With emotions still raw days after a deadly school shooting in Florida, one Ohio family is fighting back against what they think is an unfair punishment.
Beth Mertel says one of her son's peers brought a toy gun to Greenbriar Middle School in Parma on Feb. 8, and pointed it at her son, Joey.
"He says he doesn't want to be the snitch," Mertel said. "They're 11 years old. They're kids. They're trying to find their place with their friends too."
Mertel says the Parma City School District suspended the student who brought the toy gun, along with three other students, including Joey, for knowing about it but not telling an adult about it.
The district stands behind the discipline, saying the three additional students were punished under a part of the Student Handbook labeled "Withholding Information."
Mertel's concern is with the severity of the punishment, not the rule she admits her son should have followed.
"No matter how much I disagree with the suspension, you still should have said something," said Beth.
Mertel says Wednesday's tragedy in Florida is an important teaching moment.
"I said [to Joey] you need to go home and turn on the news," said Beth. "You need to watch this, you need to understand this."
The district tells us that suspension will stay on Joey's internal school record through middle school and into high school. Beth says it's a hefty punishment that falls short of teaching the lesson she says is worth learning.
"Whenever you see something, you have to tell somebody," said Mertel. "That's the only way this is going to be taken care of."