No, this is not an April Fool's Day joke. A six-year-old boy in Virginia has been suspended from school for … crying.
Earlier this month, Gary and Heather Clark were notified by officials at Tallwood Elementary School in Virginia Beach that their son Bronson had been suspended from school for allegedly crying in class and disrupting the educational process, according to the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties organization.
The parents then contacted the Rutherford Institute, which is calling on the school to rescind the suspension.
"There is a suspension for disruptive behaviour on his school record now. And that follows you. And it's cumulative, meaning that if something else happens, he's now considered a kid who creates problems," said John Whitehead, president of the institute.
Officials at the school did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to the co-ordinator of student services at the Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Mr. Whitehead, a constitutional attorney, calls the young boy's suspension perhaps "the most shocking example yet of the extent to which school officials are failing in their duties to create healthy and supportive educational environments for their young charges.
"While crying in class may indeed be inconvenient for the teacher, surely there are other, less draconian means of addressing this type of disruption than an out-of-school suspension."
The zero-tolerance policies adopted by many schools have seen kids "tossed out for the craziest things," Mr. Whitehead said in a telephone interview. He cited a greatest hits of seemingly head-scratching insanity: A case where a Grade 4 student who gargled Scope mouthwash after lunch was suspended because it violated the school's drugs and alcohol policy; a high-school student suspended because the nail clippers he had at school were considered a weapon; even one instance of a youngster bringing a drawing of an uncle, who was then serving in Iraq, carrying his gun, which the school said violated its weapons policy.
As for the boy suspended for crying, Mr. Whitehead points out that crying is something six-year-olds just happen to do sometimes. Dealing with the problem like this should start with consulting mom and dad instead of going straight to a suspension.
"The easiest thing to do is consult parents more," he says.
Mr. Whitehead had not heard from the school as of late Wednesday afternoon. But he is hopeful the school will rescind the suspension, he said.