A North Carolina middle school student was suspended for two days after he drew pictures in school that included guns and knives.
James Herring, father of a 13-year-old student at Roseboro Salemburg Middle School, told WRAL he was shocked by the two-day suspension school officials leveled against the boy for expressing himself with stick figure sketches.
The seventh-grader drew what appears to be a person with a rifle, as well as a car with the words “suped up mini-car” above it. Other images included a ninja turtle with swords, and a tower with what appears to be a crossbow.
“I see a guy in a race car souped-up. I see a tower that he built. I see him holding his gun, he’s a deer hunter. I see him with a magician and I see him as a Ninja Turtle … just expressing himself, nothing violent,” Herring said.
Herring told the news site his son is a hunter, but weapons at home are kept under lock and key. He also stressed that the boy isn’t violent, or suffering from emotional issues. Herring believes school officials over-reacted to the sketches, in part because of recent high-profile school shootings.
“When I see that, I see a normal 13-year-old boy,” Herring said. “I drew pictures like this, any other person of his age drew drawings like this. It’s nothing to get expelled from school for.”
Sampson County Schools Superintendent Eric Bracy refused to discuss the situation with WRAL, but said officials are simply following punishments outlined in the student handbook. He also referenced recent incidents of school violence.
“There are some things that list possible threats or things like that,” he said of the student handbook. “We’ve got category one, two, three and four, which sort of grades potential incidents and the level of seriousness.”
“Due to everything happening in the nation, we’re just being extra vigilant about all issues of safety,” Bracy said.
In a context of fear, it is easy for schools to fall back on a rigid application of rules. Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture advocate a concern for the broader moral ecology of the school. University of Boston educator Charles Glenn is quoted in The Content of Their Character as saying, “Formal education... presents pictures or maps of reality that reflect, unavoidably, particular choices about what is certain and what in question, what is significant and what unworthy of notice. No aspect of schooling can be truly neutral.” A school’s explicit or implicit moral framework and practices cannot help but influence the outlook and character of children.
Teachers and principals interested in strengthen moral ecology of their school can access information and strategies at the UK's Jubilee Centre.