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Black seventh-grader plays with toy gun during virtual class, school calls police

The young boy has since been pulled out of the school and is on a waitlist for a charter school, where his parents hope he will be better understood.

Black seventh-grader plays with toy gun during virtual class, school calls police
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Cover image used for representation purposes only

Trigger warning: This story contains details of systemic racism and police brutality that readers may find disturbing

Isaiah attends the Grand Mountain School in Colorado Springs. Owing to the ongoing pandemic, the school is currently holding online classes for all students. Isaiah, who is in the seventh grade, had the police called on him and was suspended from school for five days—all because he played with a toy gun during his virtual class. His mother, Dani Elliott, was at work at the time. She received a call from her son's vice principal, who informed her that a police officer was on the way to her family's house. The experience has left 12-year-old Isaiah traumatized, but the school is yet to take responsibility for their actions, The Washington Post reports.



The incident was particularly harrowing as Isaiah is Black. At a time when the country is grappling with its deep-seated issues of systemic racism and police brutality, it can be incredibly alarming for a Black mother to find out a police officer would soon be in a confrontational situation with her young son. She said, "I never thought: ‘You can’t play with a Nerf gun in your own home because somebody may perceive it as a threat and call the police on you." The “gun” in question was very obviously a toy; it was painted black and green with “Zombie Hunter” printed on the side. Despite this, Isaiah now has a record with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in addition to a mark on his school disciplinary paperwork saying he brought a “facsimile of a firearm to school" (even though he was in his own home). Further to this, he was suspended from school for a total of five days.



Of course, Isaiah's mother took the incident up with Grand Mountain School, urging them to take a look at how irresponsible it was to call the police on a Black 12-year-old given the current circumstances. Elliott affirmed, "With the cultural events going on right now, especially for young African Americans, you calling the police and telling them that he could have a gun, you put his life in jeopardy." So far, the school has simply announced on its Facebook page that it could not reveal details regarding the incident due to privacy concerns. However, the school added that it would never "condone any form of racism or discrimination." "Safety will always be number one for our students and staff," they stated. "We follow board policies and safety protocols consistently, whether we are in-person or distance learning."



The situation first came to light when the 12-year-old's art teacher emailed his mother to let her know Isaiah was distracted and playing with a gun. Elliott, in turn, emailed the vice principal to let them know that her son had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and would look into the matter. Though the school had alleged that the student pointed the toy gun at the screen, when Isaiah’s father reviewed the footage of the tape from his son’s class, it only featured Isaiah sitting on the couch and moving the toy gun from one side to another. In spite of several conversations with the school’s principal, its vice principal, and a district superintendent, they would not remove the incident from the young boy's record.



Elliott shared, "I said: ‘Black children cannot have that sort of thing on their record. You are reducing his chances at success.'" However, the school refuses to budge. It is evident that Grand Mountain School is ignorant of how deeply this could impact their student. Isaiah has since been removed from the school. He has been placed on a waitlist for a charter school, where his mother hopes he will be better understood. "I wish the world could see my son through the way I see him. He’s funny, compassionate, caring, goofy, and yeah, he gets distracted easily, but he’s a kid,” Elliott said. “I hate that the world doesn’t see him that way. It’s not fair.”


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