A 13-year-old boy in Vernon, New Jersey was suspended from school last week after being accused of holding his pencil like a gun.
Ethan Chaplin, a seventh-grade student at Glen Meadow Middle School, was twirling his pencil in math class when a fellow student suddenly yelled out, “He’s making gun motions, send him to juvie!”
Ethan was immediately taken to the principal’s office, suspended, and told he would not be able to return to school until he passed a psychological evaluation.
“I was shocked because I’m like, how am I not going to come back to school? I didn’t even do anything,” Ethan told News 12.
Despite telling school administrators that his classmate had been bullying him and was simply attempting to get him in trouble, Ethan says his comments were completely ignored.
When questioned, Vernon Schools Superintendent Charles Maranzano stood by the principal’s decision, insinuating that Ethan could be plotting a violent attack against his school.
“We never know what’s percolating in the minds of children,” Maranzano said. “And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty.”
Michael Chaplin, Ethan’s father, was just as shocked by the school’s handling of the situation.
“I’m absolutely livid,” Michael said. “I think it’s gross misconduct at its finest. They took something so minimal and took it so far over the edge.”
Speaking with Storyleak, Michael detailed his son’s horrific experience during the five-hour long physical and psychological evaluation.
“The child was stripped, had to give blood samples (which caused him to pass out) and urine samples for of all things drug testing,” Michael said. “Then four hours later a social worker spoke to him for five minutes and cleared him. Then an actual doctor came in and said the state was 100 percent incorrect in their procedure and this would not get him back in school.”
According to Michael, the school has since scheduled a meeting regarding his son’s return for Monday morning.
Ethan’s story is yet another example of innocent children being targeted for completely mundane behavior. In multiple cases, young students have been suspended for simply having items that resemble the shape of a firearm.
A 7-year-old child from Maryland was suspended last year for allegedly chewing a “Pop Tart” breakfast pastry into the shape of a handgun.
A 6-year-old Massachusetts boy was given detention and forced to write an apology letter to fellow students last year after bringing a plastic Lego gun, the size of a quarter, onto his school bus.
Just last month, a fifth-grade student from Ohio was suspended for three days after shaping his fingers like a gun. The child was accused of brandishing a “level 2 lookalike firearm” by the school’s principal.