Bad Wizard: Nine-Year-Old Boy Suspended For “Making Terroristic Threat” . . . With Magic

suspended1n-5-web-450x338200px-Unico_AnelloThe 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.

200px-Bilbo_BagginsThe 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.

boydRoxanne-Greer-Kermit-Elementary-TexasAiden 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.”

225px-HarryPotter5posterHowever, 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”

  1. Shadow,
    Zero tolerance leads to 2am SWAT raids that flashbang a baby in his crib. Zero tolerance leads to someone dying over a $0.75 cigarette. Zero tolerance also leads to a generation of kids that had been on the receiving end having zero respect for authority.

    1. Bailers,

      Perhaps zero tolerance is, in part, responsible for such things, but I think 300+ million guns in the U.S. has a lot to do with how police handle confrontational situations, even when there is no gun involved.

      But my question is more general. What does a zero tolerance policy do to the way children think about such things as mercy, kindness, and understanding? And how does this affect their outlook as adults? Do mitigating circumstances — intentions, motives, context — matter to adults, when they learned as children that they do not?

      While this incident may be funny, I don’t think teaching children zero tolerance is funny at all. I think it’s dangerous.

  2. I was nearly kicked out of the Navy in 1986 because of zero tolerance on a random urinalysis screening.

    It was my 8th year in and I was on instructor duty in San Diego. I had recently reenlisted for another 6 years with max bonus and an upcoming great school, when my test came back positive for morphine. My entire chain of command knew this was a false result but had no choice but to begin the process of sending me to Captain’s Mast and a Bad Conduct Discharge.

    After a week of scouring my house for anything that could have caused this; I was sitting in the XO’s office waiting to be processed when my boss poked his head in and said; “poppy seed bagels”. We had them nearly every morning and it turned out they can result in a false positive. My case was dismissed.

    Zero tolerance gives bad administrators cover for their poor decision-making skills and it handcuffs the good ones.

  3. I understand the teacher permits no mirrors in her home because she is frightened by the woman that appears in it, copying her every move.

    And only this morning, School Superintendent Boyd announced to the district’s principals that he had discovered the secret of fire and would be sharing it with the students during the annual Kermit, Texas sacrifice of the virgin to the local dirt gods.

  4. Shadow-

    Great point. In my experience, zero tolerance policies are the product of people afraid to make decisions and then be held accountable for those decisions. They’d rather rely on the rule (as stupid as it might be) and then say, “I had no choice in the matter. We have a policy.” We have a name for such people: Human Resources Professionals.

  5. Barring the possibility of truly magic invisibility rings, stating that the little boy’s actions constitute a punishable breach of regulations structured to protect the school only enables the teacher, principal, and superintendent to be wrong with authority, not right.

    “Wrong with authority” describes almost the entirety of US public school education, from first bell to math to science to history to lunch to graduation.

  6. I don’t know how often things like this actually happen, but zero tolerance is a policy in many schools, and I’m wondering out loud what kind of adults children and young people make when they grow up in a system where motives, intentions, and circumstances don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the rule.

    The irony is that in a system that is supposed to teach students how to make decisions based on reasoning and inquiry, some decisions are being made without the benefit of either.

    I also wonder how much of this is a result of school systems immunizing themselves against lawsuits that accuse administrators of bias or worse because slightly different punishments were meted out in similar situations?

  7. I love the quote in the linked sorry from the nitwit administrator “all student stuff is confidential”.

    Clearly someone who does not possess the requisite cognitive skills for their job.

  8. This has made my day! Not so much the news of this happening (because the incident is ludicrous, of course), but the way this post handles the subject. Brilliant!

  9. I remember taking an ROTC class in my freshman year of college on survival skills. One of the things the military taught us was that a threat is not a threat unless the person making the threat has the ability to carry out the threat. This problem is not just from zero tolerance policies. These educators need to be educated. And we wonder why our children are not learning very well in public schools. They really are not much more than glorified babysitters, forcing us to let them babysit our children.

  10. “Zero tolerance” policies are popular because they require “zero thinking” from those tasked with enforcing them.

  11. Instead of using the moment as an opportunity to teach about magic and interaction in society, the teacher/principal, who is more than scary herself, created a moment of hysteria.

    That this sort of stuff happens rarely may seem to offset this sort of vacuous behavior but that it happens at all should be a wake up call. This principal and administrator are dangerous people in charge of our most precious people.

    These two morons have instilled in the mind of the child reasons to disrespect adults involved in the upcoming dozen or so years of his education, as well as in the minds of every kid that hears about it. Way to go morons.

  12. Thank you for the morning humor, professor. It sounds like the mother handled the issue with grace; it would’ve been tempting to send the principal a ‘howler’. 🙂

    Though, the linked article did not that “Aiden has experienced two in-school suspensions already this school year year — one for referring to a fellow student as “black” reports the New York Daily News, and the other for bringing “The Big Book of Knowledge” to school, which his teacher reportedly had an issue with because of its illustrations of a pregnant woman. “He loves that book,” says the dad. “They were studying the solar system and he took it to school. He thought his teacher would be impressed.””

    There is likely more to the story than the threat of invisibility.

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