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.