HYANNIS (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - A 5-year-old boy faces possible suspension, after building a gun out of legos, during his after school program.
Joseph Cardosa is part of the after school program at Hyannis West Elementary School, on Cape Cod. His parents received a letter a few days ago that said Joseph has received his first written warning for using toys inappropriately, and that upon a secon written warning, he will be suspended from the program for two weeks.
Joseph's parents, Shelia Cruz and Octavio Cardosa, say the school is taking things too far.
"It's not like he's designing a machine gun," said Cardosa.
"I can understand with all the things that are going on right now in schools, but on the other hand, kids are taught you know 'here's a squirt gun, this is fun,' so this is fun to him, you know what I mean, he's running around playing - a little bit of re-direction would have been enough," said Cruz, Joseph's mother.
This is at least the third time in just the past few weeks that a child has been scolded over a toy gun, or worse. In Eastern Pennsylvania, a 5-year-old was suspended after she was overheard talking about using a "Hello Kitty" bubble gun to shoot her friends. And in Philadelphia, a 5th grader was searched and scolded for pulling out a piece of torn paper in class in the shape of a gun, and allegedly telling classmates she had a handgun on her.
Fox 25's Heather Hegedus took the cases to Needham Child Psychologist Dr. Larry Berkowitz and asked him how parents and schools can discern red flags and concerning behavior versus simply "child's play." Berkowitz says some of the behavior is normal, considering the "violent diet" he says children today are fed every day.
"Some of that's normative to our culture," said Berkowitz. "That's what kids see: in video games, in movies, they see it on TV, they hear about guns in the news, so, yeah, some of this is about copying and some of it is about gaining a sense of mastery of power for kids, sometime. Again, we don't know the specifics of any one situation and that's what we want to understand with a given child: what was going on - these could be great opportunities, teachable moments to bring up these topics with our children."
The principal of Hyannis West Elementary told Fox 25 "we need a safe enviornment for our students," and said: "While someone might think that making a Lego gun is just an action of a 5-year-old, to other 5-year-olds, that might be a scary experience."
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