KANSAS CITY, Mo. —A game with a toy gun has earned a Shawnee Mission fifth-grader more than three months at home.
Alyssa Cornish has been suspended until January after she admitted that she and several other children were playing with the gun on the playground of Santa Fe Trail Elementary School, which she has attended since pre-K. The incident took place on a Sunday in September.
Now the straight-A student who was elected to the student council is barred from her classes, her Halloween party and even from Girl Scouts because they meet on school grounds. Her picture won't be in the school yearbook because she missed photo day.
Shawnee Mission School District officials will not comment on her specific case but say the rules against weapons of any kind on school property are ironclad.
"This is a policy parents know about, students know about," said Leigh Anne Neal, associate superintendent of communication. "It's reviewed annually and there is an annual sign-off by parents and students."
Tracey Cornish said her daughter was playing with several other children on a warm evening Sept. 19. One of the children brought an Airsoft spring pistol, which shoots plastic BBs, and many of the children apparently were firing it on the playground of the school.
One boy who was hit by a BB told his parents, who filed a report with Overland Park police. The case was closed when the family declined to press the matter.
But school officials learned of the incident and began an investigation. Tracey Cornish said her daughter initially was given a 10-day suspension.
After she wrote a detailed account for school officials of her activities that day in which she acknowledged shooting the toy gun on school grounds, she was given a further suspension for the rest of the semester.
Her mother hired an attorney and this week exhausted her appeals when the Shawnee Mission School Board declined to modify the punishment.
Tracey Cornish said the student who brought the Airsoft pistol to the school was suspended for just three days and that two other students received the same punishment as her daughter. The district would not confirm that.
"I believe my daughter is being punished for her honesty," Cornish said, "which makes me wonder what they are teaching her. Never to tell the truth again?"
Cornish and her daughter say they understand the importance of a policy against real firearms at school, but they believe the district is arbitrarily applying that to a toy gun.
The district's policy, which is modeled on state law, includes a prohibition against any weapon that can expel a projectile. That policy applies to the entire week, not just weekdays while school is in session.
The penalty for violating the school district weapons policy calls for the student to be expelled for one year. However, the superintendent is allowed to modify that expulsion.
Cornish said she was considering whether to place her daughter in another school during her suspension but that finances were an issue.
"She's very bright," Cornish said, "but is she going to be able to walk back in after four months and be where the rest of those children are academically?"