District Hears Appeal of Tarzana Boy Suspended Over Toy Gun
The mother of a Tarzana second-grader, who on Friday appealed his one-day suspension for taking a small toy gun to school, will know early next week if the school district’s penalty stands.
Sabina Gonzales, 35, an executive secretary, presented her case to a Los Angeles Unified School District administrator and two principals during a closed meeting at District C headquarters in Van Nuys.
Gonzales’ son, Michael Rodriguez, 7, was found to have violated the California Education Code, which prohibits the possession of an imitation firearm on campus.
Gonzales said panel members appeared to listen attentively to her reasons for appealing the suspension on the grounds that the Nov. 1 incident could become part of Michael’s permanent school record, possibly hindering his chances for enrollment in academic honors programs or future college scholarships.
Beyond the suspension, Gonzales said she is pressing her case because she doesn’t want other elementary school children to be suspended or expelled for an honest mistake.
“My child will go back to school and have to deal with this same kind of punitive mind-set,” she said. “I am facing a future of this unless I deal with it now.”
Still Tarzana Elementary School parents support the school’s ban on all firearms, said PTA President Yafa Ifrah.
“We had a parents’ meeting [Friday] and we talked about the issue,” she said. “The parents support zero tolerance for weapons because children can start out with toy guns and before you know it, it escalates to real guns. You have to put it in their heads at a young age that guns are bad because if you don’t, you will have a hard time controlling them later.”
District officials said they would weigh evidence presented by Gonzales and Tarzana Elementary School officials before deciding whether to allow the suspension to stand, change the penalty or expunge the suspension from Michael’s school records, said Sue A. Spears, director of operations and student support services for District C.
Although Spears declined to comment on the specifics of Michael’s case, citing student confidentiality, she did say that the California Education Code states that, after due process, a student may be expelled or suspended for possessing an imitation firearm at school.