Who's Responsible When Kids Bring Guns, Knives and Tasers to School?

Tel Aviv school principal is taking action after boy accidentally shoots friend in the eye with air gun.

Parents of pupils at a Tel Aviv elementary school are divided over a letter from the principal demanding that they take responsibility for their children's actions. The principal threatened to suspend any child found with dangerous toys or weapons and to file a police complaint against his parents.

The letter, sent a few days ago, came after a boy who played with an air gun in school accidentally shot another in the eye. The child required medical treatment, but the extent of his injuries is not yet clear.

"You are responsible for your children and must make sure they don't hurt others," the principal wrote.

"Other children at school have guns, pocket knives and even tasers. Any child found in possession of these dangerous toys or any other weapon will be suspended immediately, and a complaint against his parents will be filed with the police."

The letter provoked an argument among the parents over responsibility for their children's actions in school. Some parents agreed with the principal, while others said she was to blame and the letter was the school's way of evading responsibility.

The school's parents' committee threatened that if another serious incident occurs it would publish the family's name.

Some parents accused the school and wealthier parents in the neighborhood of concealing a similar incident around two months ago.

In that incident, three children were injured from an air gun fired by their friends off school grounds. One boy's parents complained to the police, who told them last week that the case was closed.

Air guns are on the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's list of dangerous toys banned for marketing, producing, selling and possession, the principal said.

"Every such incident will be reported to the police immediately and extremely harsh disciplinary measures will be taken against the pupil," she wrote. "I expect of you, the parents, to take those dangerous implements away from your children immediately and permanently, and prevent any access to them."

The parents' committee also sent a stern letter to the parents. "We fear a situation in which parents buy such toys for their children," the committee wrote. "Such incidents and anyone associated with them should be denounced. We cannot have children with extremely dangerous deadly weapons that their parents bought for them."

According to one mother, "Obviously the parents are responsible as well, but the school can't evade its share of responsibility. The letter is important, but this can't sum up the school's role. If the principal thinks this is prevalent, she must post a guard at the entrance to search knapsacks. She must take action to stop the danger of having these things recur. This is hardly likely - the parents won't let her and everyone will talk about the damage to the school's reputation."

According to another mother, "The school is held captive by the stronger parents. It's sad. This neighborhood suffers from all the ills of Israeli society, and the fact that some families have money only makes it worse."

One parent said the harsh measures are necessary. "Now the principal and parents' committee are in agreement and told all the parents 'no more tolerance,'" he said. "Until this issue is brought out into the open these practices will not stop."

Another parent said the school had a crucial role in preventing such occurrences. "But the school's means are limited," he said. "The parents cannot go on feeling that they have no responsibility for what their children do."