PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Christan Morales said her son just wanted to honor American troops when he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and small plastic Army figures.
But the hat ran afoul of the district's no-weapons policy because the toy soldiers were carrying tiny weapons.
''His teacher called and said it wasn't appropriate because it had guns,'' Morales said.
Morales' 8-year-old son, David, was assigned to make a hat for the day when his second-grade class would met their pen pals from another school. She and her son came up with an idea to add patriotic decorations to a camouflage hat.
Earlier this week, the Tiogue School in Coventry sent the cap home with David at the end of the day after concluding it violated a zero-tolerance policy for weapons.
The principal told the family that the hat would be fine if David replaced the Army men holding weapons with ones that didn't have any, according to Superintendent Kenneth R. Di Pietro.
Morales said the family had only one Army figure without a weapon (he was carrying binoculars), so David wore a plain baseball cap on the day of the visit.
''Nothing was being done to limit patriotism, creativity, other than find an alternative to a weapon,'' Di Pietro said.
The district does not allow images of weapons or drugs on clothing. For example, a student would not be permitted to wear a shirt with a picture of a marijuana leaf on it, the superintendent said.
The principal ''wasn't denying the patriotism,'' he said. ''That just is the wrong and unfair image of one of our finest principals.''
Morales said her son was inspired to honor the military after striking up a friendship last summer with a neighbor in the Army.
Banning the hat ''sent the wrong message to the kids, because it wasn't in any way to cause any harm to anyone,'' she said. ''You're talking about Army men. This wasn't about guns.''