IRVINGTON, N.J. — Two second-graders playing cops and robbers with a paper gun were charged with making terrorist threats.
The boys' parents said the situation should have been resolved in the principal's office, but Police Chief Steven Palamara on Wednesday defended school officials and the district's zero-tolerance policy.
"It may appear to some as though we went a little overboard because it was a paper gun, but what would those same people say if this incident was ignored and in a day, week or month the same student came to school with a firearm?" Palamara said.
Authorities said 8-year-old Hamadi Alston stood up at his desk at Augusta Street School last Thursday, pointed paper folded to look like a gun at his classmates and said, "I'm going to kill you all."
Hamadi said he was imitating what his friend, Jaquill Shelton, had done earlier that day.
The police chief said Jaquill had given Hamadi the paper gun in the bathroom.
The two boys were suspended and, under the district's zero-tolerance policy, school officials notified police, who arrested the boys.
"Although the paper handgun posed no immediate threat to the students in the class, the words spoken certainly and appropriately were recognized by school officials and police as warning signs to cause concern," Palamara said.
The court can now determine whether either boy needs counseling or just a stern warning, he said.
The parents, as well as the Essex County prosecutor's office, were involved immediately, he said.
The prosecutor's office did not return a message seeking comment.
"This is just stupid, stupid, stupid," Ron Alston, Hamadi's father, told the Star-Ledger of Newark. "How can you take two boys to the police precinct over a paper gun? This is very bad judgment."
School Supt. Ernest Smith said he believes the boys meant no harm, but district policy required that police be notified.
"I thought this was unfortunate," Smith said. "But, being that kids are being shot in schools across the country, children have to be taught they can't say certain words in public."