Common sense and judgment become rare commodities in a hyper-regulated world. Case in point: the bizarre zero-tolerance misadventure of a Virginia Beach school that gave two teenage a long-term suspension for horsing around with a pellet gun… not on school property, but on private land owned by one student’s family.
There were early reports that the students had actually been expelled, but the current version of the story from WAVY News says it’s a long-term suspension – as in, the rest of the current school year, although they get a parole hearing in January. That’s not much better for their educational careers than expulsion. To put it mildly, this is disproportionate punishment for misbehavior, which wasn’t even happening on school property to begin with:
Like thousands of others in Hampton Roads, Khalid Caraballo plays with airsoft guns. Caraballo and his friend Aidan were suspended because they shot two other friends who were with them while playing with the guns as they waited for the school bus.
The two seventh graders say they never went to the bus stop; they fired the airsoft guns while on Caraballo’s private property.
Aidan’s father, Tim Clark, told WAVY.com what happened next lacks commons sense. The children were suspended for possession, handling and use of a firearm.
Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, thinks it is ridiculous the Virginia Beach City Public School System suspended her 13-year-old son and Aidan because they were firing a spring-driven airsoft gun on the Caraballo’s posted private property. “My son is my private property. He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school.”
The bus stop in question is 70 yards from the Caraballo’s front yard.
Solangel Caraballo was not at home when this incident occurred. She was taking her young son to a Head Start class. She left her 16-year -old daughter in charge.
A neighbor saw what was going on, freaked out, and called 911. The kids were pretending to shoot zombies, so now maybe we’ll have a big censorship push to ban “The Walking Dead.”
WAVY.com located the 911 caller and spoke to her. She confirmed Khalid was taking target practice using a zombie hunter airsoft gun to kill the zombies. There was also a net behind the target to catch the plastic pellets.
The caller also knew the gun wasn’t real and said so, “This is not a real one, but it makes people uncomfortable. I know that it makes me (uncomfortable), as a mom, to see a boy pointing a gun,” she told the 911 dispatcher.
The airsoft guns are designed to be non-lethal. Plastic pellets are used, and not copper bb’s.
Ironically, that 911 caller’s son was playing with Khalid and Aidan in the Caraballo front yard on September 12. There were six children playing in an airsoft gun war. “We see the bus come. We put the gun down. We did not take the airsoft gun to the bus stop. We did not take the gun to school,” Khalid explained.
Aidan admits shooting the caller’s son in the arm, and Khalid admits shooting another friend in the back. “He knew we had the airsoft gun. He knew we were playing. He knew people were getting shot. We were shooting at the tree, but he still came and even after he was shot he still played,” referring to the son of the 911 caller.
That’s not how the fragile, special little snowflakes are supposed to drift in our neurotic, hermetically-sealed age, where people have conniption fits at the notion of teenage kids mowing lawns for pocket money.
The school evidently doesn’t have legal standing to take the action it did – as WAVY notes, the local codes are confusingly written, but the part that says “no person shall use a pneumatic gun except at approved shooting ranges or within private property” seems clear enough – but when we’ve already taken leave of our senses enough to kick children out of school for a year because they shot each other with a BB gun, it seems petty to haggle over what the law says. It looks like the tough treatment of young Khalid and his friend is based on a clause that says the explicit permission of the property owner is required, and the lad didn’t think to obtain written permission from his mom to discharge his zombie-hunter BB gun. He probably still would have gotten suspended for neglecting to have the paperwork notarized.
An earlier generation would have expected the parents to discipline their son for inappropriate horseplay with an air pistol, but the new and improved System doesn’t make a lot of room for either parental authority or responsibility. If “A Christmas Story” were remade today, little Ralphie would be taken down by a SWAT team for pursuing that cherished Red Rider BB gun.