Community Education News __Featured Slider — 26 February 2013
Judge drops weapons charge against 10-year-old student

Updated 3:55 p.m.

By Derrick Perkins

The 10-year-old boy arrested for bringing a toy gun to school earlier this month no longer faces a weapons charge.

A juvenile court judge put an end to the criminal proceedings Tuesday morning at the request of prosecutors. Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel said it was an issue best handled by Alexandria City Public Schools officials.

“After reviewing the evidence and taking into account the child’s age and other circumstances of the case, we did not feel it was appropriate or productive to proceed with criminal prosecution, and believe the matter can best be handled administratively by the school system,” he said.  ”Accordingly we moved to drop the charges in this case this morning and the court granted the request.”

Police arrested the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School student on February 5 after learning he had shown classmates the fake handgun on the bus ride home the previous afternoon. When the child returned to school the next morning, officials searched his bag, found the toy gun and charged him with brandishing a weapon.

The case, coming in the wake of several similar incidents nationwide, garnered headlines across the country. Despite the controversy, Superintendent Morton Sherman stood by the police department’s decision.

“There was a process that had to be followed,” Sherman said at a school board meeting just days after the arrest. “The police did what I think was appropriate as well.”

But the child’s arrest did not sit well with Melinda Douglas, the city’s public defender. She called the incident an “overreaction.”

“There is a gentler, more productive way of dealing with these issues in terms of counseling the child rather than making the child into a delinquent — that’s an extreme reaction,” Douglas said.

Besides the arrest, the child was suspended and — at the time — Sherman did not rule out expulsion. His mother told the Washington Post the boy has since been enrolled in a different school.

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Thank goodness common sense prevailed. It is outrageous that this incident had to go all the way before the Commonwealth Attorney. The Superintendent should be ashamed by the decisions made by ACPS. The excuse that the system’s hands were tied in making this decision are dubious. There was an incident this past August involving students and an air soft gun at the Mount Vernon Community School. The end result in that incident was not the arrest of a child. Why the difference in response from ACPS?

  2. Commonwealth Attorney Randy Sengel made the right call (just wish it had come 3 weeks earlier). Thank you!

    Now it is up to the school system to redeem itself by expunging the week’s suspension from this child’s school records. It’s the least they owe him in light of what happened.

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