Last year, a story that gained national media attention was one of an elementary school student who was suspended for biting a pop tart into the shape of a gun and playing with it. It was a classic case of overreaction and lack of common sense. But the story goes on. Now, the parents of the boy are trying to get his record cleared, and the school is fighting back.
It turns out that the student has quite a disciplinary record at the school, but his parents are specifically concerned about the pop tart gun and the impact that may have on their son and those who made read the files in the future. They want the incident removed. The Baltimore Sun reports that school officials say the boy wasn’t suspended “solely for that incident, but also for classroom disruptions preceding it.”
The family’s attempts to have the matter removed from the youngster’s school record have been denied by school officials, prompting the appeal heard Tuesday by school system hearing examiner Andrew Nussbaum.
School officials told Nussbaum that the suspension was the culmination of several disruptive behaviors by the boy, including one in which he struck another student. “He was suspended for ongoing classroom disruption,” said Anne Arundel schools director of legal services Laurie Pritchard.
But Robin Ficker, an attorney for the family, argued that the school system had previously said it suspended Joshua for the pastry incident — not previous issues.
So what is going on here? Did the school overreact and is now pointing to other incidents to justify the suspension? Did they have a knee-jerk response to the pop tart gun and are now trying to save face? The boy’s father, B.J. Welch, thinks so.
B.J. Welch said he was led to believe his son’s two-day suspension was triggered by heightened concerns officials had about guns, and said many of the school system’s assertions about his son’s behavior and punishments had not been conveyed to him until Tuesday.
“There was no reference to previous situations,” Welch said. “The big reference point … was the whole gun issue, the presence of something shaped like a gun and Josh acting like what he had in his hand was a gun and pointed it like a gun. It was that there was no place for the subject of guns at school, and people get scared easily.”
Here’s a report from ABC 7 News:
Josh Welch, the boy at the heart of the story, was presented with a lifetime membership to the NRA by a local elected official at a fundraising event. According to the Baltimore Sun, “House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke presented Josh Welch with the membership, which cost $550, during a tongue-in-cheek presentation that involved a Pop-Tart fashioned into pistol and gun safety tips.” I love it. At least some people see the humor in all this. The school went nuts over a pop tart gun, and now they know that it doesn’t stand up under examination.
So what do school officials do next? The Maryland Gazette presents a laundry list of offenses that Josh Welch is accused of doing.
During one incident in December of 2012, Josh punched another student in the nose. He was suspended for one day following that incident.
On other occasions, Josh threw chairs, refused to do his classwork, tossed papers on the floor and caused the evacuation of his class due to his “explosive” behavior, said Park Elementary Principal Sandra Blondell.
Josh threatened one student, pretended to punch another student and banged his head against his desk, among other disruptive behaviors, she said. He refused to follow his teacher’s directions.
So… maybe this kid has some issues, and perhaps a suspension FOR THOSE activities was warranted. But the fact remains that he made a gun out of a pop tart and was told that was the reason. That’s not a valid reason at all. Geez… I used to make knives out of popsicle sticks, and my friends and I would compare to see whose looked the coolest. What would happen to us in today’s schools?
We need to bring back some common sense. If a student is bad, then the student should be punished. But making a pop tart gun and pretending to shoot it is called PLAYING… and kids have done it for generations. Get a clue!