Detroit Third Grader Causes Stir With Gun-shaped 'Toy'

By Michael J. Ureel | July 7, 2008 | 8:03 PM EDT

Detroit ( - The action a Detroit-area elementary school took, when a third-grader brought a small gun-shaped medallion the size of a half dollar to school, has dumfounded some police and state officials.

A necklace a boy found on his way to Owen Elementary School in Pontiac, Mich., about 50 miles north of Detroit, got him sent home and police were called to the school last Wednesday. Rumors of the incident also scared two families into keeping their children home the next day.

"I think it's basically a toy," said Pontiac police Sgt. Terry Healy in news reports. "It's not as big a thing as it seems."

In light of deadly gun incidents at American schools over the last several years, school districts are employing drastic steps to keep guns away from the children. However, some administrators are accused of over-reacting to the problem.

Initial reports said the boy, whose name was not being released, was suspended, but officials now say there was no real punishment. The boy was back in school Tuesday.

"He was sent home with his parents," Monte Foster, school district spokeswoman, said in reports today. "It was for his own comfort. It was not a penalty."

"It was clearly a charm," she said. "The boy did not violate the state's or the school's zero-tolerance policy (toward guns). But he shouldn't have brought it to school."

Brad Wurful, of the Office of Safe Schools, part of the Michigan Department of Education, laughed when asked about the incident.

"I think the situation, the particulars of it, have raised some eyebrows, especially in the media, because this was a piece of jewelry," he said.

"Schools are in a tough spot. I think that when you look at some of the things that have happened in schools in the last two years, it leads a lot of educators to err on the side of caution," said Wurful.

However, Donald Weatherspoon, assistant superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education, said there is potentially more to the issue than simply officials overreacting to a piece of jewelry.

"Some things that you should ask [are] what did the child do with the medallion? Did he threaten someone with it? Did he use it in an assaultive manner? We don't know," said Weatherspoon. "The child could have been suspended if he used it in a form of a weapon."

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