Barnstable Superintendent Speaks Out about Lego Gun Incident

Dr. Mary Czajkowski explains why a written warning was given to the parents of a 5-year-old who made a Lego gun during an after school program at Hyannis West Elementary.


An after school teacher at Hyannis West Elementary gave 5-year-old Joseph Cardosa’s parents a written warning last week after Cardosa crafted a gun out of Legos and taunted other students with it during the program. The news shocked some Patch readers who felt the warning was an overreaction.  

Today, superintendent of Barnstable Schools Dr. Mary Czajkowski released a statement explaining why the teacher felt the warning was a necessary step.

Czajkowski said in her statement that a teacher witnessed Cardosa making the Lego gun and saw him taunting other students with it while mimicking gunshot sounds.

“The teacher calmly and repeatedly explained to the student that the behavior was inappropriate and asked the child to stop, but the behavior continued,” Czajkowski said in her statement.

The parents were notified of the incident after dismissal and asked to sign a written account. The account included a warning that should this type of behavior continue the student could face suspension from the program.

Czajkowski also noted that the teacher and school principal were following school and district policy.

“This incident is not about the objects that children choose to construct out of Lego blocks. As educators, we encourage students to express their creativity. Rather, the matter was treated seriously and appropriately due to the child’s behavior toward other children and refusal to stop when told to do so by a teacher. No child has been suspended from this incident. Rather, the family was notified about potential consequences if the inappropriate behavior continued, in keeping with the school’s safety and conduct protocols,” Czajkowski said in her statement.

Taryn Thoman January 31, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Why didn't she say all this, if true, in the first place. Why did she mention the events at Sandy Hook Elementary if the gun was not the issue?
PaulCT January 31, 2013 at 06:12 PM
I think both the Superintendent and Teacher are ignoring the first tenets of their training for certification. To TEACH first. To LEAD. To ENCOURAGE. This is a 5-year old, and, as many of us well know, many 5-year old children (yes, these are children) do NOT stop instantly on being "told" something, and often do not stop the second or third time. These educators know that very well. WHY didn't the teacher, seeing the issue, step in close to the student/child and encourage him on his creative artwork? Why not, for example, then show him a picture, like a boat, and ask him to use the Legos to build one just like it ... duh. Did you get a different training in Elementary Education than I did? Encourage, lead, teach ... use the creativity and curiosity that is there. It should be embarrassing for Hyannis West Elementary and Barnstable to be shown up in this way. Our American Media will JUMP at any sensational item and call it "news". What a sad way to handle what should have been a great, everyday learning opportunity for this young student.
Cher Munsart January 31, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Well said paulCT
Taryn Thoman January 31, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Sadly "district policy" trumps any tenets of training, compassion or common sense in the public school system.
lulu January 31, 2013 at 08:07 PM
outstanding post paulCT!!
bill roderick January 31, 2013 at 11:36 PM
if he made a plane out of lego's..would the teacher class him as a hijacker??
PaulCT February 01, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Hi Taryn ... I agree with you ... but isn't it a sad commentary. It's not a stretch to remember many others in world history that fell back on "policy" instead of common sense and compassion?
The Concerned February 01, 2013 at 04:13 AM
Justifying this crap to save face for a school is no excuse to make a child suffer for using a creative medium such as Lego. Legos are freedom and learning embodied. I grew up pointing a hockey stick at my friends, using it as a rifle in games of war in my neighborhood. This is absurd.
Tim February 01, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Wow. She speaks like a Washington Politician. Make an outrageous statement, hear the public outcry, and then twist the story around as much as possible to try to cover up a mistake with a follow-up statement. God forbid you admit you made a horrible decision. You and the teacher should be ashamed by your actions and cover-your-butt statements. We, the People, are not buying it. You have made a national embarrassment of our community and education system and demand proper corrective action.
Robert Bastille February 01, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I'm not buying a word Czajkowski says.
Robert Bastille February 01, 2013 at 06:21 PM
NICE TRY Czajkowski! Are you kidding me? We're talking about about a 5 year old making a "gun" out of LEGOS and making shooting sounds? Did he go “bang bang...” or did he go “Pooosh Pooosh?” -whatever it was, it must have been 'terrifying for both you and your staff - perhaps counseling for a post traumatic event is in order.... GIVE ME A BREAK! And it astounds me that you'd rather take the side of one of your full grown adult teachers than to realize that you're dealing with a very normal 5 year-old child! Show me one red-blooded American who has not done the same thing! This child did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong and you are projecting your agenda and fears onto this very young and innocent kid. Do we now live in a culture where the only thing "educators" can do to rationalize their ineffectiveness to keep children safe against insanity is to pick on the very children they serve... c'mon, give me a break! this child has been harassed by both you and your 'teachers' and you know it! You owe this child and his family and friends a sincere apology... have you ever considered how this boy's classmates feel? knowing that they can be singled out and chastised and threatened just for expressing themselves in a playful manner? We need educators who will put the child's needs first over agendas, politics, and irrational policies.
Patrick February 01, 2013 at 07:13 PM
I will say this. I have worked at HyWest and the living situation for a lot of students is not the "typical" American family and they do a great job there. 0 tolerance is 0 tolerance. Robert Bastille, now when a 5 year old brings a gun to school and kills someone what will you say? Sorry but its at the point in America now that playing guns is not allowed, ACCEPT IT. Mind you a 3 year old back in 2011 pulled a trigger IE http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/3-year-old-shoots-and-kills-5-year-old-in-colorado/ Either way, Yes sad that actions had to be taken but you don't know what is going on inside that kids mind and every parent, self included will say, Hes a good kid! Every kid is an angel! How about the famous "he was the last person I thought would do this" Really? So who did you think was the first to do it? Who you got in mind? Anyone ever say "yeah figured he would do that?" Nope cause no one wants to accept what is going on
NativeGuyCC February 01, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Well stated, Paul. I second that.
Robert Bastille February 01, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Patrick... I went to HyWest and I have also worked there for a bit... I know full well about the kids.... Patrick, I also worked as a teacher on Penikese Island with kids far more dangerous and troubled than at HY-West.... I have my M.Ed., I have a daughter (who shoots rifles) studying to be a doctor at Cornell, I have served in law enforcement too, and I know full well how to teach children. … and I also know full well on how to effectively keep them safe... … and picking on a perfectly normal 5 year old boy for playing with plastic toys and using his imagination will not make children safer... sorry, but it doesn't work that way...and to suggest that it does implies pure ignorance... If you somehow are reading into my statement that guns are acceptable in schools you have lost your marbles. 1. it's a 5 year old playing with legos... which will not hurt anyone 2. banning kids from playing with plastic toy guns will not make schools any safer.... 3. there is nothing wrong with playing with toy gun... we live in a country where guns are part of our constitutional rights... YOU ACCEPT THAT.... the fact is that Americans have successfully used lots and lots of GUNS to secure our freedom and safety... another fact.... ACCEPT IT....
Robert Bastille February 01, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Also, if you are going to use the “logic” that banning certain toys will make kids safer (something that has never been studied or proven one way or the other...) then you need to march right into those Kinder-classes and remover all the plastic toy hammers... yes, ban all the toy hammers Patrick... Why? Because according to the FBI you are more likely to be killed by a real hammer than any real rifle... Patrick, how dare you or anyone else decide how a child should play... as long as it doesn't harm the child or others, who are you to decide what is appropriate type of play? Who knows, maybe playing with a plastic lego gun was fun for this child... something that made him feel better about who he wanted to be when he grows up.... maybe he wants to be a cop, or a soldier... or someone who protects others, yes, even people like you who don't like the way he is.
Robert Bastille February 01, 2013 at 09:46 PM
also, Patrick... how dare you question me on what I would say if some sick person walks into a school and kills someone! ? Just who do you think you are? Putting something like that off on someone like me.... someone who doesn't agree with you! You creepy jerk!
unknownauthor February 01, 2013 at 11:27 PM
A comment has been removed from this stream due to the use of profanity.
Tim February 01, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Czajkowski and the teacher need to submit their resignations! I think the vast majority of the community would agree. Teachers who cannot teach, a superintendent that is so far in left field she has left the ballpark. And kids who cannot play with Legos. My folks live in FLORIDA, and they saw this story! They actually though it was a joke. Unfortunately, I had to explain that it was real.
Tim February 01, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Patrick, let us know when you pull your head out of your own arse. Thank God you don't work with our kids anymore....
kim February 02, 2013 at 12:15 AM
Very well said!
kim February 02, 2013 at 12:19 AM
yes thats a tragic thing in colorado but it was a GUN not legos...sadly someone lost a child and you want to use that to rationalize what the issue is here.....Shame on you! You are an Ass!!!
Robert Bastille February 02, 2013 at 12:29 AM
sounds like Patrick needs a hug.... come over to the common sense side of the argument playah! Us 'protective' folks aren't that bad... jump in, the waters of common sense are just fine! http://youtu.be/QFBhsgpsQOg
kim February 02, 2013 at 10:41 AM
I hope the parents speak to an attorney about removing that signed letter from the childs permanent record.......
Taryn Thoman February 02, 2013 at 05:12 PM
I'm afraid there are cracks in the superintendent's story due to conflicting statements she made to the press. Now the entire school, which tries very hard to create a safe and productive learning environment for the students, has a trashed reputation nationally. Had school officials limited the reprimand to the issue of a student repeatedly disobeying the rules, the matter would be a non-issue. Since there appears to be no documentation to back up allegations that the child has been a regular behavior problem, officials are scrambling for excuses to justify what was clearly an overreaction by the school. However we should note that Dr. C has made herself abundantly available to parents since her first day on the job, so why didn't the mother at least give her a chance to review the incident before going to the press? As a parent whose child was mistreated at age six by abusive town councilor Janet Joakim, I understand the mother's frustration. However I never allowed my son's name to be published, and tried very hard to shield him from the publicity her petty and stupid actions attracted. It's time for Dr. C to take both feet out of her mouth and sit down with Joseph and his parents. Show us what you're made of, Dr. C. Admit an overreaction and extend an olive branch. HyWest kids deserve better.
Robert Bastille February 02, 2013 at 05:50 PM
I agree with your assessment Taryn... if the boy was being insubordinate that's one thing... but that usually is handled with a redirection or consequence... but this was not initially about insubordination... this was about a teacher overreacting and freaking out over an emotionally charged issue that has absolutely nothing to do this child... the child was not wrong for using his imagination and playing with a fabricated “Lego” gun, which seems to be the reason he was written up.... If, however, the teacher thought he was being insubordinate by not stopping when he was told, that MAY be a different story.... the major issue I have with this story is that some school officials are putting the weight of the recent tragedies off on a perfectly normal 5 year old for doing what all boys in our culture do, playing with toy guns... which is okay because we need future cops, soldiers, and security personnel... Like we need future carpenters who are encouraged to play with toy hammers at a young age..., playing with toy guns is perfectly acceptable in the case of a young child who wants to grow up and protect and serve. There may be knee-jerk irrational rules about such play that have suddenly popped up... but all this would not have been placed on this little boy's shoulders if it had happened prior to the tragedy at Sandy Hook... I think it's unfair and negligent for the school to single this child out... and his parents are right to be protective and concerned...
Robert Bastille February 02, 2013 at 05:50 PM
it's a shameful irrational overreaction that has likely traumatized the 5 year old boy and his classmates who are now afraid to play and express themselves like all normal American children in our culture... Whether it's the place of Barnstable Schools to attempt to change the existing culture... and whether or not that's even possible, necessary, or beneficial is another issue which places this incident under national scrutiny.
Taffy February 12, 2013 at 06:20 PM
I would just like to state my opinion. After hearing two separate news stories about 7 year old children bringing loaded handguns to school can you really, honestly say that a written warning was a bad thing? Yes, the child is an angel, oh such a sweet kid, he would never do such a thing, such a good listener... the goods go on and on. Did you also know the exact same things have been said about the two children who brought loaded guns to school. Paranoid? Probably with good cause in today's society.
Robert Bastille March 16, 2013 at 08:00 PM
first of all Taffy, the Lego gun wasn't loaded.... second of all, it was a freakin' LEGO GUN! ... I'm more afraid the people who think this is a threat
PaulCT March 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Robert, I agree with you 100%. Taffy and Patrick. I too, spent a number years as an Elementary School Teacher. This was in an inner city school in Connecticut. From your comments, which, in my opinion are incorrect, are you saying that if a child paints a gun in finger painting, or maybe a knife, or maybe a bow and arrow they should be suspended for threatening the safety of others? Maybe if they drew a car, then ... way too young to drive, we should notify the police as well, get them a ticket. In science class, what if we did an experiment that flamed? Should the teacher or the student be classified as a terrorist. Is this what YOU both think our great country has become? This is school. In Elementary, Middle or High School, it's all education. Encourage. Teach. Lead by example. THEN, get out of the way and take pride in what they will become.
Pegasus326 March 26, 2013 at 02:43 AM
I presume BPD was contacted using the direct, emergency red Lego IPhone?


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