Girl, 5, suspended for playing with 'stick gun'

HOKE COUNTY, N.C. -- Leaders with Hoke County Schools are standing by a policy that led to the suspension of a 5-year-old girl for communicating threats.

It all started last week when Caitlin Miller was suspended from McLauchlin Elementary School after officials said she pointed a stick that looked like at gun at one of her classmates.

Caitlin returned to school Tuesday after her one-day suspension.

After the story made national headlines, Hoke County leaders called an emergency meeting to discuss the controversy and review the district's policies.

Caitlin explained that she and her two friends were using their imaginations, playing "King and Queen."

Hoke County Schools said Caitlin posed a threat to other students when she made a shooting motion, thus violating policy 4331.


A parent came forward after the playground incident and detailed the difficulty of explaining gun violence to her young, African-American son. School officials said the issue wasn't necessarily the "gun," but when Caitlin reportedly told her teacher that she was going to "kill" that student.

On Thursday, Hoke County Schools stood by that decision to suspend Caitlin.

"If a child is suspended in this school district under these policies, there's been procedural due process, there's been documentation, and there's been substantial evidence shown in this policy violation," said Nick Sojka, Hoke County Schools' attorney.

Caitlin's mother maintains that her child never meant to hurt anyone and that intent should have been taken into account when it came to her suspension.

The Miller family has also been in contact with legal counsel.
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Caitlin Miller, 5, was suspended from kindergarten for playing with this stick.

It started Friday when her mother got a call from the principal about a playground incident.

In this case, Caitlin was the guard protecting the royals and picked up the gun to imitate shooting an intruder into the kingdom.

"Hoke County Schools will not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student. Any student engaging in such behavior will be removed from the classroom or school environment for as long as is necessary to provide a safe and orderly environment for learning," the school system says.

While Caitlin's mother says she understands the school's policy on the matter, explaining it to her 5-year-old was a different story.

"We know why it's bad. We watch the news, but then I have to tell my kid you're not allowed to play like that in school because people do bad things to kids your age," Brandy Miller said.

Miller says Caitlin was alienated by her friends and teachers as a result of the suspension. She hopes that the school will issue some sort of apology to her daughter.
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