School's weapons policy challenged after second grader suspended for novelty pen
A seven-year-old boy, suspended after taking a novelty pen onto a school bus, has filed a federal suit against school officials in Pennsylvania alleging the district’s weapons policy is unconstitutional.
Officials punished the boy with a four-day suspension and branded him a "weapons offender" for possessing the pen, which emitted a small shock when the cap was pressed. The boy is identified in the suit as G.B., a second grader at Hershey Elementary School in Dauphin County. The suit was filed Sept. 21.
“Our main goal in this is to try to clear the young man’s name and to get the policy tightened up so that people know what they’re allowed to bring to school,” said the boy’s attorney, Aaron Martin of Kennett Square in an interview.
“A sharpened pencil is probably more dangerous item than this pen was,” Martin said.
The school district did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, the suit claims the boy has been permanently classified as a violator of the Derry School District’s weapons policy, has had his disciplinary record permanently “marred,” and has been “relegated to the same category as violent criminals who bring knives, guns and explosives onto school property for the purpose of assault, murder, and even terrorism.”
The boy took the pen onto the bus Jan. 15. The bus driver confiscated the item and handed it over to the principal. Three days later, Principal Joy MacKenzie called the boy’s parents to have them pick up their child. According to the suit, MacKenzie declared the pen was a weapon and immediately suspended him.
The suit, which seeks to have the policy abolished and the boy’s record expunged, said the school’s weapons policy is unconstitutional because it fails to be specific, applies to items that are incapable of inflicting bodily harm, and is arbitrarily applied.
The pen remains in possession of the Derry Township police, Martin said.