateline.org/live/printable/story?contentId=18518

"The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 mandates a one-year calendar expulsion for possession of a firearm, referral of law-violating students to the criminal or juvenile justice system, and the provision that state law must authorize the chief administrative officer of each local school district to modify such expulsions on a case-by-case basis. "

http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/zero.html


Google is a wonderful thing.


There are a ton of unanswered questions related to this story that hopefully will be answered in the days and weeks ahead. Generally speaking, from the information provided, it is unclear what charges may be brought or what laws were actually violated. Yes, some school rules or policies may have been broken, but that tends to be administrative, not criminal in nature.

In Illinois there are gun laws, but a lot of pellet guns do not have enough power to meet the definition of a firearm. Similarly there are also pellet gun laws, though most 8th graders are 14 by this time of year and should be able to meet most of these legal requirements. It will be interesting to learn exactly which law was considered violated and why.

The term Zero Tolerance is often seen as being politically correct yet an enormous number of people do not truly spend the time educating themselves in the true meaning of the term. Most assuredly our Naperville educators have fallen victim of ready, fire, aim yet once again.

Anyone who has worked with youth in the 12-16 year range or who have children who have passed thru this age range understand what these kids are going thru. It used to be that adolescence was a time for growth and learning and that schools were a place that were a safe haven to make mistakes and learn from them. Now even the most minor of mistakes can have legal and criminal repercussions. Kids this age make mistakes. Sometimes it is a simple error in judgement. Sometimes it is a lack of maturity in knowing when to stop. Sometimes it is just avoiding going along with the crowd. I do know that what kids are arrested for these days was just a slap on the wrist a few years ago. There are hundreds of adults today who if they did today what they did as youths would now also have criminal records. The acts are the same. The only thing that is different is the year. Is it right for todays adults to see our children criminally charged for the same things we got away with? Do we want to criminalize every aspect of growing up? Do we want to misapply Zero Tolerance to every aspect of adolescent life?

It really has not been all that many years ago that boys could bring a 22 rifle to school for show and tell. Some high schools used to have ROTC programs. My high school even had a rifle range down in the basement. Kids in small towns and rural areas today can be found driving pick-up trucks with gun racks.

Hve times changed? You bet. Are school boards compelled to use Zero Tolerance in this and other similar cases? Absolutlely not.

Unfortuanately in their blind quest to tret everyone the same they have lost sight of what fair, reasonable, and justice means. Anyone who is skilled with working with kids understands that there are situations that will warrant discipline. Zero tolerance and criminal charges are not needed for the vast majority of these minor transgressions and true professionals and educators understand this fact.

The biggest problem is that we citizens elect other citizens to serve on the school board and these other citizens do not necessarily posess any special training or knowledge of how to handle and discipline youth in this age group yet they are in charge and their decision is the only one that matters.

Kind of reminds me of a classic computer saying... "Garbage in, gargage out".

This is not something to take lightly, but what was his rationale or reasonings? I'm not saying there are any good reasons, only hoping that they sort out 'intent' first before going hog wild with reacting to the situation. Some kids might not have any idea that it's the wrong thing to do but fully intended to go home w/ Bobby and plink targets in his back yard after school (as an example) and the very thought of using it to harm another never enters into their mind.

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