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Student Suspended Over Souvenir Shell

At Memorial Day events across the country, a similar scenario plays out: Honor guards fire off salutes and children scramble for the expired shell casings. In the town of Winchendon, Mass., one fourth-grader was even luckier -- at least by 10-year-old boy standards -- when one of the uniformed veterans participating in his town's ceremony turned and gave him two blank shells. The boy, Bradley Geslak, generously gave one to his grandfather and kept the other for himself.

But when he took his souvenir to school the next day, his luck became a curse. A teacher saw the shell and demanded he turn it over. The boy was then sent to the principal. The principal called the boy's mother at work and told her to come pick him up, because he was being suspended for five days. When the mother arrived, the boy was in tears. "I was totally shocked," the mother told the Worcester Telegram. "I couldn’t believe this was happening."

School officials declined to discuss the suspension, citing a privacy policy, according to a follow-up report in the Worcester Telegram. A School Committee member referred to the principal's authority under state law. "Massachusetts General Law gives principals absolute authority in their schools. She has no obligation to notify anyone else because it is expected that she has enough authority under the Massachusetts Educational Reform Act to make these decisions."

At the blog Overlawyered, Walter Olson refers to this incident as one for the "annals of zero tolerance," noting that "an empty casing is, of course, empty." As for the boy and his family, a School Committee member said, "I am really concerned and am sorry for what the family has had to go through in all of this." Consider this a warning for children everywhere in advance of next year's Memorial Day commemoration.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 6, 2008 at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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