In My Defense

Emily Schoen, Editor-in-Chief

Five-year-old Caitlin Miller was playing at recess with her two best friends in Raeford, North Carolina. The game was a simulated version of protecting the king and queen, who were her friends, and their castle from anyone that might be “intruding” upon it. Miller spotted a stick shaped like a gun on the ground. She picked it up and began acting like she was shooting at other children to defend the castle. Her administrators said that by doing this, she was violating school policy.

The school principal sent a letter home stating that Miller was “turning a stick into a gun and threatening to shoot and kill other students.” The school officials attached a photo of the stick Miller was using, which her mother posted on Facebook.

As a punishment, Miller received a day of suspension; however, Miller was never informed what she did wrong in order to earn the suspension. Miller’s mother wrote a post on Facebook stating that school officials did not explain why she was receiving the suspension.

Miller’s mother struggled to explain to her daughter that it was wrong to play certain games at recess, since she believes children should be allowed to play make-believe games and use their imaginations freely. Miller’s mother feels that her daughter is too young to know the brutality of school shootings and the results that follow.

When Miller’s mother told Miller that she should not say that she is going to shoot and kill people, Miller declined ever saying the statement in the first place.

Miller never posed any actual harm to the other students. At recess, many children play games where there is supposed violence and, in order to ensure other’s safety, it should be in the parent’s and/or school’s hands to inform the children of what is right and what is wrong. Instead of giving her a suspension, the principal should have pulled Miller and her friends into their office, and informed them that such games should not be played at school because of circumstances that have occurred in the past where people have been really hurt, without going to a large amount of detail.

Parents that buy their children Nerf guns, lightsabers, toy tools and foam swords to play with and the children are sometimes allowed to bring them to school, like in the case of Halloween or show and tell, but it is considered to be acceptable. While I was in first grade at Robinwood Elementary, we would have show and tell days where we were allowed to bring toys, drawings and the like to school to show our classmates. A boy in my class brought in a Nerf gun with the foam bullets to show and no problem was caused. At recess, I would play with my best friends as if we were magicians, wizards or fairies. We used sticks as wands and we never got in any trouble for what we did. Yes, a wand is different from a gun, but a stick is a stick. And, in the way we played together, a wand would have been equally as dangerous as a gun.

In Miller’s situation, it was a stick that she found on the ground at recess. If a person of authority would have seen her actions on the playground and it was a problem, then they should have removed her from the situation and explained why she should not be using the stick in her game.

If there is a problem with children playing with sticks in a certain way, then the sticks should be removed so the opportunity does not present itself to the children who do not know the reality of shootings. The bottom line is that if a child is not allowed to do something, it should be explained why it is wrong instead of delivering a punishment for something they did not even know was wrong.