A Northland school treated a 12-year-old boy “like a criminal” for using a plastic toy gun at lunchtime, the boy’s mother claims.
But the Ministry of Education said correct processes were followed and the police backed up the school’s actions.
The youngster was isolated from his class at Paihia School, in the Bay of Islands, and police were called after he used his friend’s toy gun, said the mother, who asked for her name to be withheld so her son would not be singled out.
The boy’s mother has laid a formal complaint with the school but said schools should be focusing on teaching gun safety instead of trying to remove all toy guns.
The woman said her son was playing on June 26 with two other friends with the small black plastic gun, which fires plastic bullets about half a metre.
The gun belonged to his friend, but he was holding it when the boys were stopped on the playground. Pupils are not allowed to bring any toys to the school.
The mother said the school called her and asked her to come down to discuss her son’s behaviour, but she was not told how serious they were taking the situation.
Due to work commitments, she and her husband were not able to come to the school until Monday afternoon, when they found their son had been secluded from his class and “treated like a criminal”, she said.
The school principal said she planned to phone police because the toy gun could be classed as an airgun.
“The last thing I want is a 12-year-old with a freakin’ record on his hands,” the mother said.
The boy was crying and sobbing after treatment, which was “completely uncalled for”, she said.
Schools would be better off to teach children firearms safety, rather than trying to remove all toy guns, the mother believed.
But the Ministry of Education said it expected schools to report any threat or use of a firearm to the police, whether the threat was perceived or actual.
Katrina Casey, deputy secretary sector enablement and support, said: “In this case, the school principal reported an incident to the local police involving a plastic BB gun that was brought to school. The police confirmed this was the right thing to do.
“Schools have clear policies and procedures in place to respond to unacceptable behaviour in the school environment. We are satisfied that the school followed the correct procedures to manage the situation.”
However, the ministry said seclusion was unlawful.
The school’s guidelines for behaviour management in the playground suggests using a verbal warning, isolating the offender up to the whole break, and removing equipment or the child if they are not playing safely.
The school has been approached for comment.