10-year-old suspended from school for making fingers into shape of gun

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Nathan Entingh (Courtesy: Paul Entingh via CNN)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ten-year-old Nathan Entingh doesn’t understand why he got suspended from school for three days.

According to his father, Paul Entingh, one moment the boy was “goofing off” with his friends in fifth grade science class, and the next the teacher was taking him out of the classroom invoking Ohio’s zero-tolerance policy.

The offense? Nathan was “making his fingers look like a gun, having the thumb up and the pointed finger sticking out,” said Entingh, describing the February 26 incident.

“He was pointing it at a friend’s head and he said ‘boom.’ The kid didn’t see it. No other kids saw it. But the teacher saw it,” he said. “It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t hostile. It was a 10-year-old kid playing.”

The next morning Paul Entingh escorted his son Nathan to the principal’s office, where they met with Devonshire Alternative Elementary School Principal Patricia Price.

“She said if it happened again the suspension would be longer, if not permanent,” said Entingh, who also received a letter explaining the reason for Nathan’s suspension as a “level 2 look alike firearm.”

The letter, which Entingh shared with CNN, read, “Nathan put his fingers up to another student’s head, simulating a gun, and said, ‘BOOM,’ ”

Price’s office referred CNN’s call to Columbus City Schools spokesman, Jeff Warner.

Price “has been warning the students for some weeks,” said Warner. “We’ve had a problem at this school. The boys have gone around fake shooting and making paper guns at class. It’s inappropriate. She has sent notes to parents for the past three weeks alerting them of the problem.”

Entingh said he never received a notice, but was aware of school authorities telling students, including Nathan, that any gun-related behavior would have serious consequences.

“I don’t know if it’s to the point it happened so much they needed to punish somebody to set an example, I don’t know, it blows my mind,” said Entingh.

Warner acknowledged there was likely no ill-intention in Nathan’s actions, “I know he (Nathan) felt it was funny and in jest, but the teacher felt it was inappropriate given the warnings that were given.”

Warner said Nathan wasn’t singled out as an example, but that he was the first incident after Price gave “her final notice last week.”

Common sense?

Ohio’s “zero-tolerance” rules in public schools came under attack in January when state Sen. Charleta Tavares introduced bill SB 167 to reverse or reform the original 1998 law introduced as part of SB 55. The 1998 bill mandated schools “adopt a policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior, including excessive truancy.”

SB 55 also called for schools to “establish strategies to address such behavior that range from prevention to intervention,” but Tavares believes schools have opted for punishment strategies instead.

“We have moved away from common sense, ensuring that the punishment fits the infraction,” said Tavares. “We should maintain the highest form of punishment which is expulsion or suspension to those cases that cause the most harm.”

Ohio Department of Education statistics show Nathan isn’t alone.

According to state disciplinary figures for the 2012-2013 school year, a total of 419 statewide students, from various grade levels, were suspended because of an incident in the category of “firearm look-a-likes,” and an additional 38 students were expelled.

In the Columbus City Schools District, where Nathan goes to school, 12 students were expelled because of incidents in the “firearm look-a-likes” category, while 69 students were suspended. Contrast that with categories such as harassment and intimidation, in which zero students were expelled, though 1527 were suspended district-wide.

Tavares has been trying to build consensus for her bill arguing that the current law is outdated because it doesn’t take into consideration other factors like behavior and mental health.

“The bigger issue is that we need more behavior health and counseling at school so we can look at the root cause of why this child is acting out and being disruptive,” said Tavares.

Entingh agrees and said he is planning to reach out to Tavares. He has struggled to help Nathan make sense of what happened.

“How much of a threat can it really be for a 10-year-old to hold up his fingers?” said a frustrated Entingh. “I would like for somebody to explain this to me because apparently I don’t get it. This is way over the boundary. A teacher could have talked to him and sat him down, given him detention, but a three days suspension?”

Entingh is the father of five children, including Nathan, and he says none of them have ever gotten in trouble at school. Until now.

When asked what has Nathan learned from this incident, Entingh paused, then scoffed: “He’s learned never to make his fingers like a gun a school again. I don’t know if you consider that a life lesson.”


  • (Jesus H. Christ)

    No more playing war or cowboys and Indians. No more bubble guns or blowing bubbles if they burst with a sound. No more cartoons if something is shot at. No more games where something is destroyed, even if it’s digital. No more violence on TV or in Music. No more standing your ground if you are harassed or attacked.

    We are under government control or will be soon. Get off this planet while you before they come for you because your children likes to play.

  • dobydog1

    wonder what caliber of bullet his finger takes. if it does take bullets then this is really stupid like so many other make believe gun acts have been. boys will be boys and liberals will be liberals. can we please take back our education system?

    • Steve Rice

      The zero tolorence laws for our schools have always been more of a distraction in our schools than most acts that the children are being accused of, but just to set the record straight Sen. Charleta Tavares has introduced a bill to rid the state of this policy or at least reform it. Here’s the shocker she is the epitome of a liberal go figure.

  • FaithC

    “level 2 look alike firearm.”

    That is what a finger is? I guess the schools have to make it look like they are dealing with something. Instead of dealing with children who get to 8th grade and can’t read, or bullying, or “real” violence. This is easy and it makes them feel they are doing something. Our education system is out of control.

  • okee dokee

    A10 year old is what…in 5th grade? I think a normal 5th grader is quite capable of understanding instructions. A mock execution after several warnings deserves attention. Especially since the child father is also inattentive. “…said he didn’t see any notice.”
    It isn’t as though the child won’t be able to attend college now. He and his Father have just received a follow the rules lesson. I’m okay with that.

    • Jim Ramsay

      Even a 5th grader understands that 2 fingers are not a threat to anyone
      Something a liberal still hasn’t learned even after receiving an advanced degree.

  • Bonnie Nichol DeBlauwe

    What is it coming to. We played with guns even if it was our fingers. Now you get 3 days off. I can see where this is going. We are going to have to start our own schools and home school. Let our kids be kids again.

  • MarineDad

    Wow as a kid all my friends played with cap guns and we shot each other over and over. and even played cowboys and Indians on the playground at school. none of us turned out bad!! Sad times we are living in!!!

  • Ron Speaks (@wRaldri)

    I can see Tavares is on the right track but this quote is too naive: ….”so we can look at the root cause of why this child is acting out and being disruptive,” said Tavares. Well duh! The cause is the hundreds of violent images kids see every day…from video games to TV programs to the news. Why do we expect kids not to imitate what they’re exposed to? That’s just plain dumb. You reap what you sow. Then you want to punish the child for it? Come on people. Until we clean up the media, it’s all downhill.

  • Tabitha

    The child had been told repeatedly that it was against the rules to play fake guns in school. The parents had been notified of the rules, even though the Dad didn’t get the notice, but he admitted of knowing about the rule at school. The child is 10 years old, old enough to know right from wrong & old enough to know the rules in school and to be able to follow them. In my opinion the school had every right to punish this child. Not only was he doing something that he had been told over & over not to do in school, but he was also being disruptive in the middle of science class. School is a place for learning, not playing cops & robbers or other games in the middle of class. I have a 10 year old son & I do know how boys are, but that doesn’t give him a free pass not to listen. Even back in my days when schools weren’t so scared of guns & you wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for making a gun with your fingers, you still had to follow the rules & listen to the teacher. If you were being disruptive in class you got in trouble. Do I think this child should have been suspended for 3 days; NO! That was a little much; being suspended period is to harsh of a punishment for what happen. The child did not cause harm to anyone by disrupting class & by pointing his fingers at another kid & saying Boom!

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