Friday, May 03, 2002

Sixth Grader Suspended for Stick Figure Doodle

CNN reports that a Pennsylvania school suspended an 11-year-old girl for drawing two teachers with arrows through their heads, saying the stick figures were more death threat than doodle.

Becca Johnson, an honor-roll sixth-grader at Mellon Middle School, drew the picture on the back of a vocabulary test on which she had gotten a D.

"That's my way of saying I'm angry," Becca said, adding she meant no harm to the teachers.

The stick figures, on a crudely drawn gallows with arrows in their heads, had the names of Becca's teacher and a substitute teacher written underneath. Another teacher spotted the doodle in the girl's binder Tuesday and reported it, prompting the three-day suspension.

Did this Pennsylvania school go over board on this one? The answer appears very uncertain. This is an academic community where punishment is imposed not only as a form of retribution but also as a way of reforming wrongful behavior. In other words, the punishment is part of the education that children get from a school. Thus, nobody can argue against what the school believes as the right punishment because it's part of the school's academic freedom.

Yet, surely looking at the offense, one can sense a great disproportion. The punishment appears to be too much for a simple childish behavior of doodling. I once did this to a Social Science teacher in high school and all I merited was a smile from my teacher. Why should anyone be suspended if I happen to stick an arrow on the doodle?

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