Back to school: New Ken first-grader with toy gun returns to class Monday
The Martin Elementary School first-grader suspended because he accidentally brought a toy gun to school on Wednesday can return to school on Monday.
During a disciplinary hearing on Friday morning, New Kensington-Arnold Superintendent John Pallone ruled Darin Simak,7, will be allowed to return to Martin School, the student's parents said.
Monday is the last day of classes in the district.
“I'm glad he can go back to school on Monday and get his last couple of toys the teacher took throughout the year and, of course, his report card,” said Chris Simak, the boy's father. “He was upset that he was going to miss the last day of school.”
Simak said his son's punishment will be a two-day suspension, Thursday and Friday.
Darin's mother, Jennifer Mathabel, said she understands why her son was disciplined.
But she thinks the district could've used more discretion because the boy turned himself in to his teacher when he realized he had the small, silver toy pistol with an orange tip.
“They did what they had to do,” Mathabel said. “No one is exempt from the rules.
“My biggest issue with this is that I have worked so hard with him over the school year, aligning with his teachers and counselors, about making the right choice and making the right decision and ‘think before you act.'
“And this kid clearly (did the right thing by self-reporting), and this is the message that we're sending him now by being punished.”
Pallone said he can not confirm or deny that a meeting was held.
“The district is not permitted under the law to discuss student records without authorization from the parents,” he said.
Under the policy, even a toy gun is considered a “weapon replica,” he said.
“We are very objective in applying our discipline policy in all grade levels and throughout the school district,” Pallone said. “We review the matter, have an informal meeting with the student and/or parents or guardians and determine what avenue that the district will follow, which includes discipline of whatever permitted levels exist.”
Darin has been suspended two other times this school year, once for pushing another student and once for teasing.
Mathabel attributes her son's behavior problems to the medication he was put on for ADHD, which he was diagnosed with near the beginning of the school year.
“He didn't react well to it,” she said. “Academically he did very well on it; behavior-wise, he didn't.”
She said that since he was taken off the medication, his behavior has been better, which is why she was so upset about this situation.
“When it comes down to it, he could ‘go left' or he could ‘go right,' and he went right,” she said. “I'm sure his mind was racing at the moment.”
Mathabel said she hopes the school district will review its policy and change how it handles these cases for students kindergarten through sixth grade.
“I hope that they can look at every case on an individual basis,” she said.
However, she understands how difficult that would be for the district.
“I know he (Pallone) doesn't have staff for that, it's difficult financially to give attention like that,” she said.
Pallone said the school board's policy committee is discussing revising the student disciplinary policy to a two-tiered approach, which would provide different punishment for younger students and older students on some matters.
“You can't treat a first-grader the same as you treat a 12th-grader,” Pallone said.
Pallone did not know whether this change would apply to the weapons policy.
When asked if he would turn himself into his teacher again, Darin said, “Yes!”
Jodi Weigand contribued to this story. Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-7710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Harrison rejects criticism of disorderly conduct ordinance
- Labor United Celebration draws 25,000 to Northmoreland Park
- Apollo Council, solicitor prepare vacancy ordinance
- Drownings surge in Pennsylvania over past 2 years
- Suspended Gilpin police officers to have their say
- Versatile U-PARC houses productive assortment
- Harmar police make 2 drug arrests as part of crackdown on crime
- Alle Kiski Strong Chamber makes itself at home in Pittsburgh Mills mall
- Saxonburg police to take citizens behind the scenes with citizens ‘academy’
- New Kensington-Arnold continues to shuffle security staff
- Pickup takes out 40-foot pine tree in Harrison; officer injured