The teachers at Kermit Elementary School in West Texas has suspended Aiden Steward, 9, for threatening the safety of a fellow student with magic. That’s right. Aiden told a friend he could turn him invisible like Bilbo Baggins if he put the “one ring” (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” books) on his head in the Fourth Grade. Before he could carry out his threat, the school suspended him and sent him no doubt to Mordor in the middle earth. There appears a growing consensus: either Aiden is a real wizard or his teachers are real morons.
The little hobbit insisted “Because of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Bilbo Baggins can make people disappear with his ring. So, I was using my imagination and tried to make the kid disappear. But I never put it around him in any form or any way.” Oh sure, Bilbo, that is what every hobbit says while playing with the powers of Sauron the Dark Lord. However, once you start playing with that magic, you find yourself consumed.
Aiden ignored the promise of Frodo that “We’ll put it away. We’ll keep it hidden, we’ll never speak of it again.” The fact is that Kermit Elementary School Principal Roxanne Greer and Kermit Independent School District Superintendent Bill Boyd had more to worry about than just Aiden. There are “Sauron’s forces massing in the East” and “Orcs with goblin men.” As the Elf Lord Elrond told them “the Ring cannot stay here. This evil belongs to all of Middle-Earth.” It must be thrown into the fires of Mount Doom.
Of course, this is another example of zero tolerance rule. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here, here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun.
In this case, it is the rule of zero tolerance that continues to ravage our schools. To paraphrase the book series, it is “One [Rule] to Rule Them All. One [Rule] to Find Them. One [Rule] to Bring Them All and In The Darkness Bind Them.”
However, not all is lost. I have been working on a defense for Aiden and it will not be easy. It will require a different motif all together. If he were a wizard from Hogwarts rather than a hobbit from the Shire, you would be in the clear. Since 1875, the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has banned the use of underage magic outside of school. However, the Improper Use of Magic Office in the Ministry of Magic cannot punish Aiden for magic in school, which is involved in this incident. Principal Roxanne Greer (who appears to have been trained at the same teacher’s college as Dolores Umbrage) would be without cause to discipline the young wizard. Yet, she could send a “howler” letter to her parents, which is precisely how this whole thing should have been handled if the other child seriously feared disappearance.
For their part, the parents of Aiden sent a letter to the school assuring Greer that “I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence. If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”
That should do it. After all, it is not like he was trying to teach evolution in the schools.
54 thoughts on “Bad Wizard: Nine-Year-Old Boy Suspended For “Making Terroristic Threat” . . . With Magic”
“I would have told the kid that I would appreciate if he would not ‘disappear’ his fellow student until after school because he needed to stay on the roll until dismissal. Also that he needed to keep the Ring hidden because other students would be jealous of his power.”
Hah! Love it! Just about any kid would respond well to that playfulness and play along. Great way to handle it.
‘Zero common sense’ should have a “zero tolerance policy” among the parents of children at any school. I took my son out of a parochial school in kindergarten because I had daily reports of the teacher screaming at the kids from my son as he begged not to go to school.Then I made a point of coming to pick up my son after school a bit early. I heard her screaming at those poor kids myself through the closed door of the classroom. Those kids came out of that room looking traumatized. I addressed the issue with the Principlal and got nowhere. Several of us moms took our kids out of that school after that. I found another school that had excellent teachers and my son went on to have an excellent school experience despite being traumatized early on. Kids need parents to be their advocates, while at the same time being their disciplinarian. It’s a delicate dance being a parent.
And we also need to point out the abuses of “zero tolerance” which is a surprisingly common policy.
Shine the disinfecting light of public scrutiny, and don’t let them sweep it under the rug.
Iconoclast – I absolutely agree – emulate any excellent school models and learn from mistakes.
I add to that the basic right that to choice that parents should have. If their local public school isn’t wonderful, won’t improve, isn’t safe, has a high drop out rate, poor performing teachers, bullying, etc, parents who cannot afford private, need options.
If a charter school is a failure, parents have the right not to go there. If a public school is a failure, same right.
Isaac – that school sounds like a mess. As the mom of a little boy, finding a great school, when your local school is sub par, is one of the most stressful, important tasks.
Our local public high school is rife with drugs, bullying, and violence. The elementary and middle schools are low performers. One of the moms I know complained to the school because the teacher was cruel to her child, and he was getting bullied. The teacher told her she was tenured, and no matter what she said, she was going to do whatever she wanted. So she yanked him out and put him in a charter.
I would never send my precious child to public school here. Parents need to choose which school is the best performing, and the best fit for their children. That school might be a public school, charter, private, or home schooling.
Absolutely true Iconoclast. My grandkids’ public school is excellent and has very high test scores compared to schools nation wide. The parents are involved in school activities and with their kid’s education. We too have some outstanding teachers, my daughter and son in law are very happy with the public school and chose this school district to live in based on its excellent reputation.
Let’s be clear. We can build an anecdotal pile of stories about zero tolerance applied in ridiculous circumstances, but there are many, many school districts where we simply don’t have this problem. The teachers have wide latitude in a number of areas, they tend to treat the students with respect and vice versa and the learning community is exciting. My daughter comes home from her public school excited about what they’re discussing in class. We have PhDs teaching here. We have people who’ve retired from aerospace careers. We have native speakers teaching languages. The students are required to participate in a specified number of service learning hours to graduate–ie learn something and give something back to the community. Instead of bashing the entirety of public schools, why not emulate school districts like ours? While it isn’t perfect (it has more than 45-thousand students to serve,) it is remarkably effective.
Iconoclast – we do reward the good schools. My local paper covers the accomplishments of the students in the local schools. But we do NEED to point out the bad ones and weed them out. When a school becomes a national embarrassment, it usually wakes up the school board who then make the necessary adjustments.
Very cute thread and I agree with Paul T Schulte
Remember the kids in school you didn’t think would ever figure the world out? They’re running our schools! Kids can’t play pretend anymore. They can’t be hobbits, or the Lone Ranger, or Cowboys and Indians. Nope, let’s punish them for creativity. Where are our writers going to come from? This is childhood. It doesn’t last very long anymore.
We’re too busy at school indoctrinating them to be like everyone else. My granddaughters were never allowed to be without one of their parents. If we saw them we saw their Mom. Not terrible, but not why we have grandparents. It was that way with everyone, unless they needed a sitter, which was her sister. Never without a parent? I would have gone nuts.
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