UPDATE: Pellet-Gun-Toting 2nd-Grader Back At Jensen Elementary
Parents of two children who reported the boy who brought a pellet gun to school last week are upset that the boy has returned after four days.
UPDATE: Kim Yoblonski, mother of a Jensen student, is seeking signatures on a petition on Change.org seeking more severe sanctions against a second-grader who brought a pellet gun to school in March.
Yoblonski is seeking 1,000 signatures. As of April 9, 27 people have signed the petition.
"The policies, as established by the Urbandale Community School District school board, and enforced by Superintendent, Dr. Doug Stilwell, need to reflect the generally accepted stance of "Zero Tolerance" in our schools," Yoblonski wrote. "Please help me impress upon them the importance of this issue."
What We Wrote Last Week:
The boy who was suspended for bringing a pellet gun to Jensen Elementary School on March 27 returned to school Monday, and parents of two of the children who reported him are worried.
They said they fear the boy, who they say has a history of picking on other children, might retaliate against their children. They also are upset because they say the district did not follow its own discipline guidelines.
"The only thing that would make me comfortable is if he no longer would go to school with my child," said one parent who asked not to be named for his son's sake.
The 8-year-old boy was suspended for four days, both parents said. Urbandale school officials have not specified what specific disciplinary actions were taken, citing rules of student confidentiality.
Did Administrators Follow District Guidelines?
Urbandale school district guidelines suggest that elementary students be suspended for three to five days for bringing a weapon or weapon lookalike to school.
If they display that weapon, the recommended suspension is five to 10 days, and if they display the weapon in a threatening manner, school officials can suspend them and recommend expulsion.
Superintendent Doug Stilwell said administrators are following district guidelines, but notes that the guidelines also say lesser sanctions may be imposed based on the circumstances.
"We look at several pieces -- the age of child, the intent and the ability to carry out a threat," he said.
He said this is the first time in his tenure at Urbandale schools that an elementary student has brought a gun to school.
If the student were expelled from Jensen, the district couldn't send him to another Urbandale elementary, he said, but would be responsible for finding another school for him.
"We can't just kick kids out of school," he said.
Incident Involved Threats Say Parents
Kim Yoblonski, whose 9-year-old daughter was one of three children who told a playground supervisor about the gun, said school officials are treating the incident as though the boy did not make threats, even though the three children all told their parents that the boy showed them the gun and then threatened to shoot them if they told on him.
"I don't get it. I'm beside myself," she said.
Stilwell said the boy "is monitored pretty closely" by school staff, but that doesn't ease the two parents' concerns.
Yoblonski said the first day the boy was back, her daughter told her that he repeatedly threw a ball at her head, hitting her three times. She and other members of the school's running club were running around the track at recess and he threw the ball at her repeatedly as she passed by.
The girl told a playground supervisor, who asked the boy to play somewhere else, said Yoblonski.
School officials handling of the pellet gun incident has fueled some parent anger and suspicion toward school officials, although it's not clear how many parents are upset, said Stilwell.
He said administrators and principals will be reviewing their response to see what worked and what didn't.
Stilwell, who was out of town when the incident occurred, was meeting with Yoblonski today.
Yoblonski said Tuesday that she doubts that meeting with Stilwell will alleviate her concerns. She said because school officials don't seem to be acknowledging the children's and their parents' reports that the boy threatened other students with the gun, she plans to file a police report that he daughter was threatened with the pellet gun.
Police Chief Ross McCarty said it is probably appropriate for police to handle that.
Urbandale police already are investigating the incident and one parent said their child has been interviewed by police about what they saw.
McCarty said "the school took action to keep their kids safe" last week, although in hindsight, school officials probably should have called 911 instead of calling the police department's school resource officer.
He added that he's not sure expelling an 8-year-old is the best solution. "To fight crime, you invest in kids. I'm not willing to give up on an 8-year-old."
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