Last Wednesday we published a story about a little boy who was supposedly suspended from school for tossing an imaginary grenade into an imaginary box. This Week’s Worst School in the Country: Mary Blair Elementary
News stories about the boy were published by major news outlets throughout the country and then the story went viral.
Faultline USA wants to present all sides of the issue and to set the record straight concerning this particular story. Yesterday, we received an email from the school Superintendent, Stan Scheer. Here is that email:
I am writing in response to your recent email to the Thompson School District regarding Mary Blair Elementary School.
As a matter of practice, the Thompson School District does not comment publicly on matters of student discipline. In this case, however, the parent of the student has chosen to make this a public issue, and because there appears to be a great deal of misinformation in the media about this matter, we feel compelled to respond.
On February 1, 2013, a student at Mary Blair Elementary School was observed by a teacher throwing rocks at other children on the school’s playground. The teacher, following District procedures, escorted the child to the school principal, whereupon the student’s mother was contacted. Following a discussion with the student and his mother, the principal imposed a 2-hour in-school suspension as a consequence for the student’s behavior. The student was never removed from school grounds by the District.
Stan Scheer, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Thompson School District
800 South Taft Avenue
Loveland, CO 80537
New information concerning the mother lends credence to the schools's position.
. . .But when 7NEWS took a harder look at the 30-year-old mother's account of what happened on the playground, we found it may not be true.
7NEWS also found that Watkins has repeatedly appeared at the center of news stories in recent years and she has a lengthy criminal history that raises questions about her credibility. . . .
7NEWS' Sablan asked Watkins on Friday about her account that her son was throwing an "imaginary grenade," when the district says he threw rocks at other students.
Watkins insisted it was the school principal who said her son "had been suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade."
"There was an imaginary grenade," the mother continued. "He was throwing an imaginary grenade and that's why I (publicly) clarified and said, 'did he have anything in his hand?'"
Sablan asked if district officials are lying about the rock throwing?
"Yes, absolutely," Watkins replied. "It's not true at all." . . .
We truly hope that the school's version of the story is the correct version. But there are still a number of questions concerning the school's list of "Absolutes, " and why any parent would make an issue of a mere "2-hour in-school suspension" (whatever that is).
Perhaps the school district will have to revamp their policy about public comments concerning student discipline? In the interest of student privacy and yet, preemptive self-protection, perhaps schools should immediately list on their web page each suspension by date, time, and type of offense (omitting the student's name and identifying grade).
Additionally, the previous article links to articles concerning the overuse of suspension in schools throughout the country over the last decade. What, after all, is a "2-hour in-school suspension"??? Why is this term being overly used?
Politically charged Issues such as gun control and Zero tolerance are center stage right now and schools must use sound judgement instead of political correctness at the expense of a child's permanent record!
Thursday ABC News Published:
In the wake of December's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., schools nationwide have taken zero-tolerance policies aimed at reducing violence, suspending kids as young as 5 for brandishing "guns" made from Lego blocks and cutout pieces of paper.
But the policy at Evans' Mary Blair Elementary school in Loveland, Colo., is simple and stringent. "No Weapons (real or play)" is one of the school's "ABSOLUTES," or rules.
. . .But the story has renewed discussions about a Colorado bill that eliminated zero-tolerance school discipline policies that arose following the Columbine High School shooting and the 1993 Summer of Violence, during which Denver’s street gang activity drew statewide attention.
Senate Bill 12-45, known as the Smart School Discipline Act, passed last year during a special session of the Colorado Legislature. The bill failed initially, but was brought back as an amendment to the School Finance Act.
It was designed to reduce the number of “unnecessary” suspensions, bill sponsor and former Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, said, by requiring school districts to implement “proportionate” discipline, in addition to prevention strategies, counseling, restorative justice and peer mentoring programs.
When a student gets in trouble, districts are supposed to consider factors including the child’s age, whether they have a disability, their disciplinary history, the seriousness of the violation, other punishment options and whether the actions threatened the safety of another student or teacher.
School districts were required before the 2012-13 school year to rewrite their discipline code, in order to comply with the act.
Thompson School District disagrees with the notion it hasn’t abandoned zero-tolerance practices. It updated its discipline policies in November to reflect SB 12-45, district spokesman Michael Hausmann said. Administrators have a “number of interventions that they may and do use.”
“I think it’s hard when new laws are enacted for every teacher and every district to know what those laws are,” but districts are responsible to know, Nikkel said.