The family of a Second-grader in Maryland has vowed to fight all the way to the courts if necessary to clear their son’s school record after a second attempt to do so failed in the infamous “Pop Tart gun” case.
Seven-year-old Josh Welch still has a black mark on his permanent record after he was suspended over a year ago for biting a pastry into a shape that resembled a gun.
While Josh claims he unwitting formed the gun shape with his food, the school has claimed that he told his classmates: “Look, I made a gun,” then ran around in class shouting “Bang, Bang” as he pretended to fire the Pop Tart pistol.
In a school hearing a few weeks ago, however, the Principal asserted that the suspension should be upheld, arguing that the punishment was based not on the pastry incident, but on Josh, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, having a history of disrupting class.
The Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent agreed with the Principal and denied the request to remove the suspension, prompting the boy’s family to file an appeal with the county Board of Education.
That appeal now also looks set to fail as hearing examiner Andrew W. Nussbaum has submitted a 30-page opinion piece to the board, recommending the suspension be upheld.
“The evidence is clear that suspension is used as a last resort,” Nussbaum writes, rejecting the family’s assertion that the school has overreacted to a one off incident.
“As much as the parents want this case to be about a ‘gun,’ it is, rather, a case about classroom disruption from a student who has had a long history of disruptive behavior and for whom the school had attempted a list of other strategies and interventions before resorting to a suspension.” Nussbaum adds.
“Had the student chewed his cereal bar into the shape of a cat and ran around the room, disrupting the classroom and making ‘meow’ cat sounds, the result would have been exactly the same.” the examiner asserts.
The piece also argues that it was wrong of the family to create a media storm around the incident. However, the family feel that they have had no choice in the matter.
“I would almost call it insanity.” the boy’s father has noted. “I mean with all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school, real threats, bullies, whatever the real issue is, it’s a pastry. Ya know?” he added. “I don’t think he was suspended because he was being rowdy. I think he was suspended because of the sensitive nature of the topic,” Mr Welch said.
Rob Ficker, the family’s lawyer, claims that school officials have added behavioral problems to the reasons for refusing to remove the suspension after the fact, in an attempt to quell the publicity storm.
“The only reason they suspended him was because of the pastry,” Ficker has said. “Everyone knew he was playing.”
“It seems to me that schools need, with all their expertise and experience, they need to know how to deal with seven-year-old second-graders without putting them out of the educational setting,” Ficker told reporters. “They need to deal with them rather than just throwing in the towel. If they can’t deal with 7-year-olds, how can they deal with 17-year-olds?” the lawyer added.
Ficker says that the family will take the case to the state school board if the county upholds the suspension, and then if that fails, they will fight the case in court.
“I don’t see why this child should be branded in this way,” Ficker said. “It seems we have a lot of school personnel and they are unwilling to admit they went too far on that particular day.”
School officials have accused Ficker of “exploiting” the child for his own gain, and charge that he has “irresponsibly castigated hard-working and dedicated teachers and administrators.”
Ficker says that the publicity surrounding the case has been necessary because the family “believe that sunlight is a powerful disinfectant and their child had been exploited by the school system.” The child’s parents, he said, “feel the facts of this case are of great interest to the public, and they wanted the facts known.”
The case has spurred several lawmakers across the country to draft legislation designed to prevent such incidents from occurring in schools. Just last week, Florida passed a so called “Pop Tart bill” into law, ensuring that no children in the state will be punished unfairly for simulating playing with guns or pretending harmless objects are weapons. Countless similar cases in other states are still being reported every week.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.