Boys will be boys. That is, unless bureaucrats and jumpy, nosy neighbors have a say.
Two seventh-graders in Virginia were given long-term suspensions from school (similar to expulsion) for playing with toy airsoft guns on private property as they waited for the bus in the front yard of the 13-year-old Khalid Caraballo’s Virginia Beach home. A neighbor, ironically the mother of one of the boys playing in the “airsoft gun war,” called the cops to complain when she saw the youths wielding the orange-tipped mock weapons.
“This is not a real [gun], but it makes people uncomfortable,” the unidentified woman later told WAVY. “I know that it makes me (uncomfortable), as a mom, to see a boy pointing a gun.”
The 911 call resulted in Khalid and his friend Aidan Clark being suspended from Larkspur Middle School along with two other boys when administrators caught wind of the incident. Khalid and Aidan have also been threatened with expulsion for the remainder of the school year for “possession, handling and use of a firearm.”
While the incident did occur as the boys waited for the bus, Khalid told local media that he was nowhere near the school bus stop located 70 yards away from his home as he played with the nonlethal pellet gun.
“[I]t’s unfair because we were in our yard,” he said. “This had nothing to do with school. I didn’t have anything at school at any time.”
His mother agreed with her son, saying: “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.”
But the principal of Larkspur Middle School, Matthew Delaney, disagreed.
Via WAVY: “WAVY.com reached out to the principal of Larkspur Middle School, Matthew Delaney. In a letter obtained by WAVY.com he said his investigation found the ‘children were firing pellet guns at each other, and at people near the bus stop.’ The letter from Delaney says one child ‘was only 10 feet from the bus stop, and ran from the shots being fired, but was still hit.’”
But the youngsters remain steadfast in insisting that none of the shooting occurred at the bus stop.
Virginia Beach Police Sergeant Adam Bernstein released a statement regarding the incident that takes a more levelheaded view of the incident than the panicky school administrators’:
We understand that a number of juveniles possess air soft guns and have “airsoft gun” wars with each other, but as it relates to the city code … they are in violation of the code if the juveniles are not exercising “reasonable care”. Also keep in mind that this is not something that we proactively seek out to enforce. If we receive a complaint … we will investigate the call for service and enforce it appropriately, i.e. warning or prosecution. We want to stress to the parents of the juveniles and the operators of these type of “pneumatic guns” that they need to be handled responsibly and with reasonable care to ensure that the projectile is properly contained.
Police are not charging anyone in this case and noted that Khalid has a target and a net to catch the airsoft pellets on his property.
Though he faces no criminal charges, young Khalid is a bit worried about his future.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I won’t get the chance to go to a good college. It’s on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren’t going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say ‘oh, we can’t accept you.'”