Oceano girl suspended over laser pointer

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 16, 2010 

A fifth-grade student at Oceano Elementary School was suspended for three days last week when she shined a laser pointer, which she found on the playground, on her classroom’s white board.

The Lucia Mar school district, like others in California, follows a state Penal Code section that forbids laser pointers in schools, classifying them as dangerous objects.

Devon Limpangug, 10, said she and her friends were playing on the monkey bars before school when they found the laser pointer.

She said Thursday that she didn’t know they weren’t allowed at school.

“We can’t bring toy guns or things that look like guns,” Devon said. “And no toys. Toys aren’t allowed unless it is for a special occasion.”

Devon’s dad, Jeremy Limpangug, said he was surprised when he learned that laser pointers fall into the same Education Code category as guns, knives and explosives.

District administrators say that a zero-tolerance policy is enforced at Lucia Mar for any violations of that code — such as bringing a knife or other potentially dangerous object onto campus — resulting in an immediate suspension and possible expulsion.

“I thought it was steep, but thought, ‘OK, she knew better and she needs to learn a lesson,’ ” Jeremy Limpangug said. “But then I was told that she would have to take part in a violence-deterrence program, and I realized this was going too far.”

He said he is concerned his daughter, who has not gotten into trouble at school, was being put in a category she didn’t belong in.

Principal Ron Walton, who would not discuss specifics of the case, said that it wasn’t the first time a student has been suspended for having a laser pointer on a Lucia Mar campus.

“It is a dangerous object and fits into the category of a suspendable offense,” Walton said. “We are required to respond that way. District policy is set by state Education Code.

“We try to do so judiciously in cases where conversations can be had to work through situations,” he added.

Limpangug said he was told that his daughter could have been suspended for five days, but because it was her first offense she was required to spend two days out of school and one day as an “in-house” suspension in Walton’s office.

Walton said students are told during an assembly the first day of school what they can’t bring to school — including laser pointers. The district’s handbook to parents also indicates that laser pointers are not allowed.

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