Sumter, SC – A six-year-old girl who was expelled for bringing a clear plastic gun to class will be allowed to return to school. “I chose to bring it to school because I thought I could show my friends it because they might like seeing it,” explained Naomi. That explanation did not initially satisfy the school administration and the girt was sent home. Now she is being allowed to return to school.
Dr. Randolph Bynum, Sumter County Schools Superintendent, said yesterday afternoon that he would void the decision to remove Naomi McKinney from school. McKinney had brought a plastic gun to Alice Drive Elementary school earlier this month for show and tell.
An incident report filed by the Sumter Police Department states the item was an Airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellets. Though the gun did contain visible BBs inside, the report also states that the gun was not operational.
When the girl came to school that day, she told her teacher what she had. The teacher then notified administrators, who immediately sent the child home. She was expelled, and the decision was subsequently upheld by the superintendent and the school board.
District officials say they have strict rules about look-alike weapons being brought on campus. But Sumter Police told a local news affiliate that the gun did not meet requirements under state law for what is considered a weapon in school.
Here is Bynam’s full statement:
“As superintendent, I will do everything in my power to protect the safety of our students and staff. School level administrators and teachers have received threats as a result of the decision that was made to expel a six year old child for violating district policy. Threats made to staff members are not tolerated, and we intend to involve law enforcement.
After careful thought and consideration for the safety of the school community, I have decided to vacate the ruling of the hearing panel. The student will be allowed to return to school. The suspension time has been served.
Sumter School District has zero tolerance for weapons on our school campuses. Our current policy states that the board will expel any student who brings a weapon to school, and in the case of firearms, that includes look-alikes. We plan to collectively revisit all board polices that affect student discipline.”
Namoi’s parents understand the need to be vigilant but expressed concern over the school board’s overreaction. When they initially appealed to the discipline hearing panel they received a letter stating Naomi was not allowed on school property or at any school sponsored event, on or off campus. They were also warned that she would be subject to criminal charges if she was on school property for any reason.
Naomi was not allowed to be on school property, even when her parents were picking up her siblings, having to park off school property instead. “You have to show some kind of judgment,” Hank McKinney says. “I know there is a lot going on with guns and schools and that is tragic, but a six year old bringing a toy to school doesn’t know better.”