Zero tolerance for Nutter Butter

This is extra nutty: A sixth grade boy in South Orange, New Jersey has been suspended from school for allegedly threatening to expose his teacher to a peanut butter cookie. His teacher is highly allergic to peanuts. From the Associated Press:

Loubert Gabriel said his son, 12-year-old Jules, had been kept out of class since April 2, after a girl in his social studies class at South Orange Middle School told the teacher that Jules had made the threat.

The father said Jules was carrying a snack packet of Nutter Butter cookies and did make a comment about having “something dangerous” but never said he had a weapon.

A hearing is not scheduled till May 13, which means the Nutter Butter Kid will miss at least six weeks of school.

Update: The boy will be allowed to attend a different school starting May 3. Apparently, classmates say Jules waved the cookies over his head while the teacher was out of the room and said they were his defense against detention; the dad says Jules was a top student who never got detention and that he only said the cookies were “dangerous.”

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  1. For reasons that are not now clear, maladies such as allergies, ear infections, and asthma are skyrocketing. For some people, peanuts really are as deadly as cobra bites, and for them, a Nutter Butter cookie can be lethal (see WebMD or Freaks & Geeks episode #112 “Chokin’ and Tokin'”). From the story it is not at all clear what Jules did or didn’t do–and I think this is your point; he may have not done anything. But threatening a seriously allergic person with what they’re allegric to is no more cute or funny than threatening someone with a syringe of HIV-positive blood.

  2. What’s really scary is not that Nutter Butters might become a controlled substance, but that schoolkids think threatening their teachers’ lives with WHATEVER weapon they can dream up is a valid way of getting attention, grades, switched to another class, whatever.

    I wonder where the children learn this?

    I hope this story turns out to be a hoax, but I suspect it isn’t.

  3. Newsday reports that he’s back in school pending the hearing, but at a different building. Supposedly, while the teacher was out of the room he waved the package of cookies over his head and said that he would use them as a defense against detention and bad grades.

    I suppose that the school’s action should be evaluated with the kid’s disciplinary track record in mind, and his size relative to the teacher. I’ve seen some immense 6th graders. Sounds like an over-reaction, and we’ll probably never find out more.

  4. Any child who threatened me would be out of my classroom that minute.

  5. I guess the “nutter butter” detector at the door didn’t catch this weapon.

    I wonder how this kid knew the teacher was allergic to peanuts? Is this the way teachers try to get down and dirty with the kids by telling them their medical history? In this case some of the blame needs to go to the teacher.

  6. Dave, you’re assuming the teacher told the kids. It’s very possible another teacher told them. I’d be hesitant to say who the blame “needs” to go to without getting the whole story. Besides, do we want to say that if you let someone know about a vulnerability, you are fair game? I really don’t think so. We’ve all got to share the planet with this kid.

  7. Don’t be ridiculous, Dave. I ask kids not to spray perfume in my room because I have asthma, and I’m fair game? (Not true, but a common scenario.) We have a party in the room, and I ask the kids not to bring in anything with peanuts because I’m allergic, so I’m fair game? What a vicious world you live in. What would you say if a teacher waved a package of nutter butter cookies at a kid who was severely allergic?

  8. christina says:

    It sounds to me like the child might have been just joking around. How many of us can honestly say that we (at twelve years old) didn’t joke around like that about our teachers? Actually, I have sat in a teacher’s lounge and heard a few things that, if taken out of context, could be considered threats against the bratty children in their rooms. Something like,”I would love just five minutes alone with that kid…” Whatever happened to common sense???

  9. Richard Nieporent says:

    It appears that some of the people on this thread are missing the point. It is not whether or not the student made the remark, but the overreaction to it. Zero tolerance laws should be more properly called zero intelligence laws. Imagine if we had a legal system where we executed everyone for attempted murder. Well that is exactly the way we carry out these zero tolerance laws. Everyone gets the ultimate punishment because our so-called educators are incapable of making distinctions between different types of offenses. Is it really too difficult to understand that we are dealing with children? We can’t expect them to always act rationally and reasonably at all times. However, there is no excuse for the adults in the school system being unable to act rationally so that the punishment fits the “crime”.

  10. I’m pretty darned sure it was a joke. The kid remembered the teacher was allergic, and joked that his snack could be used as a weapon. He didn’t try to expose the teacher to the cookies, which were wrapped.

  11. If I’m reading the article/post correctly, the teacher wasn’t even in the room when the student waved the wrapped cookies around his own head.

    I’m in agreement with Mr. Nieporent

  12. I agree with Richard that zero tolerance policies remove sorting out facts and acting accordingly. My point was that just because “Nutter Butter” is funny doesn’t mean that anything involving Nutter Butters is funny. I believe that there *can* be instances involving Nutter Butters and allergic people that merit serious punishment. And others that don’t, of course, and I don’t know enough about this one to tell. I am saying don’t dismiss it out of hand.