HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) - An elementary school suspended a second-grader as a "weapons offender" for bringing a trick buzzer pen to school, the boy's parents claim in a federal lawsuit.
The parents of 7-year-old G.B. say they were not allowed to contest the discipline imposed upon their son, and that the school district arbitrarily deprived him of the right to education, "without due process of law based on the basis of nothing but hysterical and overly zealous application of a constitutionally deficient school policy."
The family sued Hershey Elementary School and its principal, the eight members of the Derry Township School Board, and the acting superintendent of schools.
The brouhaha "arose from his simple act of taking a toy onto a school bus - a toy that neither threatened nor caused harm to any person or property," the parents say.
The toy pen is "similar to a 'clown' type buzzer that one would hold in the palm of one's hand to emit a small buzz when shaking hands," the parents say in the lawsuit.
A school bus driver confiscated the pen after the boy showed it to another student.
"Three days later, Principal Joy MacKenzie incomprehensibly reacted by declaring the pen a 'weapon,' branding G a 'weapons offender,' excluding G from the classroom, [and] asking his parents to remove him from school for the remainder of the day," the parents say.
They add: "For G's simple act of taking this pen with him on the bus to school, G was disciplined with a four-day suspension and G has now been permanently classified by the school district as a violator of the district's weapons policy. G's permanent disciplinary record has been marred, and he has been regulated 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 parents say the weapons policy is unconstitutionally vague and contrary to Pennsylvania criminal law, which requires that potential bodily harm from an alleged weapon must be "serious."
"[T]he district applies the weapons policy to items which are incapable of inflicting bodily harm or even creating a reasonable fear in any person that such items might cause bodily harm," the complaint states.
The parents seek a permanent injunction against enforcement of the weapons policy and expungement "of the incomprehensibly absurd 'weapons violator' status G now bears."
They are represented by Aaron Martin, with Hoppe & Martin, of Kennett Square, Pa.
A spokesman for the school district said that "out of respect for confidentiality we would never discuss the discipline of an individual minor student, and for that matter we don't comment on active litigation either."