By Julia Cole, Junior Editor with Seth Okin Attorney at Law
The Ann Arundel County School Board heard arguments today regarding the suspension of a second grader who chewed a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.
According to ABC 7, Josh Welch was suspended from Baltimore’s Park Elementary School for two days in March 2013 over the involving a strawberry-filled pastry, similar to a Pop-Tart. His family is fighting desperately to have the suspension removed from the boy’s record.
According to CBS News, Andrew Nussbaum, a lawyer who serves as a hearing examiner for several school districts in the DC area, rendered an opinion in July that the school’s principal, Sandra Blondell, was justified in suspending the then-seven-year-old. Nussbaum’s 30-page opinion stated that the boy’s suspension came as the result of his history with disruptive behavior and not necessarily just because of his actions involving the pastry.
Nussbaum’s recommendation then went to the Ann Arundel County School Board, which must now decide whether or not to uphold its decision.
Robin Ficker, the attorney representing Welch’s family, planned to file exceptions to Nussbaum’s opinion to the local school board. If they refuse to rescind the suspension, he plans to take the matter to the state school board.
Welch finished out the school year following his suspension and then transferred to a different school.
The boy’s punishment does seem a bit extreme for such an innocuous incident that could be chalked up to mere child’s play. Having a gun-related suspension on his permanent record could affect the Welch’s educational and career opportunities in the future, despite the fact that it was all just pretend. While it may be far-fetched to think the boy might be denied a security clearance or rejected from a potential job or college for something he did when he was seven years old, it is still technically possible.
While school safety is of the utmost importance, particularly in the wake of horrific tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, it is equally important for educational facilities to mete out punishments that are appropriate to the nature of the student’s activity and not to be over-zealous in their punishment of behavior that fails to cause physical or even psychological harm to anyone.
At the time of publishing, no decisions were made public regarding today’s hearing. As a firm dedicated to protecting the accused from the harsh consequences that accompany being charged with an offense, we eagerly await the school board’s decision regarding Welch’s suspension and whether they will agree to remove it from the boy’s record. We will continue to update this blog with new information as it becomes available.
Seth Okin Attorney at Law is an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who fights to protect the accused in the state of Maryland. If you are in need of legal representation against criminal charges, contact our law office today for a no-cost consultation.