Local: Education

Alexandria cops bust 10-year-old for bringing toy gun to school

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Local,Virginia,Education,Crime,Naomi Jagoda,Alexandria

A 10-year-old Alexandria boy was arrested after police said he brought a toy handgun to school on Tuesday, a day after he showed it to others on a school bus.

The boy, a fifth-grader at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School whose name is not being released, was charged as a juvenile with brandishing a weapon, police said.

He was also suspended from school, and Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman said further action is being considered, including expulsion.

On Monday, the boy showed the plastic gun to at least one other student during a bus ride home from the school. The 10-year-old did not point it at anyone or threaten to shoot it, but he neglected to mention that the weapon was fake, said Alexandria police spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt.

School officials said they learned about the incident Monday evening and immediately started investigating. Alexandria police spoke to school administrators Tuesday morning before the boy got to school.

When the boy arrived, authorities found the toy in his backpack. He was taken into custody, transported to a juvenile detention center for booking and then released to his parents, Hildebrandt said.

"The safety of our students is always our first concern," Sherman said. "We appreciate the quick response and action by our police."

The toy resembled a semi-automatic handgun, said police spokesman Jody Donaldson. It was silver and had a black handle. It also had a orange tip that went into the barrel, showing that no ammunition was coming out of it.

In light of current events involving schools and guns, Donaldson said police "do have a heightened sensitivity to any rumor or concern" about a student possibly having a firearm.

"Any time we get a call like this, we take it very seriously until we can determine the extent of the weapon -- if it's real or not -- and what the student intends to do with it," Donaldson said.

But some people said police and school administrators overreacted.

"A toy gun is no danger to anyone," said Liane Rozzell, executive director of Families & Allies of Virginia's Youth. "A 10-year-old is not a fully formed adult by any means. And that kind of situation should be dealt with outside the courts and the justice system."

Robin Ficker, a Bethesda attorney who represented a 6-year-old Montgomery County student who was suspended last month for pointing his finger and saying "pow," said the schools have become terror-stricken.

"That just shows a certain hysteria with the school administration," Ficker said Tuesday. "What is the point? To say that you don't like guns, you don't like the Second Amendment?"

A letter was sent home to parents of all MacArthur students about the incident.

Examiner Staff Writer Scott McCabe contributed to this report.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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