School Suspends Student Indefinitely For A Drawing Of A Cartoon Bomb He Made At Home


I don’t even know what to say about the following. Is there some sort of secret contest going on between administrators to see who can come up with the most ridiculous interpretation of their school’s zero-tolerance weapons policies? Do they meet annually to hand out awards and have a good laugh at their students’ expense?

Or is it something more nefarious? Are they ushered off to administrative instructional facilities shortly after being hired and, under the guise of “teambuilding,” fed a combination of psychoactive drugs and zero-tolerance dogma until they’ve “unlearned” any sort of common sense or restraint they’ve picked up through their life’s experiences to that point?

What else could explain this race to bottom, policy-wise?

To date, students have been punished for the following “weapons”: pop tarts bitten into a gun-like shape, fingers folded into a gun-like shape, an ASL sign for a student’s own name being a gun-like shape, a drawing of a gun having a gun-like shape. And now, as if to indicate that the previous incidents were merely blips on the zero-tolerance-insanity radar, comes this story.

Parham said her son, Rhett, had made the hand-drawn picture of the bomb during the weekend at home. Parham said her son is a fan of the video game Bomber Man and drew the cartoon-ish like explosive.

Parham said her son took the picture to Hillcrest Middle School, and that’s where problems arose.

Parham said she was told that her son showed the picture to some older children, who reported him to school administration. She said her son was suspended indefinitely by the school.

Here’s the “bomb.”

As you can see from the drawing, this bomb is the sort that only strikes fear into Wile E. Coyote and TSA agents. Or so I would have thought until confronted with the fact that “older children” were so troubled they brought it to the attention of school administration, which was so troubled it suspended the child indefinitely.

Now, the good news is that the suspension was lifted two days later. The bad news is, well, there’s a lot of bad news. The bad news is that he was suspended at all. The additional bad news is that he was only reinstated after a “manifestation hearing” by the board to determine whether this harmless drawing of a cartoon bomb was somehow “linked to his disability.”

You see, the student in question has autism and therefore, somehow, his drawing of a bomb might be a sign that his “disability” was turning threatening or I don’t even know how to finish this sentence because it was a FREAKING CARTOON BOMB based on a CARTOONISH GAME with CARTOON BOMBS IN IT.

Two hours. It took two hours for administration to decide to rescind the suspension. Lord knows what would have happened if a student advocate specializing in autism hadn’t been present.

Now, if you’re not completely perplexed, irate and reeling from the ridiculousness contained in this post so far, you’re going to suffer a brain spasm and die a little inside when you read the school’s excuse for its actions.

“They actually reiterated to me they knew he was non-violent,” said Parham. “They knew he was not actually having a bomb, creating or making a bomb. But that they could not go without making an example of him and take some type of action because they were worried about their perception. Perception is actually the word he used. Perception is reality, and parents might think you have a bomb or [might be] violent.”

Because my first response to this statement is to type up a string of capitalized nonsensical letters in an attempt to convey my internal dialog that begins with a WTF loud enough to be audible to people outside of my skull and concludes with me hammering at the keyboard until the pulsing in my frontal lobe stops, I’ll turn this rebuttal over to Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids.

The perception that anyone could be harmed, physically or mentally, by a pretend bomb (or gun)? NOT REALITY. The perception that our kids are awash in a sea of predators? NOT REALITY. The perception that kids are at high risk if they sit in a Bumbo chair or wear a pair of flowered sandals? NOT REALITY. The perception that any parent who isn’t watching his or her child every single second is putting that child in danger? Not reality.

An administration so worried about “perception” that it suspends a child indefinitely solely to show it won’t tolerate any deviations from policy, no matter how slight, is an administration so weak it shouldn’t be entrusted with the care and education of children, especially children with additional needs.

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Comments on “School Suspends Student Indefinitely For A Drawing Of A Cartoon Bomb He Made At Home”

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Mega1987 (profile) says:

Re: Whut?

suspended due to a cartoonish bomb drawing?

As if the kid got some strange powers that can makes the things s/he drew up into the real thing…

Even the suspension is voided. the damage have been done.

and beside, as if the kid from grade-school to middle school is a some sort a super spy/agent that can kickass if s/he wants too…

And that only exist in fantasy and in some places where child soldiers is rampant.

Anonymous Coward says:

” Is there some sort of secret contest going on between administrators to see who can come up with the most ridiculous interpretation of their school’s zero-tolerance weapons policies?”

It is an indoctrination program to acclimate children to the police state mentality which demands they rat on each other.
This will backfire. They obviously have ignored the advice of child psychologists. Their answer is to administer more drugs to the children and up their take in kickbacks from big pharma. Screw the long term consequences, they are only concerned with the dollars in their pockets today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Bullshit. It has nothing to do with indoctrination, and everything to do with liability and cover-your-ass.

When the penalty for overreacting and suspending kids over zero-tolerance policies is nothing, and the penalty for “missing the warning signs” of an actual attack are so huge, of course administrators will err on the side of overreaction.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

When the penalty for overreacting and suspending kids over zero-tolerance policies is nothing, and the penalty for “missing the warning signs” of an actual attack are so huge, of course administrators will err on the side of overreaction.

THIS! Soooooo much!

How the hell do we turn back the perception that ANYTHING can be “perfectly safe” and stop demanding as a society that someone is fired, sued or jailed over anything less than the imaginary perfect???

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I agree that it has more to do with CYOA than conditioning, however the conditioning element is still very pervasive in our educational system. The entire system is designed around teaching kids WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. Those that conform and regurgitate the correct answers that are fed to them are rewarded while those that question those who feed them those answers are punished for not conforming. It is designed into the system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“It has nothing to do with indoctrination”

Nice try police state spokesperson

“everything to do with liability and cover-your-ass”

Nice try insurance industry spokesperson

“penalty for “missing the warning signs” of an actual attack are so huge”

Yeah, those people and their lawyers – sheeesh. Who do they think they are. Tort reform will put them in their place huh.

I’m sure the next court case will feature childhood drawings of some zero tolerance items and this will lead the jury toward massive awards. Sounds more like an episode of Jerry Springer.

Anonymous Coward says:

what the hell is the matter with these people? it’s a drawing, for goodness sake! is it expected to blow up or to magically turn into a real device and then blow up?
i appreciate that when the school shootings occurred, the hurt that it did to families must have been almost unbearable. i also appreciate that certain people in certain areas wanted to try to make sure the events didn’t happen again. there is no guarantee of that, unfortunately. but to go the lengths that some are going to is absolutely ridiculous and outrageous! they cant be doing it for anything other than to make a name for themselves. there is no protectionism at all. they need to be careful that the name that get for themselves is a totally different one to that desired!

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. Bring him in the office. Explain that we can’t bring weapons to school and we don’t really want to distract other kids with pictures of bombs and could he please leave that at home.

Maybe, at worst, confiscate the drawing and have the parents pick it up so you can talk to them about the fact that it caused a distraction.

And then send the kid back to class.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

“Yeah I understand zero tolerance” then you go on and show that in fact you do not understand that zero tolerance means.

it has nothing to do with 100% or ‘perfect or outside allowed tolerances.

Zero Tolerances means NO Tolerance, no “OUTSIDE ALLOWED TOLERANCES”.


See, clearly you don’t understand zero tolerance at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

it means anything not 100% perfect

By definition anything that is not 100% perfect is not perfect at all. It’s either perfect or it is not.

ZERO is either zero or it is not. Zero is not just ‘a small number’ it’s ZERO.

at least the education system is showing the students what ZERO means. That it does not mean “a little bit” or “something in my opinion is not much” ZERO MEANS ZERO. again I am surprised you have trouble with such a simple concept !

Scott says:

Re: Re: Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

I am sorry, you liberal moron. Its a zero tolerance weapons policy. This is not a weapon unless you deliberately give someone papercuts from it. Its a picture. The poptart was not a weapon, even if you threw it at someone else, it would just go “splat” on their shirt. Making a gun shape with your hands is not a weapon. A weapon is a weapon and that is where “zero tolerance” should begin and end! How many inner city youths show up with actual weapons and get a slap on the wrist. Go ahead, tell me that doesn’t happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

Here’s what I understand about “zero tolerance” – it appears to be an alternative to CRITICAL THINKING and LOGIC.

My question back to you is “if these administrators cannot be trusted to apply critical thinking and logic, then what in the fuck are they doing TEACHING OUR CHILDREN?”

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

I second that! There is a massive deficit of critical thinking and rational response in this country. Zero tolerance means zero thinking. It’s the perfect storm for people that are boiling over with paranoia and ignorance to destroy young minds. Just to make it clear, I’m saying that the vast majority of people have abandoned their capacity to make their own judgments. Our society is getting lazy. They don’t want to take responsibility for their own children, they want it done for them. They don’t want to think, they want someone to think for them. They don’t want to decide how to live, they want to be told how to live. People are heading down a slippery slope that leads to mindless cattle just being herded around and controlled. No thinking; no questions; just blind obedience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

“I would have thought anyone asked to interpret ZERO TOLERENCE, would be able to do that quite easily !!!”

That is only true when you are dealing with well a defined data set and rules.

When we start going into the realm of the subjective, zero tolerance makes zero sense.

Suppose the kid drew a kitchen knife. Would that trigger your “zero-tolerance” sensor? It could, since they can be used as weapons, but, then again, knives have extensive non-violent uses. In fact, the most common use case of a knife is non-violent (eating).

Remember that we are dealing with people here, not machine parts, or software development, or skyscrapers, or any other field where “tolerance” can be accurately measured and enforced.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: what about "ZERO TOLERENCE"

Better take away those crayons!!! They could be used as a potential weapon! Just wait, some child will over sharpen their crayon to too fine of a point and someone will feel threatened by it. Without thinking, someone will call it a weapon and the whole thing starts over again. Anything can be a weapon if you put your mind to it. Which begs the question: who is smarter? Is it the child that figured out how to make a “weapon” from a crayon or the person that called it a “weapon”?

Anonymous Coward says:

The school's new version of a school shooter

I can’t wait to see a story about a school ‘shooting’ or ‘bombing’ based on these weapons kids are getting in trouble for. I’m sure the story would go something like this.

1) Suspect walks into the school with a large stack of papers, and a paper bag containing something not seen.

2) Suspect starts to throw pieces of paper with a picture of a cartoonish bomb on it at everyone. Students and facility run for their lives, but tragically some invisible friends of the students are blown to bits by the paper bombs.

3) Suspect pulls out two pop tarts shaped like a gun, one in each hand. Suspect runs around shoot saying “bang” and making gun noises while pointing the pop tart guns at people. Many facility and students fall over and pretend to be dead so the suspect won’t harm them farther. More invisible friends of the students get shot and murdered.

4) The police arrive with real guns drawn, so the suspect throws an imaginary hand grenade at them and kills over a dozen imaginary police officers.

5) Suspect is put in hand cuffs by the cops, but then distracts the cops by informing them that the white tiles are hot lava. Suspect then shapes his hands in the shape of a gun and makes some shooting noises while aiming his fingers at more imaginary cops, killing them.

6) Police have no choice but to pound the suspect senseless until they fall unconscious, citing the large number of imaginary cops and friends the suspect has already murdered.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: The school's new version of a school shooter

You made one very large mistake.

Given how police act these days (there was an article here yesterday about a large group of cops firing over one hundred bullets at two unarmed perps), as soon as a single cop laid eyes on the ever so slightly threatening hands of the kid, they would let loose with every real weapon they have.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, that is the answer, otherwise the system will continue pushing these insane policies on innoculous children, no doubt in an attempt to make them paranoid about guns from an early age and complacent to authority. I just read about how a 4 year-old preschooler is going to be suspended for five days for having a toy gun in his backpack. What’s really needed is zero tolerance of neurotic lunatics who institutionalize crap like this.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

This episode of COPS.

On tonight’s episode on COPS. SWAT team shuts down school and uses tear gas to stop two 3rd grade students who used spit wads at their American History books. One spit wad hit a map on New York city causing mass panic that the city would be destroyed. 4 hours into the raid police commisioner Xtreme report success as 10 suspects are dead.

aldestrawk says:

administrative thought process

My wife is a middle school teacher so I do have something of a window into the hows and whys of the administrator thought process.
School administrators, since they are dealing with actual children, believe they need to stay “on message”. The world of rules has to be black and white. If you compromise, how are the kids going to react when they see that? If they do compromise, for whatever reason, then the incident must keep kept as hidden as possible. I think it would make more sense if they taught that the world is rarely black and white, that enforcing rules, and justice in general, is about compromises. However, that takes courage and zero-tolerance is much safer for the administrator.
Courage is indeed what it takes in the face of all those potentially irate parents and a school board with the power to end your employment. In this context, perception is indeed reality.
Kids do crazy things, embarrassing things, and sometimes even dangerous things all the time so administrators, in fear of their job, are constantly motivated to use the traditional standbys as well as come up with creative new ways to keep them in check.
School administrators are supposed to have training as administrators beforehand yet many of them seem to believe their role as administrators is still “In Loco Parentis” without restriction. This is still true despite the decades of court precedents that recognize the constitutional rights of children place restrictions on the power of school administrators.
The upshot of all this is that zero-tolerance policies do not make schools or children safer, they make administrators jobs safer.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: administrative thought process

  1. SWMBO is a middling school teacher too… wait, that didn’t come out right… (actually, she was teacher of the year)
    2. IF the teachers ‘went by the book’, there would be ZERO students left in the classes, because they ALL would have been suspended/expelled for a LOT of what used to be called ‘kids being kids’ when i was a yardape…

    (note: YES, there are total brats, clueless, entitled jerkwads, and other assorted borderline personalities, but -in the main- it is kids being kids…)

    3. for example, my wife slightly hurt herself breaking up a fight the other day, which they are NOT supposed to do, PERIOD… (for some reasons that make superficial sense, and a lot of CYA reasons that make NO sense)
    you are supposed to contact the deans office, and let them go at it until one of the ‘enforcers’ arrives… of course, by the time the enforcers get there, some serious damage could be done, but the important thing is to avoid ‘liability’…

    4. similarly, if a kid gets hurt at school, NO MATTER HOW SERIOUSLY, the teachers/etc, are NOT supposed to do the -you know- human if not humane thing and call for an ambulance/etc (MUCH LESS HELP THE KID); you contact the dean’s office, and -for dog’s sake!- do NOT touch the kid no matter what ! ! !
    NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES, you let the kid lay there until the deans make a decision of whether to contact a paramedic/whatever…

    because, who will think of the children…

    it is ALL about NOT thinking of the children -or your humanity- and doing WHATEVER it takes to cover their asses…

    the public school system is being PURPOSEFULLY crippled and dismantled for all kinds of reasons, the number one reason being to generate obscene profits for parasites, NOT to educate/raise good citizens…

    teachers HAVE TO ‘break the rules’ ALL THE TIME, or the system would be so broken NOTHING would get done, much less have any students left…

    repeat: THIS IS ALL DONE PURPOSEFULLY to destroy public education (for a multiplicity of reasons), NOT ‘for the kids’… it has NOTHING to do with the kids…

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: administrative thought process

“4. similarly, if a kid gets hurt at school, NO MATTER HOW SERIOUSLY, the teachers/etc, are NOT supposed to do the -you know- human if not humane thing and call for an ambulance/etc (MUCH LESS HELP THE KID); you contact the dean’s office, and -for dog’s sake!- do NOT touch the kid no matter what ! ! !
NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES, you let the kid lay there until the deans make a decision of whether to contact a paramedic/whatever…”

I can just tell you have a horrifying story of how this policy meant a student bled to death or was at the least severely injured or crippled for life…if only for the first aid his teacher could have given if s/he had been allowed to.

Gerard Pierce says:

It might be helpful to know whether these are traditional teachers, or part of our modern charter school administration.

It could be that these fools are under some kind of “political” pressure related to destruction of traditional schools. It might also be pressure from some kind of charter schools mafia that insists on a new kind of stupidity.

Of course they could simply be stupid all on their own without any outside help,

Anonymous Coward says:

The real problem

“Parham said she was told that her son showed the picture to some older children, who reported him to school administration.

All this “Zero Tolerance” bullshit is doing is making kids scared of all the wrong stuff. Why are they afraid of a cartoon drawing of a bomb? When I was younger, a kid actually made a bomb and brought it to school…. That’s something you should be scared of, not some picture of a cartoon bomb that more than half the boys I went to school with (including myself) likely drew.

Now should there be some counseling or something for the kid to make sure this isn’t a habit or going to manifest? Maybe, but to suspend the kid and say this is unacceptable behavior is tricking our kids into fearing something that isn’t a big deal!

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The real problem

I remember one time I was in primary school. I was about 5/6 years old, and if my memory serves me correctly, I (being the loner kid with few to no friends) start going on about how I’ll shoot all the gays. This got a good laugh from all my classmates. I obviously didn’t know what a gay was (I suspect I picked it up from my father who was very racist and homophobic). When the teacher heard about it, she called up my parents (can’t remember which one turned up) and I was made to write a one copybook page essay on why what I had said was wrong.
That was all.
I was not suspended. I was not expelled. There were no investigations into my home life (although, with hindsight, I wish there had been…)
I was never anti-gay after that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Zero Tolerance should not be the same thing as Zero Common Sense.

People who sacrifice their brains ability to interpret situations and instead rely on their own preconceived notions of rules and structure should not be on a schools administrative board.

If I were related to that family or had a child in that town, I’d be arguing very publicly that they do not have the prerequisite mental capacity to be setting policies on how young minds learn.

Altaree says:

People miss the point of Zero Tolerance

It is not about protecting the children. It is about protecting the administrators in case a kid does wrong. If there was the SLIGHTEST clue that, in hindsight, this kid was escalating, the admin is going to be the sacrificial goat and have their lives ruined. Zero tolerance policies allow the admins to say, “We did everything we could.”

Anonymous Coward says:

There's more to this story

OK, I believe that this was blown way, way out of proportion wasting everyone’s time and money. But go to this link:

Turns out the kid did not show the picture bomb to the kids that he threatened, he just said “I have a bomb at school” meaning his picture. That’s why they reported him.

So at least the kids that reported him weren’t the stupid ones.

The administrators then knew that he didn’t have a real bomb but I suspect that they had to go through the drill because they had to show that they took bomb threats seriously enough. If they had really overreacted then they would have put the school in lockdown or evacuated it and called in counselors to help the children with their trauma.

Anonymous Coward says:

What bothers me most about this is that now the other kids have been conditioned enough to now think the same way the administrators do. Drawing of a bomb, reasonable enough, Turn Him In!!!!

Dictators have often used friends and enemies to spy on the population. I wonder if the kids doing the turning in are rewarded in any way other than a “Good work Johnny, you’ve foiled another terrorist plot.”

Emma says:

One nitpick: having read the article, it appears that the “linked to his disability” comment was not implying that school officials thought his autism was turning him into a terrorist bomber, but that they were considering whether it excused his actions. The kid’s mother explained:

“They realized that his disability was the reason that he made statements and drew the picture, and that he had no malicious intent what so ever.”

Apparently, they felt his autism meant he didn’t understand the “seriousness” of his actions. Which is still ridiculous, since that implies that non-mentally disabled kids have no excuse for doing the same thing.

Also, does anyone else think that maybe the kids who reported him were not *actually* afraid of bombs, but thought it would be funny to get the autistic kid in trouble? Especially if they didn’t entirely realize how *much* trouble?


Re: Mean Girls

This kind of nonsense is why I never want to have any thing to do with the mental health system and don’t want any of my family to go near it either. It’s something that easily deteriorates into an unofficial concentration camp system like with the Soviet Union. Most of the DSM is bullshit to begin with and a lot of so called “disorders” are nothing but deviating from someone’s idea of “normal”.

A diagnosis of any kind just gives the state an excuse to mess with you.

It’s like being trapped in middle school.

It would be nice to think that all involved would have the health and well being of people in mind but I have a hard time believing in that. People will just be persecuted while real nutcases shoot up Navy bases.

vilain (profile) says:

Surprised mom and dad didn't bring an ACLU lawyer

I can imagine what the Board’s reaction would have been if the lawyer had addressed them with mentions of litigation against each member personally rather than the school district as a whole. That way, they’d have to pay the cost out of pocket and insurance wouldn’t cover it.

ADA violation, 1st and 2nd amendment violations. The list just starts there. I wonder how these clowns would deal with that?

Terry Galbreath says:

guns, cops, REAL education

The WORST situation was the police officer, who dropped his 8 yo of at school, and was asked to NOT WEAR HIS GUN IN UNIFORM because it would scare the kids. HOLY CRAP!! How is a kid to know that the police officer is the adult to run to in an emergency, not away from. The NRA has one of the best education and safety programs for children, but because the NRA is “evil incarnate” they won’t take what’s available. Kids need to learn the differences – what is a gun , how is it dangerous, and houw is it safe? Otherwise – guns become like porn – the interest in “normal things” puberty and sex – winds up under the covers with a flashlight – is that how kids should learn about guns? “oh neat – what does this do?” BLAM! I’ve been both a cop and in the military. I am appalled that they make the basic tools of our freedom and safety so eveil that it can’t even be thought about. The thought police – exactly. Time to end PC and take a sane look at the realities of life. PC is also why we strip search Granny at the airport – while the middle eastern young man with a one way ticket and no luggage – wanders right through. IThe idiots have taken over the assylum. – Terry

Cowards Anonymous says:

Well now there is a perception that this school’s administration is incompetent and abusive to the children left in their care.

Perception is reality.

So now the administrators can be terminated for incompetence and arrested for child abuse. If we’re going to apply zero tolerance we need to do so consistently with no exceptions.

Anonymous Coward says:

And what would the news story be had a student drawn a seemingly harmless picture, the school had not done anything about it, and something serious had happened? While I do not necessarily agree with the severity of the punishment, I do think it is ridiculous that this even made the news. This whole thing being publicized takes a situation that should have already been handled differently and has blown it out of portion. The reality is we live in a world that horrific events have happened in our schools and when looking back if someone would have taken a note or a drawing or a comment a little more seriously, we would not have the the amount of shootings, killings, bullying, and suicides in our schools. The school was taking precautions to protect YOUR children, you cannot hold that against them.

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