Teen suspended for riding horse to school

To celebrate school spirit week,  a Boston-area high school student dressed up as a knight and rode his family’s horse around the school.  Dan DePaolis, 17, was suspended for two days for endangering the student body; a friend, who dressed as a squire and led the horse at a sedate walk, got a one-day suspension and two hours of community service.

“They told my son it’s the equivalent of bringing in a loaded firearm to school” Ron DePaolis, the teenager’s father said today in a telephone interview.

Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School sounds like a fun place!

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  1. Does this mean a student can be suspended for drawing a picture of a horse?

  2. tim-10-ber says:


  3. And the ed world wonders why they get little respect?

    I can’t help saying it; the administrator who made that decision is the horse’s a**

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    momof4 — thank you…I was going to so this but you said it nicer…

  5. Interestingly, Hamilton used to be where the U.S. Olympic team was based.

    I did have a mare who regulary sent me to the emergency room, but this is a bit of an over-reaction.

  6. Speaking from the ed-world…I think a lot of us are banging our heads over this one too.

    If I had to guess, the admin reacted because they had not been told in advance of what was happening and may have worried that if students gathered in large numbers around the horse it may have spooked.

    Still, an easy fix to establish a perimeter for students to view from, even without advance warning.

  7. And even then a “Hey Mom, hey Dad,” (who were both present), “We’re concerned about safety. Let’s turn the horse around, get some good photos, and take him on home for now.”

    Suspension seems extreme. It wasn’t a prank, the student didn’t bring the horse up to the school without help to control it, and didn’t bring the horse into the main school grounds.

    Nope. Can’t wrap my mind around it. Unless someone complained.

  8. You guys are all joking, right?

    Let’s pretend that the parents and the kid had gone about this the right way, which would have been to ask someone at the school if it would be okay for the kid to ride a half-ton animal onto school grounds at the beginning of the school day, in close proximity to dozens of cars and buses and hundreds of arriving students.

    The administration would have mulled it over, maybe checked with the district and/or town/police, reviewed their potential liability, and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth the risk. The DePaolises might have been disappointed, but what are they going to do, sue the school district for not letting their child ride a horse to school?

    The father’s claim that this was about school spirit is made risible after watching the video — the students barely acknowledge what is happening as they trudge to school. His self-satisfaction is evident in all the chuckling, though.

    The AP and the administration were 100% in the right here. I mean, it’s obvious and not even in the slightest bit indefensible.

  9. Michael E. Lopez says:


  10. Mark Roulo says:

    You guys are all joking, right?


    Let’s pretend that the parents and the kid had gone about this the right way, which would have been to ask someone at the school if it would be okay for the kid to ride a half-ton animal onto school grounds at the beginning of the school day, in close proximity to dozens of cars and buses and hundreds of arriving students.

    Hmmm … I only watched the first minute of the video, but I didn’t notice the horse getting very close to dozens of cars and buses. Google maps shows the area as looking pretty rural to me.

    I suspect that a good rule of thumb is that anything you ask about will have a default answer of “no.” I suppose that there is some value in teaching this to teenagers, but I’ll note that as a more senior engineer at my company, part of my job is encouraging the younger engineers to *NOT* ask what to do all the time. Do what you feel is appropriate! I’ll let you know if you goof. Then you’ll know better next time.

    The AP and the administration were 100% in the right here. I mean, it’s obvious and not even in the slightest bit indefensible.

    I’d suggest that it isn’t obvious to the people posting here. I suspect that it still isn’t obvious. Yes, a bad thing could have happened. Such is life. Some people don’t put such a high priority on eliminating all possible risk that something like this is obviously a bad thing.

    I think it is cool.

    -Mark Roulo

    [Does this remind anyone else of one of the Pippi Longstocking chapters?]

  11. Stephanie says:

    ridiculous… having grown up and then taught in a rural area, this is just a dumb decision by the administration.

    I think I’d spend the two days out of school riding my horse.

  12. See, Tim understands. The crime wasn’t in anything that occurred but in the failure to genuflect to the appropriate authorities.

  13. Let me start by saying that I live in Hamilton and have a child at the High School. The principal is in his second year and asst principal was just hired this summer. The Asst principal is responsible for discipline. Superintendent is also in his first year.
    Poor judgement occurred on both sides here, but there is no need to suspend the student. Another student, his “squire” was also suspended for being an “accomplice.” REALLY? As one poster said, the response should have been to ask the student to remove the horse immediately and remind all students that animals are not allowed on school grounds while school is in session. Done deal and no media attention.

    The administration continues to make decisions that are mind boggling while creating a rift with students. They have decided that there will be no more “Spirit Week” and the annual Senior “car parade” in June was also scrapped.

    Continue this trend and I don’t think these guys will be around for a long time. Focus on what’s going on in the classroom and bullying issues instead of taking away the kid’s spirit.

  14. Allen, in your view completely blowing off a district regulation designed to keep students safe and free from distractions is a “failure to genuflect”? Yikes!

    The district has a clearly stated no-tolerance policy with respect to animals on school grounds: they aren’t allowed there under any circumstances, from flea circuses to docile 15-year-old half-ton draft horses to blue whales.

    I’m not one to laud someone for simply doing his job and enforcing the rulebook, but the backlash against this administrator is illogical and wrong-headed, and the rule he was enforcing is an inarguably good one.

  15. Diana Senechal says:

    Anyone with the pluck to dress up as a knight and ride a horse to school should have what it takes to weather the suspension. What’s a one-day suspension in the big scheme of things? If any college interviewer asks him why he was suspended, he’ll have a good story to tell. And one day he may delight his grandchildren with the tale.

  16. Robert Rowe says:

    But the broadswords on their costumes were acceptable?
    I understand the administrations’ concerns, but considering a horse a “weapon” is a little ridiculous. If there’s a policy about animals on campus, fine, but let’s not confuse animals (or transportation, even) with weapons.

  17. Oh Tim, zero-tolerance policies are meant to protect administrators from the dangers of exercising judgment.

    That’s where the stories about kids getting booted for having prescribed inhalors or aspirins come from, administrators rigidly, and safely, following rules meant to ensure the job security of the administrators not the safety of the children. If the safety of the kids were the primary concern you wouldn’t have to work so hard to imply that bringing a horse to a school is practically the equivalent of bringing a Tyrannosaurus Rex to school.

    If the safety of the kids were the driving concern then the schools would be shut down because kids are rather more likely to be a danger to each other then is the occasional horse.

  18. hahaha i was there when it happened! absolutely hysterical!! it was knights and princesses day for all of us seniors and Dan totally took it to a new level! as i was walking into the school, the principal and asst. principal were running outside, walkie-talkies and all, and absolutely freaking out. it was a ridiculous over-reaction and so absurd for them be punished for having school spirit and for riding a horse to school, IN A HORSE COMMUNITY!!!!!! Danny D. will go down in history foreeeever!!!!

  19. Back home in Montana, on Earth Day, dozens of us rode horses to school. But that was when sanity ruled.

  20. What it tells me is that Those In Charge know nothing about horses.

    I’d take my horse on campus to show to the kids (that is, if I had a trailer to haul her there), but she’s a trained show horse and used to crowds, as well as being around large groups of clueless sorts. She’s also pretty docile and sane.

  21. @joycem,

    The horse is a lot more intelligent than the administrators.


  23. Beentoschoolwithmyhorse2 says:

    I used to pick my son up from school on the horses all the time.
    Wake up folks!! People got around with horses before cars and buses and as far as I know, there isn’t a law on the books that prohibit horses on school property.