Samuel, now 8, has been out of school for almost a year. His parents have home-schooled him since he was expelled for bringing a clear plastic, spring-action toy gun to school, which fired plastic beads.
"He has been deprived of an education. My son made a mistake, and they kept him out a year," said Samuel's mother, Karen Burgos.
And it may be longer than that before Samuel is permitted to rejoin his classmates. A hearing will be held this month as his family fights his expulsion. Because the school board's order has not yet been finalized, his punishment could be extended into next year.
"I miss my friends," Samuel said.
Samuel spends his days playing baseball and practicing his studies with his parents. He should be in third grade now, but he's already missed most of second grade and may find himself two years behind by the time this matter is resolved.
In an interview with CNN correspondent John Zarrella, Samuel said that he was playing "army" with his friends one weekend, and he decided to hide the toy gun from his brother, so he placed it in his school bag. He went to school on Monday and said that he forgot he had the toy with him.
Samuel told one of his friends the gun was there but said he never took it out.
When the toy gun was discovered, according to school board records, the principal of Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School West determined the gun to be a toy, but she felt compelled to report the incident to the school board. The school board classified the toy gun as a weapon because it fired a projectile device. The punishment: mandatory expulsion.
Besides shielding administrators from the burden of actually having to make reasonable decisions, is there any valid purpose behind enforcing so-called zero tolerance rules in this manner?