Do you remember when you were 6 years old? Your imagination occupied much of your free time. You pretended to be cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, super heroes, and more. The one thing that most of these pretend games have in common is some sort of violence. You pointed your finger at other kids and pretended to shoot them, or you pretended to do them in with a karate chop or something similar. You were just being a kid imitating the things and people you saw on TV and in the movies.
That’s what a 6 year old boy was doing during recess at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Cincinnati last week. He pretended to shoot an arrow at another student. He was caught by someone at the school and ended up being suspended for 3 days for his violent actions.
Matthew and Martha Miele, parents of the young terrorist went to the school and met with Principal Joe Crachiolo to discuss the suspension. The Mieles believed that the school’s actions were overboard and that their son was just being a kid and playing as kids do, but Crachiolo refused to budge.
Several days after the meeting the Mieles received a letter from Crachiolo stating:
“As we discussed on the phone and in person at our meeting last week, your son was suspended for three days due to his conduct at school on Thursday, October 29, 2015. At recess on October 29, a student heard ——– say that he was going to shoot a group of students, and he saw your son imitate this shooting with a bow and arrow. The student who heard what ——– said and saw what he did reported the matter to a teacher, who then notified me. When I spoke to ——– about the incident, he confirmed these facts.”
“Our Lady of Lourdes has a strong commitment to the safety of its students. When a student’s behavior threatens that commitment or the educational process, the school takes prompt and reasonable steps to address it. After investigating this matter, I exercised my professional judgment and decided that a suspension was necessary to address ——–‘s serious behavior.”
“When we met last week, you asked that the school review the policies contained in the student handbook. I plan on doing just that over the next several weeks. If you have any comments on particular policies in the handbook, please provide them to me.”
The Mieles did respond to the principal’s letter pointing out the contradictions of what he told them in person and what he said in the above letter. Here is their letter in part:
“Thank you for getting back to us. I would like to begin by addressing some inconsistencies in the letter addressing ——–’s punishment. I do understand that you would want to be vague knowing that I was going to share this letter with others. I am attempting to be as transparent as possible knowing that your ability to respond is limited.”
“However, during our meeting and over the phone, it was you who made it our understanding that this was part of a game with other students in which they were acting out the characters from power rangers. You made us aware of this before we had the opportunity to speak to our son. To us this is an important detail as it alludes to the circumstances and intent of the action.”
“Also, your letter stated: ‘Our Lady of Lourdes has a strong commitment to the safety of its students. When a students [sic] behavior threatens that commitment or the educational process, the school takes prompt and reasonable steps to address it.’ It is our understanding that ——– returned to class after meeting with you. If ——–’s behavior was a serious threat, which met this benchmark, he should have been sent home immediately. Furthermore, you expressed to us, that you did not feel that any malice was intended by our son’s actions. We continue to feel that it is unreasonable to suspend a 6 year old, with no prior disciplinary history on this matter or any other, for 3 days for engaging in non-malicious imaginative play.”
“Going forward, you asked for my concerns regarding the policies contained in the student handbook. My concerns were and continue to be that the discipline procedures as outlined in the handbook were not being followed. I understand the need for discipline, however in order for discipline to be effective several steps must be taken. First, those who you are disciplining need to be made aware ahead of time that a behavior is undesirable. This is usually spelled out in the handbook, especially for infractions requiring a 3-day suspension. This was done after the fact. Second, there needs to be a progressive level of discipline, which allows for teachable moments. This was not progressive; this went right to the most severe punishment that could be administered short of expulsion.”
“I hope in the future that there is a disciplinary policy in place that is reasonable for both the administration and student body to follow. Students can’t follow rules that they do not know about and administrators must follow the procedures that they put in place.”
In the meantime all a 6 year old boy has learned is that he can’t imagine or play at school without fear of being suspended or expelled. So many schools have adopted arbitrary zero tolerance policies without any consideration that kids are not adults, they’re kids. Policy makers need to recall what they were like at 6 years of age before turning a happy well-adjusted kid into someone who grows up hating school and teachers. Such unnecessary punishment can turn a child into a future hoodlum and criminal.
Let me say that I’m all for proper punishment when it is warranted. If a kid deserves to have his or her butt spanked then so be it. But to ruin a 6 year old just for being a kid should be a criminal offense and Crachiolo should be suspended for at least 3 days without pay for his actions. Maybe that’s what it will take to educate an educator.