Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When schools become the bullies

 Washington Times:
A 13-year-old New Jersey boy was suspended from school Thursday for twirling his pencil around in math class and making another student uncomfortable.
Ethan Chaplin, a 7th-grader at Glen Meadow Middle School in Vernon Township, was twirling around a pencil with a pen cap on it when a student behind him yelled, "He's making gun motions, send him to juvie!" a local news station reported.
The school suspended Ethan and ordered him to undergo a physical and psychological evaluation, his father, Michael Chaplin, told the station.
 "I'm absolutely livid," he said. "I think it's gross misconduct at its finest. They took something so minimal and took it so far over the edge."
Vernon Schools Superintendent Charles Maranzano said school policy requires an investigation when anyone in the school feels uncomfortable or threatened by another student.
"We never know what's percolating in the minds of children," he told the news station. "And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty."
Mr. Chaplin told Alex Jones' website Infowars that his son had to go through a five-hour evaluation, which came back clean.
"The child was stripped, had to give blood samples (which caused him to pass out) and urine samples for of all things drug testing," he told the website. "Then four hours later a social worker spoke to him for five minutes and cleared him." [Emphasis mine, throughout]
I'm not exactly sure what "twirling around a pencil with a pen cap on it" means,  but it doesn't sound like much of a deal. If it took another student to call attention to it, it doesn't even sound very disruptive. As a teacher, I'd have asked the pencil-twirler to stop. I'd also have spoken to the second kid about yelling in my classroom. I suspect that would have been the end of it, and instruction would continue.

Instead, this teacher and school went nuclear. They subjected a 13-year-old kid to five hours of humiliation and abuse -- making him strip and undergo a battery of physical and psychological tests -- all for playing with a pencil, a very typical behavior for a middle school boy.

Unless there is a whole lot more to the story, the "adults" who mistreated this kid should be disciplined. The parents certainly should consider legal action against all involved, including those that instituted a policy that says that anything that makes anyone uncomfortable in any way must be "investigated" in this manner.

The idea that no one should ever feel uncomfortable is asinine to begin with. Life is uncomfortable, and our schools should be helping kids to understand and deal with that fact, instead of becoming bullies themselves.

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