12-year-old suspended over toy gun seen in virtual class

Problem Solvers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) – A 12-year-old boy has been suspended for having a toy gun he never brought to school. 

Isaiah Elliott attends Grand Mountain, a K-8 grade school in the Widefield District #3, just south of Colorado Springs.

On Thursday, Aug. 27, the seventh grader was attending on online art class when a teacher saw Isaiah flash a toy gun across his computer screen. The toy in question is a neon green and black handgun with an orange tip with the words “Zombie Hunter” printed on the side.

The teacher notified the school principal who suspended Isaiah for five days and called the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a welfare check on the boy without calling his parents first.

“It was really frightening and upsetting for me as a parent, especially as the parent of an African-American young man, especially given what’s going on in our country right now,” said Isaiah’s father, Curtis Elliott, in an exclusive interview with FOX31.

Curtis’ wife Dani Elliott was equally furious with the school’s decision to notify her, only after deputies were on their way to the family’s home.

“For them to go as extreme as suspending him for five days, sending the police out, having the police threaten to press charges against him because they want to compare the virtual environment to the actual in-school environment is insane,” said Dani Elliott.

The Problem Solvers obtained the sheriff’s report and it confirms the teacher “said she assumed it was a toy gun but was not certain.”

“If her main concern was his safety, a two-minute phone call to me or my husband could easily have alleviated this whole situation to where I told them it was fake,” said Dani Elliott.

Neither parent knew the school was recording their son’s virtual class but said the district refused to provide the video to them when they requested it.

A sheriff’s deputy recorded the video on his body cam and showed it to the boy’s father. Curtis Elliott told FOX31 the video shows his son sitting at home on his sofa when he momentarily picks up the toy gun on the right side of where he’s sitting and moves it to his left side, not realizing that in the process his teacher and fellow students saw him move the gun across the computer screen.

“Just flashed across the school computer screen for maybe one or two seconds at the most,” said Curtis Elliott.

“It would’ve been a lot easier for me to understand if my son had made a threat,” said Dani Elliott. 

The Elliotts said their son was traumatized by deputies telling the 12-year-old his behavior could’ve led to criminal charges and might in the future if he were to do something similar again.

“He was in tears when the cops came. He was just in tears. He was scared. We all were scared. I literally was scared for his life,” said Curtis Elliot, fearful that deputies might overreact to having the school principal tell them a young Black boy was potentially armed with a gun.

Administration with the school district refused an interview request from FOX31 but did email a statement:

“Privacy laws prevent us from sharing students’ personal information which includes disciplinary action,” the statement reads. “We follow all school board policies whether we are in-person learning or distance learning. We take the safety of all our students and staff very seriously. Safety is always our number one priority.”

Isaiah’s parents say safety was never a true issue and suspending their son, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has learning disabilities, in no way helps his education.

“I definitely feel they crossed the line,” said Dani Elliot. “They were extreme with their punishment, especially sending the police out and traumatizing my son and my family.”

The district is now receiving dozens of critical comments on its Facebook page. In response, the district denies its response was based on race or discrimination but seemed to acknowledge it recorded Isaiah Elliot’s virtual class without parental permission.

The district wrote on its Facebook page, “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.”

Isaiah’s parents say if the district wants to respect families, it should show common sense and call parents if there is a concern with a child’s behavior.

“The virtual setting is not the same as the school setting,” said Curtis Elliot. “He did not take the toy gun to school. He’s in the comfort of his own home. It’s a toy.”

It turns there was another student, a friend of Isaiah’s, who was in the home at the time, who also handled the toy gun. According to the sheriff’s report, that boy did point the toy gun at the computer screen and pulled the trigger, but it’s unclear if the boy knew he was being recorded or could be seen by his teacher.  

At the request of the school, deputies visited that boy and his mother as well. FOX31 reached out to the boy’s mother, but she has not returned our phone call.

It’s believed that boy received a five-day suspension as well.

Dani and Curtis Elliott told FOX31 their son could return to Grand Mountain School on Friday, Sept. 4, but they intend to transfer him to a charter or private school instead.

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