A seventh-grader at a school in Colorado Springs was suspended for five days for “waving” his toy gun during an online class as the vice-principal of the school called the police to conduct a health and wellness check on the student’s home.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, the mother of the Isaiah Elliott, Dani Elliott, said the incident occurred on August 27 when her son was taking part in a Grand Mountain School an online art class. During the lessons, she said Isaiah picked a neon green toy gun and moved it from a side of his computer screen to the other.
After the lesson, the teacher overseeing the class sent an email to Elliott telling her Isaiah was “extremely distracted” and there had been “a very serious issue with waving around a toy gun” during the class. The teacher said she had reported the incident to the school’s vice-principal.
According to Elliot, however, her son has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which affects his concentration during lessons and the school “had been made well aware” of his condition. She also said her son has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) on file.
The vice-principal of the school, Keri Lindaman, also followed up the email with a call to Elliott to inform her that school resource officers from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office had also been called to their home to check on Isaiah.
“I had already explained to the teacher that it was a toy,” Elliott told BuzzFeed News. “I told [Lindaman] that it was a toy. She admitted that she knew it was a toy but Isaiah’s safety was of the utmost importance.”
She also expressed shock at the police involvement as she and her husband not been pre-informed about it.
“An hour and a half after receiving [the teacher’s] email, I found out that the police were on their way,” she said.
A redacted copy of the incident report revealed the teacher told Lindaman “she assumed it was a toy gun but was not certain,” BuzzFeed News reports.
Isaiah’s father, Curtis Elliott, also said they weren’t aware their son’s online lessons were being recorded by the school until the officers who came to their home showed them footage of the incident which Lindaman played to them in her office. The footage was recorded by the officers’ body cameras. Isaiah’s mother said though the school has refused to show her the footage of the incident, she wouldn’t have agreed to the recording if she had known.
The school released a statement saying there are “several inaccuracies being spread on social media” in regards to the incident. It said:
While we cannot get into details due to privacy laws, we want to clear up a few misconceptions. We never have or ever will condone any form of racism or discrimination. Safety will always be number one for our students and staff. We follow board policies and safety protocols consistently, whether we are in-person or distance learning. We utilize our School Resource Officers, who are trusted and trained professionals who work in our schools with our children, to ensure safety.
The platforms we use for distance learning have the feature to record classes for educational purposes. During our first week of school, we were still becoming familiar with the platform. It is not our current practice to record classes at this time. Parents will be notified if that changes. We will continue to support all families in our school to make sure they feel safe, respected, and educated.
The notice of Isaiah’s suspension provided to BuzzFeed News by Elliott claimed their son was guilty of “violation of district or building policies or procedures” and “behavior on or off school property which is detrimental to the welfare, safety, or morals of other pupils or school personnel.”
“Isaiah displayed and waved a firearm facsimile during a virtual classroom on Aug. 27, 2020,” the notice said.
But Isaiah’s mother said she felt the notice insinuated Isaiah rather brought the toy gun to school and distracted the class.
“This could potentially impact his future… look at everything that’s going on in the world today,” Eliott said. “God forbid something happens to my son down the road, people could look at this and decide he doesn’t deserve justice. I know that sounds extreme… it’s a very real reality for us.”
Elliott also likened the officers being called to her home to the Tamir Rice incident. Rice was the same age as Isaiah when he was fatally gunned down by a Cleveland police officer in 2014 while playing with a toy gun.
“Parents of African American children go above and beyond to protect our children and ensure their future,” she said. “Until you’ve lived this life, until you’ve experienced discrimination and hardships that come along with being born a certain skin color… I thank God that it didn’t go another way and my son is still here with me.”
Elliott plans to withdraw Isaiah from the school during the week.