Thursday, December 17, 2009

Massachusetts School Suspends Eight Year Old for Drawing Jesus on the Cross

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

TAUNTON, Massachusetts, December 15, 2009 ( - An 8-year-old boy was sent home from Maxham Elementary School and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after he drew a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The boy's father, Chester Johnson, said he got a call earlier this month from the school informing him that his son, a second-grade student with special education needs, had created a violent drawing and was being sent home. The image depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're violating his religion," Johnson said. "They told me he would have to leave the school and get a psychological evaluation, which I didn't see necessary for the picture that was drawn. Especially after I told them he went to the La Salette on Thanksgiving with his mom. I didn't see anything wrong with the picture that was drawn."

The boy and his family had recently gone to see a Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, a Catholic retreat center in Attleboro.

Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center who is working with the boy and his parents, told the Taunton Gazette, "I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent. They weren't looking at the fact that this is an 8-year-old child with special needs."

"They made him leave school, and they recommended that a psychiatrist do an evaluation," Saunders said. "When I got that call, I was so appalled that I had to do something," she added.

Maxham School principal Rebecca Couet refused to comment to the media about the event and referred all questions to the superintendent's office.

Superintendent Julie Hackett told the Taunton Gazette that district policy prevents her from discussing a "confidential matter regarding a student."

School committee member Christine Fagan told WBZ radio, "I find the decision very disappointing. But I think there's so much pressure now on people to look for all kinds of things. I think that's what generates these types of responses. I think we really need to be careful about how far we want to take this idea of political correctness."

The boy's father said the school overreacted and his son was traumatized by the incident. The school district subsequently approved the family's request to have the child transferred to another school.

"This is a highly intelligent kid. He gets 100's on his tests," Johnson told WBZ.

"I want him transferred to another school and I want something done about this. They owe my family an apology and they owe me an apology and what they can do is keep giving my son the education that he needs and work with him."

Kerri Augusto, a professor of psychology and family studies at Becker College told WBZ that the school did more harm than good for the boy.

"More disturbing than the knee-jerk interpretation of this child's drawing, is the response of the school," Augusto said.

"The extreme lengths to which the administration went to 'protect' the child, resulted in punishment for the child and his/her family and shows blatant disregard for the child's social and emotional needs."

To contact Maxham Elementary School with your opinion/comment:

Rebecca Couet - Principal
Lowell M. Maxham School
141 Oak Street
Taunton, Massachusetts
Phone: 508-821-1265
Fax: 508-821-1274

To contact Superintendent Julie Hackett with your opinion/comment:
Taunton Public Schools District Office
Dr. Julie Hackett - Superintendent of Schools
110 County Street
Taunton, MA 02780
Phone: 508-821-1203


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