Boy suspended for 'violent' sketch of Jesus

An eight-year-old boy was suspended and sent to a psychologist for evaluation because he drew a “violent” picture of Jesus on the cross, reports the Taunton (MA) Gazette.

A second-grade teacher at Taunton’s Maxham Elementary School had asked children to draw something that reminded them of Christmas. The boy drew a stick figure of a man on a cross, probably inspired by a recent family visit to a Christmas display at a Christian shrine.

“I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent,” said Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center.

Superintendent Julie Hackett said an outside evaluation is required when there are “particular concerns about a child’s safety.”

A psychologist, hired at the parents’ expense, found the boy poses no safety threat. But the second grader found it hard to return to school, the father says. The district has agreed to transfer the boy to another elementary school.

Via The Corner.

The school district said the boy wasn’t suspended, though it hasn’t disputed he was sent home till he could get a psych exam. The district also says the photo circulated isn’t the one that upset the teacher and that the teacher didn’t tell kids to draw a picture of something that reminded them of Christmas (or any other religious holiday).

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  1. Idiots work in that school district. Absolute idiots.

  2. Well–Christ is certainly among the legitimate reminders of Christmas. Christ on the cross is by definition a violent scene–despite the tendancy to dress it up. X’s on the eyes are a common cartoon shorthand for knock-out.

    Time for the parents to draw the kid aside and explain that he did nothing wrong–but in the future, just draw rainbows. People at school just can’t handle too much reality.

  3. This kind of incident does not enhance the public view of the education establishment and those who inhabit it. There’s a toxic combination of silly, “zero-tolerance” policies and no common sense or judgment in their application. It’s a total cop-out on the part of the perpetrators; a refusal to accept the responsibility to make sensible judgments and accept the consequences. It’s the same mindset that sees bringing an aspirin or a plastic knife as deserving of expulsion.

  4. What ever happened to the “cultural sensitivity” that a culturally diverse learn environment was supposed to instill ?

    The teacher and prinipal (and possibly the superintendent) should be required to take lessons in “cultural sensitivity” since they obvious have no grasp of the cultural that surrounds Christians.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Now, if he’d been a Muslim explaining how non-Muslims should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats, he’d be promoted to Major and sent to Ft. Hood.
    Um. Maybe I got something mixed up here.

  6. Maybe, like you know, the teacher just didn’t know that historically Christmas was about Christ, and he died on a cross.

  7. Richard–there is way too much of that sort of thing flying around lately. It’s ugly.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Thing is, it really happened. Fourteen dead.
    The Maj, giving his presentation to his colleagues waxed violent about Islam, not about psychiatry.
    They wondered, but, fearing it would look bad to report a Muslim, kept their peace.
    You think a teacher would do any different?
    Especially one this stupid?

  9. Jason Bontrager says:

    Well, the school has served its educational function. Think of the valuable lesson all the students learned! If you don’t like your school, draw a picture that involves mildly disturbing elements and you’ll get to go to another school!

  10. Fox reports that the district is saying the picture passed around the interviews is not the drawing that caused the suspension. Additionally, a psych evaluation was done, at the parents expense, which showed the child does not pose a threat to others. The district and parents have agreed to move him to a different school.

    Curious turn of events but I still think they violated FAPE.

  11. Sorry; here’s the complete story, guess one should not rely on short term memory to write what happened.

    “The Taunton School District said in a written statement Tuesday night that the second-grade student was never suspended over the drawing. It also said a drawing circulated to reporters by the boy’s father, Chester Johnson, is not the same one that was discovered by the teacher.

    The district says the boy’s teacher never assigned students to draw something that reminded them of the holiday season, as Johnson told reporters Tuesday.

    Johnson earlier said the boy made the drawing Dec. 2 after witnessing a holiday lights display. He said his son was suspended and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation over concern about the drawing.

    Johnson did not return a phone message from The Associated Press on Tuesday night.”

  12. Stay classy Richard Aubrey. You tried to somehow compare a violent tragedy that resulted in death with a teacher’s idiocy that resulted in a kid moving to another school. Nice.

  13. I’d be very surprised if “draw something that reminds you of the holiday” were a lesson plan. We may have done activities like that when we were kids, but the curriculum is too crowded for assignments that have no learning objective and are fraught with church-state separation hazards.

  14. Apparently the real story is something different:

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Presuming the second story is correct, we have a teacher reacting improperly.
    The kid drew this in school or elsewhere??? Not the point. That a teacher would tell kids to use their imagination and then bust one whose imagination went where the school thought it shouldn’t is not a surprise. Happened before. Not the point. If the kid drew it outside of school, it’s still not the point.
    The point is that the crucifix is a religious symbol and a kid who draws it is drawing it because he’s seen it and thinks it’s important. We don’t know why a second-grader would think it’s important. Not the teacher’s business.
    By the second grade, kids mostly know to put their names on a paper.
    So we have a crucifix drawn by a kid who put his name on the paper and the teacher reacted improperly.
    I would be interested in, as I said earlier, whether the same thing would happen if a Muslim kid had done the same thing.
    Keep in mind that playing Muslim for a whole week is in some CA schools” curriculum. The kids are even supposed to do jihad–the peaceful inner struggle kind.
    Being “concerned” about Christian symbols is a whole different thing–you can get away with that–than being “concerned” about Muslim symbols or speech. You can’t, as the Ft. Hood shooter demonstrated, get away with being “concerned” about Muslim issues.
    And, ref “staying classy”, I was comparing the level of concern in two situations differentiated by religion. That one resulted in fourteen deaths is an atrocity, but resulted from the reluctance of physicians and commissioned officers to be concerned about something because, as they said, it would look bad to be concerned because the guy was a Muslim. Doesn’t seem to be a consideration when the person in question is a Christian.
    That said, my daughter was smeared while in high school by a lazy, incompetent, ignorant, and dishonest–but I repeat myself–reporter. This is not new, either.

  16. Mike43, thanks for reminding us that school districts sometimes deny committing stupid, valueless acts that undercut the public view of the public education system. That offsets those times when there’s no point in issuing denials because the facts are not in dispute.

    Hey Swede, other then insulting Richard I notice that you don’t take issue with the comparison between the prejudice that made the murder of fourteen possible and the prejudice that got a kid packed off to a shrink for a drawing; just that the comparison was made. Nice.

  17. The assumption that if a kid drew pictures of beheadings this would be overlooked (due to an assumption that this derives from Islam) is a straw man.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    Your generic beheading, probably.
    If it had Muslim symbols…who wants to be accused of Islamophobia?
    Certainly not the Ft. Hood shooter’s professional colleagues at Walter Reed.
    He did make a presentation about beheading those who opposed Islam. I gather it was one of those interdisciplinary things where a doc of one specialty provides info to docs of other specialties. Never know too much. Hasan’s turn came and his presentation was horrifying.
    But, due to wanting to avoid the career-damaging possibility of being opposed to diversity–they said–the guys watching did nothing.
    So, in fact, your point is false. Prescriptions for beheadings due to Islamic doctrine went unreported. Thence to Ft. Hood.
    Here, on the other hand, we have a picture of a crucifix which got a teacher all concerned and she took action. WRT a second-grader.

  19. The teacher was concerned because the boy identified the crucified figure as himself. That’s reasonable. How it was handled is still in dispute.

  20. Richard Aubrey says:

    It’s been a long time since I heard a RC sermon. Most Protestant pastors are reluctant to “preach the blood”, too.
    However, from time to time you will hear observations that we are all on the cross, we will be on the cross some time, we should have been on the cross (?)but Jesus took our place, and that’s not even considering non-religious uses of the “cross” as a burden or punishment.
    I work with kids in a church program, five y.o. through sixth grade. If one of them told me it was him on a pic of a crucifix, I’d correct him and explain he got it wrong. You never know what kids think. One of the kids I work with–fifth grade–did a paper on WW II and said Hitler put the Christians in a concentration camp. Public school, as it happens.
    He’d have to be pretty insistent that it was him crucified before I’d be concerned. And, if he were that disturbed, I’d already know it.

  21. Oh, I understand the theology. I used to be a Roman Catholic seminarian. The school says, btw, that the drawing that’s been circulated is not the one they were concerned about:

    I’d say we need to wait for further information.

  22. Help me with the difference between being sent home until a psych review is done and suspended? However please explain what a crucifixion scene has to do with Christmas? That would be for Easter.

  23. Richard Aubrey says:

    “Help me….” That’s kind of a weird construction, don’t you think?
    The difference is so the school can say they didn’t suspend him. If the report had been more accurate in the first place, they wouldn’t be able to contest it and imply that nothing much happened at all.
    Since we now are not sure this was done as a matter referring to Christmas, the second question is on the bench for the time being.
    And since we’re talking about a second-grader who had had a moving religious experience just prior, perhaps it was combining Christmas–a moving religious experience to some–with other moving religious experiences, one fresh in his mind.
    It’s not likely kids of that age can make a distinction.

  24. RA – Let me give you some background – I live in Boston and I’ve heard about 1000 comments about how this shows a lack of understanding about religion but not one of the commenters mentioned the distinction between Christmas and Easter. I’ve been to this shrine and I’ve been to the St. Anthony shrine in East Boston many times and certainly enjoyed them. Not knocking the kid.

    Margo – have you had any health problems related to your spasmodic knee-jerking?

  25. Richard, you have nothing to apologize for. Since Swede believes the terrorist assault on 14 of our soldiers is “a violent tragedy that resulted in death,” we can pretty much consider him out to lunch on Islamic-inspired mass murder. As for Margo’s predictable hand-wringing, bandit hit the nail on the head.

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    Elaborate religious places and ceremonies can get conflated when the person in question is….I pause for emphasis….A LITTLE KID.
    If there was a Christmas connection from the teacher or the parent or whomever and it came out as a crucifix, I don’t see the problem.

  27. It’s common amongst some Baptist churches to stage elaborate Christmas pageants, in which the second half is a re-telling of the Passion Play. Maybe I should say common in the South. I was pretty shocked the first time I saw it, and I wasn’t ready for it. (I’m Roman Catholic.) So, for us Suthners the co-existant is expected.

  28. Richard Aubrey says:

    Yeah. What with one thing or another, the crucifix-at-Christmas as an excuse–the kids is nuts–doesn’t seem to hold water.

  29. Gotta love the dad, who feels the district now owes him a “small lump sum.” Ah, Taunton. Classy town.

  30. From the second story –
    “They can’t mess with our religion; they owe us a small lump sum for this.”

    It seems that the father’s motivation does not involve the welfare of his child or any incompetance of the school system.

    Assuming the school’s version is correct, the teacher was correct in notifying his superiors that the student included himself in a violent drawing. It is not normal and could be a sign of something serious going on.
    Some may say that the school should have simply called the parents and discussed the matter, and this may be a perfectly reasonable response in most districts, but the school may have had its reasons. Organizations are often pilloried for not taking decisive measures when hints of a problem surface, or perhaps the school and parents were already not on good terms.

    Either way, the key point to take from my post is that it is too rash to judge the school district.

  31. Richard Aubrey says:

    It would be easier to judge the school charitably if it weren’t for the context:


    And, to forestall complaints that it’s only the one time, anybody who’s been paying attention knows this is constant. The professional educators’ journal has never run an article about what the law is and how to avoid looking like a petty bully and how to avoid costing the district legal bills, all by the immensely complicated process of leaving Christians alone, according to the law.

    For those not interested in linking, a teacher made a third-grader put her Bible away when she was reading it during quiet time.
    Principal apologized and said that wasn’t the school’s policy. The question is whether it’s the school’s policy when they can get away with it. Oh, sorry. My bad. The question is what is it in the atmosphere, speaking figuratively, that caused the moron/teacher in question to think the kid wasn’t allowed to read the Bible? Either the teacher was misinformed, or uninformed and only thought she knew the policy. Even if it were the school’s policy to forbid the Bible during quiet time, that would only be until it went to court to discover that allowing the Bible is old and settled law. How on earth did the moron/teacher not know this?
    Simple mistake? Getting harder to believe it.

    And, super, you presume the drawing was violent. I sort of can see the reasoning: The teacher reacted, therefore the drawing must be violent. In the real world???

  32. Forgive my ignorance, but am I wrong to say that your linked story involves a completely different district?
    If we are allowing stories that have nothing to do with the original in this discussion, I could cite plenty of public schools that openly endorse specific religions, including Christianity.

    As for the whole concept of presumption, read the last sentence of my previous post. Right now the public knows what each side is saying, but nothing that is confirmed to be fact. I am simply advising caution instead of a rush to judgement.

  33. Richard Aubrey says:

    Of course it’s a different district.
    I said it was the context. This stuff happens often enough that a less-than-charitable conclusion about the incident in question is legitimate.
    Almost all school systems allow it, if forced. Many allow the sort of thing discussed in the two cases without being forced. Enough of them are buttheads about it that the context legitimizes less-than-charitable conclusions.
    As to the incident in question, many of the details which are in dispute are not particularly relevant.
    The teacher reacted like an idiot to a picture of a crucifix, or she did not. Either she did not react [but somebody did]or it was not a picture of a crucifix. Whether it was drawn in school or not is not the point, nor is the question of a Christmas assignment, although those are useful distractions.
    Not to many years ago, another system went to SCOTUS fighting a case where they’d deep-sixed a kid’s picture when the assignment was what they were thankful for on Thanksgiving. He said Jesus and provided a picture. The pix were to be posted on a hall bulletin board. A nutcase sub teacher took it down. After some negotiation {between whom and about what], it was reposted in an out of the way place.
    This sort of stuff happens several times a year. There was a case where a kid wasn’t allowed to give his buddies Christmas presents of pencils with the phrase “Jesus loves you” on them.
    Some of the admins and teachers are both stupid and ill-informed. The ACLU and their even wackier brethren at People United for The Separation of Church and State will tell you this sort of thing is OKAY. So does the Dept of Ed. Why the schools haven’t gotten it yet is a puzzle. I’m guessing many try it as long as they can without being busted, after which they promise to mend their ways. They can’t all be that stupid.

    That was the case up until several years ago, after which it became legitimate to ask the snarky rhetorical question, “What if the kid had been reading a Koran?” with the implied answer that the teacher wouldn’t have said boo. And, in fact, since there’s no law against, it ignoring it is the right thing to do. Why the Bible is a hot button is the question.

  34. the crucifix-at-Christmas as an excuse–the kids is nuts–doesn’t seem to hold water.

    Who’s saying that except for you?

  35. Richard Aubrey says:

    Who’s saying which?
    The school thought he was close enough to be nuts that they recommended an evaluation.
    The apparent confusion about crucifix at Christmas is used to make the kid look nuts, or at least confused, as if he were an adult knowing the difference. If it weren’t a nutcase, he wouldn’t be drawing a crucifix at Christmas.
    My point is that second-graders are unclear on a lot of concepts and several folks have made the point that the crucifix is not alien to Christmas, and, in fact, is frequently a part of the celebration.

  36. Richard-
    Considering that the school is claiming that the picture provided by the father is not the picture in question, don’t you think it wise tor eserve judgement until that issue is worked out?
    Even if the picture is the one that has been displayed or is similar, don’t you think it is a little disconcerting for a child to be thinking about themself crucified?
    Did the district overreact? Perhaps, but its hard for districts to use alternate routes in the current climate of blame-the-school.
    I also doubt this has much to do with anti-Christian bigotry… I just don’t see a school sending a student for a psychiatric exam for being Christian.

  37. Richard Aubrey says:

    We don’t know that the kid thought he was the one crucified, although we were all once crucified on a cross of gold. Or not, I forget. I’m not sure a kid would pick up on that kind of talk.
    We don’t know what the premise of the shrine he visited was and whether he got mixed up, which is different from a cry for help.
    However, it could well be that the connection between him and the crucifix is that he put his name on the paper just like the teacher said.
    My kids named their “art” projects at that age, even when they were doing the coloring at home.
    As I say, the context, one or two cases I mentioned, justifies suspicion until disproven.
    The big question is which picture it was, and whether the difference makes a difference.


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