Broward News

Samuel Burgos Goes National: An 8-year-old's Expulsion Becomes Tea Party Rallying Cry

The national conservative blogosphere has picked up on a local story of an 8-year-old Broward County kid expelled for at least a year, maybe two, for bringing a toy gun to school. And no matter what you think about the national conservative blogosphere, it seems it has this one right.

The story first made the press September 17 on NBC6, which did this report on 8-year-old Samuel Burgos. Samuel was expelled from Pembroke Pines Charter School in November 2009 for bringing to school a clear plastic replica of a 45.-caliber handgun. School district officials credited the fact that the toy gun fired plastic bee bees as a reason to classify it as a weapon and expel Samuel under its

"zero tolerance" policy.

Samuel's father, Magdiel Burgos, had spent nearly a year fighting the suspension before finally going public. NBC6's story soon got picked up by conservative bloggers nationwide, who declared it the new battleground for gun rights. Others argued that it was an example of "leftist" school administrators who go too far with suspensions and arrests of students.

Burgos tells me he was surprised at all the attention his story has gotten in recent days. "I got a lot of phone calls, one from Armed for America, or something, and then the rifle group, NRA," he said. "I don't want to get caught up in the gun issue. I just want my son back to school."

As a charter school, Pembroke Pines operates separately from the school district. But under state laws, it must follow some district rules, such as the zero tolerance policy. After Samuel was expelled on November 25, 2009, the school district held a hearing on his case April 21. Burgos says administrators told him he'd learn his son's fate a few days later. He didn't hear from them again until receiving a letter August 25. The letter told him that Samuel would have to attend a correctional school this fall and wouldn't be able to return to regular school until next year.

Burgos appealed the decision, and a hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. "There has to be an alternative for good kids who make a mistake," Burgos said. "Sending him to a school for criminals will not help the situation."

Meanwhile, conservative bloggers and websites have taken up the cause. On the chat room, one author writes:

The lefty pacification of our children has been a paramount issue, and to mentally hammer into those young minds that weapons, images of weapons and toys that look like weapons are Evil MUST be hammered into them while young so they can grow a crop of ready-made govt slaves that will never even think of revolting violently or know their rights when the govt tramples over them.
Burgos says he's glad that news of his fight is spreading. "It's blowing up. It's all over right now," he said. But he's hoping the attention means school administrators will reconsider.

"We just want our child back in school," he said. "That's all we're hoping for with all this."

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton