An 11-year-old boy who hopes to become a Navy SEAL was suspended from a Maryland school after he used the word 'gun' in a conversation on board a school bus.
The sixth-grader at Northern Middle School in Owings was talking with a group of friends about the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre when the bus driver overheard the conversation.
"He said, 'I wish I had a gun to protect everyone from the bad guys,'' said Bruce Henkelman, the boy's father. "He wanted to be the hero."
Henkelman told Fox News that his son was interrogated by the principal and a deputy sheriff – without their knowledge or permission.
"The principal told me if you say the word gun in my school – you will face a ten day suspension," he said.
The incident happened just after the Sandy Hook shootings. Henkleman said he finally decided to speak out after a 5-year-old boy in their county was suspended for 10 days after he brought a toy cap gun onto a school bus.
Since the incident happened a day before winter break, the principal reduced the suspension to one day. But the family was ordered to complete an "intrusive" four-page questionnaire and the deputy sheriff said he would have to search their home --- without a warrant.
"But he was emphasizing that it warranted a 10-day suspension," he said.
Robin Welsh, the deputy superintendent for school system, confirmed to Fox News that the incident occurred. She also said there was misinformation about the case. However, she declined to go into any details citing federal and local confidentiality laws.
Welsh did point out that the principal of the middle school did nothing wrong.
"The principal followed our policies and procedures and absolutely did handle it in an appropriate manner," she said.
Henkelman told Fox News that he is outraged over his son's treatment at the hands of the school.
"I keep telling him that he did nothing wrong," he said. "At the very least the principal owes him an apology. Our personal rights were violated."
Henkelman, a retired Navy veteran, said his son is an honors student who pitches for the local baseball team. And the boy wants to be a Navy SEAL.
"That's the context of the comments he made on the bus," he said. "He wants to be a hero."
"He's infatuated with the Navy SEALS," he said. "He thinks they're great – how they go and save the world. The context was to protect people just like the police department does with their guns."
After Henkelman picked up his son from school, the deputy sheriff said he would need to search their home.
"I said, by what authority and he said that he had to make sure the house is clear of guns," he said.
The deputy arrived at their home 15 minutes later armed with a four-page questionnaire.
"I was uncomfortable answering the questions," he said. "But I was told if I don't fill this form out – he would not be allowed back in school."
The questions covered topics ranging from mental health to how many guns and weapons the family owned.
"They were very intrusive questions," he said.
At some point, the deputy said he had to search the home. They got as far as the kitchen when Henkelman decided to feel uneasy.
"I asked him to leave," he said. "The deputy became agitated and said he would get a search warrant. I said that's what I needed."
After the deputy left, Henkelman called the sheriff's department. He was told over the phone that officers would not be searching his home.
The deputy later returned to complete the four-page document.
Henkelman said he's speaking out because he never got answers from the school district.
"When I tried to get to the bottom of this – they refuse to answer any of my questions," he said." I called the director of transportation and he would not put anything in writing. I told him that was very cowardly."