Real boy suspended for imaginary grenade

KDVR: [The 7-year old] was playing a game during recess at Loveland’s Mary Blair Elementary School and threw an imaginary grenade into a box with pretend evil forces inside.

“I pretended the box, there’s something shaking in it, and I go ‘pshhh.’”

“I was trying to save people and I just can’t believe I got dispended

(Via Bag of Nothing)



  1. From the Mary Blair ‘Absolutes’ Document:

    ABSOLUTES for Mary Blair Elementary

    To insure this Time to Teach Program, we have come up with some ABSOLUTES to make Mary Blair a safe environment.

    The ABSOLUTES for Mary Blair Elementary:

    1. No Physical Abuse or Fights – real or “play fighting”
    2. No weapons (real or play), illegal drugs (including tobacco) or alcohol
    3. No serious disrespect toward people or property (includes, but is not limited: profanity, racial slurs, deliberately refusing to follow a staff directive, graffiti, etc.)

    ABSOLUTE Procedure:
    · An ABSOLUTE must be witnessed by an adult
    · A student will be placed in the Principal’s office or sent home for the rest of the day if he/she violates an ABSOLUTE. A student will be allowed two non-severe, non-suspension occurrences. The third occurrence will constitute a formal suspension, which could be up to five school days. A conference is always held with the teacher and the principal as to the severity of the consequence.
    · Each time a student violates and ABSOLUTE, a “Parent Notification of Behavior Problem” form will be sent home with the child.
    · Each time a student is suspended, a “Behavioral Plan” will be written with parents, principal, teacher and the student (when possible). This conforms to Thompson R2J School District policy and Colorado Discipline Code.
    · Every ABSOLUTE that is broken following the first suspension will also be a suspension.

    1. “Each time a student violates and ABSOLUTE”

      What is the penalty for teaching children bad grammar? No wonder the kid doesn’t know the difference between suspend and dispend.

      1. Also, I think they meant “ensure” not “insure.”

        Sometimes, for children, a weapon isn’t a sign of violence; it’s a sign of power.  Banning weapons tells children that they have no right to even imagine being powerful, that in the Oedipal struggle, it is their duty to lose.

    2. Oh, FFS.

      Here’s where I clutch my pearls and go, ‘Won’t somebody think of the children?’ for real, without a hint of sarcasm.

    3. Poor kid. He goes to school with all his friends in an environment of ABSOLUTES, then goes home to his family and sees television shows, news programs, documentaries, movies, advertisements, games, comics, books that celebrate violence.

      No wonder people end up so fucked up these days.

  2. “Every ABSOLUTE that is broken following the first suspension will also be a suspension.”

    …Because we refuse or do not have the capacity to think.

      1. My favorite part of the absolutes policy is the one in which a child ignores a staff directive. “Timmy, drop your pants!”

        “That’s a one week dispension for you!”

        Okay, maybe it won’t happen like that. But clearly there’s an issue when they have a rule in there that amounts to “AND ANYTHING ELSE I CAN THINK OF.”

        Who needs laws and rules when you can be authoritarian instead?

  3. I’m really confused.  So we want to encourage active imaginations, we want people to respect soldiers, but we don’t want people to have active imaginations where they might pretend to be someone they respect?

    If the box was filled with his imaginary teachers and schoolmates, it’s worth a chat at most.  I’m going to quit my job and homeschool at the rate school systems are going…

    1. Also I think that ban on “real or play” weapons might actually have been meant to ban plastic guns, fake knives, and the like. It’s debatable I guess but if I’d written that document, I wouldn’t have banned imaginary anything. Turnabout being fair play, I propose that any teacher who imagines say smacking an unruly child upside the head be immediately suspended without pay. Thoughtcrime, I love it.

    2. I wonder how fast you’d become a “top story” on the news networks if you announced the creation of a private school where kids are encouraged to draw whatever they want on their folders and hide on the playground pretending to be at war. If they felt like it anyways. No issues with running around hollering and burning energy if that’s what they want to do.

        1. Man, I wanted to go to Summerhill SO much. We were shown a dcumentary on it, and expected to come up with doctrinaire reasons why such an education was a ‘bad thing’. It didn’t quite go as planned, that lesson…

      1. It’s cool, it’s allowed.  Ironically because soldiers fought for our freedoms. 

        (And I do like, totally made it awesome)

        1. Could you explain what you mean by “soldiers fought for our freedoms” more specifically?  A lot of people say this but it seems more like a sort of thought-stopping cliche than an actual argument with some substance behind it.

          To paraphrase George Carlin, I blame soldiers for war.  Sure, the politicians start the wars but the soldiers are the ones who keep showing up and shooting each other.

        2. Soldiers seem to have pledged their lives to the continued existence of states who seem content to slowly reduce our liberty in the name of security and freedom. Hmmm.

  4. Suspending a kid for an imaginary grenade is a clear violation of ABSOLUTE #3: “No serious disrespect towards people.”

    I can only conclude that the school’s administration will be dispending themselves in compliance with the ABSOLUTES.

  5. A seven year old is old enough to know the word “suspended”, and whomever did that interview is not helping him by thinking its cute. Am I the only one who doesn’t find it cute when little kids say words wrong? 

    1. Yes.  You are the only person who thinks that a grade 2 student who mispronounces the word Suspended is somehow not adorable.  Good luck with the stealing of Christmas, however.

    2. I refuse to use baby talk with my toddler, and tend to use regular spoken English at an appropriate age level for her. That said, I don’t jump all over the place to correct her if she muddles or mispronounces a word, and it’s usually cute when she does. Seriously, it’s not the end of the world, and she’ll learn proper diction in due time.

        1. I used to work with a woman who left her child with her mother-in-law from the Old Country every day. The child was starting to have developmental delays. They figured out that the woman was only speaking to the four year-old in baby talk, all day every day.

        2. When she was in the babbling stage, I’d babble right back. Now that she can hold an actual conversation, I keep the baby talk to a minimum.

    3. I’ve been in first-grade classrooms when the kids try to exchange pen-pal letters with kids from another building.  It’s weird, most kids just learning to spell can read back what they wrote with no problem.  They can read the writing of their friends and classmates with a bit of difficulty.  But give them a letter written by a student taught by a different teacher and it’s like giving them Latin.  I spend most of those periods going from student to student, trying to figure out what their pen-pals wrote.  One kid even made that the central theme of his reply to his pen-pal.
      The point being, most seven year old are really awful at spelling, and not that much better at pronouncing new or less-used words.

    4. My serious dad refused to use babytalk with my brother and I and discouraged others from doing so.  We were both late talkers, but when we did, we used complete sentences.

    5. Do you find yourself just as not-cute for your own crappy grammar and spelling? You’re a grown man; what’s *you’re* excuse? At least this kid is only seven!

      1. Grown woman, with severe dyslexia, who is working on her PhD, and who teaches and tutors secondary students with similar issues. Yes, yes, we can all stop waiving our pedantical bits at one another, someone making a comment on the internet used the wrong word when making a comment about grammar. 

        In your snippiness, however, you entirely missed my point.

        We all know what the kid wanted to say, why on earth except because it is “cute” did the person who transcribed the quote keep it spelled the way he said it? My beef is not with the grammar, nor with the child being unable to pronounce the word, but rather with the person who thought this was a “cute” thing to put in that story. Why? Because for the rest of this kid’s life, someone in his family will bring this up every family get together, and it will embarrass the hell out of him. And, oh yes, it is public record, so his friends and their families, and so on, will all bring this up. All because some jerk reporter thought it was “cute”.

        1. why on earth except because it is “cute” did the person who transcribed the quote keep it spelled the way he said it?

          So, your real problem is that the transcription doesn’t have ‘sic’ following the word in question?

          And I really think you’re making way too much of this. Did a reporter do something mean to you when you were a kid?

          1. Wonder if they are projecting because they like to bully people, or tease people, about this sort of thing?

        2. So, let me get this straight: You want people to be a hard-ass to a SEVEN YEAR OLD, and not find cute things that seven year olds do, well, cute — but you?  You we must treat with kid gloves.


          Look, I don’t care if yo have dyslexia or just lazy, but if you’re going to bitch about someone’s grammar or spelling or they way they talk or write, it may help to look in the mirror first.  GLASS HOUSES, and all that.

        3. Because for the rest of this kid’s life, someone in his family will bring this up every family get together, and it will embarrass the hell out of him

          AND GOOD!  It may give this kid some character!

          Seriously? You really think anyone is going to notice or care what random word a seven year old said?  Or first care enough to look through the “public records” and then make fun of them?

          I am so confused. You’re being ridiculous and not making much sense. 

          Why do you care so very much that some random seven year old MIGHT (MIGHT) be embarrassed (probably not) many years from now about some random word that no one except you cares about?

    6. If it’s a word our son is just learning, then it’s cute the first two times, nails on chalkboard-level irritating after that – especially if we discover that his grandmother is encouraging the mispronunciation (which we discovered this past week with the word ‘hamburger’).  

      1. Give Grandma a horrible new name and use that exclusively when talking about her to your child.
        “Why is he calling me Mammooo?”
        “Why are you encouraging him to say ‘hambooger’?”

        1. It was ‘hangaburgler’, but it’s an easy mangle.  Just biding time until he’s old enough for our local pre-K program.  Daycare costs more than my mortgage, so we’re trying to bite our tongues as much as possible on the “free” child care.

  6. Journal entry:  “It’s been two days since they ‘disappeared’ Alex.  This isn’t just war.  It goes deeper than that — it’s obvious to me now.  The school administration is in on it with the imaginary evil forces in the box.  …”

  7. Gotta love that the school’s response to the outcry has been to delete their facebook page and public facing email.

  8. re: “No weapons (real or play),”

    Does that include “finger guns” and the like? I remember playing Star Wars all the time with finger guns. Now the kids today get to watch the even  more violent Clone Wars. I can’t imagine there not being wonderful space battles to defeat the evil Separatist  army.

    It’s another case of zero tolerance which equals having to use zero brain power to confront a situation with context and rationality.

    1. That was a rule on my school yard (20 years ago). It wasn’t a suspension, I think you had to stand against the wall or something.

      Since it was the same penalty as throwing rocks, everyone just started throwing rocks.

    2. What about Laser Eyes?  And how are they gonna control Psychic Crush?  These control freak school officials are really opening up a can of worms here.

    3. Obviously we’re both old, because I also recall playing Star Wars after the first one came out, but never at school, only at the hippy day care I went to after school.  The hippies were all about creative play and didn’t intervene unless there was an altercation.  As my own kid reaches school age, I find that my memories of that day care grow fonder because there’s only authoritarianism awaiting my son in the course of his ‘education’.

      [edited to remove random, superfluous returns]

  9. There’s a cute “Western Day” pictured on the school’s homepage.  Let’s hope none of the children were imagining having weapons!

    1. Your imaginary grenade is actually visible! That’s one crazy powerful imagination you’ve got there!

    1. Yes, long term, this is the greatest threat to their way of life. Imagine a generation of people who can’t even IMAGINE guns! The NRA should be marching outside this school all day long.

  10. The school is completely correct in punishing this child.  ‘Imaginary’ behaviours like this can have real-life consequences!  

    For example, I grew up playing ‘X-Men’ in the playground with my friends, a past time I thought harmless back then, and which nobody tried to stop!  Now I am saddled for life with the burden of my resulting mutant powers!

    People, please.  Think of the children!

  11. This isn’t the first problem the school has had with this child. He has also been repeatedly scolded because his imaginary friend won’t stop talking in class.

  12. I would wish for the ghost of Fred Rogers to rise and benevolently explain that Play and the powers of Make Believe are good things that we shouldn’t be afraid of. 

  13. I have so many things I want to say here. I think I’ll stick to expressing my thanks that I was out of the system before things got too silly and. Also, if I ever have kids there is zero chance that I could send them to public schools without getting them permanently expelled or taken away. Something about not having that barrier between thinking and speaking that I would hope to pass on to a future generation.

    1. The insanity extends to charters and private schools.  The only way to avoid the bullshit is to homeschool or leave the country for saner lands.

  14. People who think absolute or zero tolerance policies are a good idea should not be allowed around children.

    1. How do you plan to finance the sterilization of half the population? I’ll chip in if you do a Kickstarter.

  15. I have a son this boy’s age, and while my child hasn’t been suspended similar issues have come up in school. I have to keep remembering to breathe deeply and tell myself that the skills that make one good at life (thinking for oneself, imagination, questioning authority,) are NOT the same skills that make one good at school. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means for private school or homeschooling or he would be OUT.

  16. I think this is a really unfortunate extension of some well meaning principles.  For years school administrators had a lot of lee way in discipline.  This was both good and bad.  As part of the social trend of not trusting schools and authority, parents who thought their child was being treated unfairly demanded clearer more proscriptive discipline policies, with consequences applied universally and equally.  At the same time it became increasingly clear that certain groups really were getting more lee-way than others, for example, a white boy who forgot to take his pocket knife out of his jeans pockets after boy scouts doesn’t get suspended for the knife he brought to school, but the black boy who forgot to take the knife he needs for safety in his neighborhood out of his jeans pocket gets expelled.  Throughout my early teaching career the move was towards more and more elaborate, specific, and proscriptive disciplinary policies.  Zero tolerance and tough on crime policies.  Policies which disproportionately impacted students of color, but which had a rock hard patina of “fairness.”

    Add to that the increasing awareness of bullying and emotional threats at school.  A common way for children to threaten or torture each other without getting caught is through silent gestures that create fear.  Making a gun gesture at your victim by way of threatening to actually hurt them later is very common.  So, schools made imaginary weapons against the rules too.  And comments, like: “I’m going to *kill* you.”  Which most people don’t mean literally, they mean it as a statement of frustration and anger.  Trying to control bullying and emotional threat is important, it’s necessary  it’s something boingboing has written about and cares about. But it’s easy to see how the discipline approach above, combined with an honest desire to exert some control over bullying can result in stupid things like a relatively powerless administrator feeling obligated to suspend a kid for his imaginary grenade.  

    Schools can avoid the proscriptive approach, can use more common sense and discretion in working with discipline, but it’s very fuzzy, hard to define, and very hard to write down.  It leaves you open to questions of equity and accountability.  It means you might have to tolerate a kid who screams or swears in the classroom sometimes and doesn’t have an apparent consequence for their actions.  It means the person doing the discipline has to actually have common sense, cultural competency  and be unbiased.  And it takes a whole lot more time, and schools are constantly cutting back staff, including administration, so fewer people are trying to handle more and more discipline issues.  Combined with data privacy laws which limit the information schools can share, it can create an impression that nothing is being done.  

    I still think the suspension was totally stupid.  But I do get how an otherwise reasonable administrator could feel they had no other choice.

  17. To parents of 7 year old.  You can’t fight this crap, try to move your kid into a school without terminally stupid staff.  Be sure your kid understands they did nothing wrong.  Perhaps this is a good time for Disneyland?  Remind your child that most creative people make more money than the loser administrator at their school.

  18. Mary Blair? As in, the wonderful artist Mary Blair? The only thing that could make this more of a perfect Boing Boing story is if the kid was also accused of getting the idea for the imaginary grenade from a copyrighted website that prohibited links to it.

  19. To save the world you have to break some rules. The boy is a hero and he should be made aware of it. There are evil people in the real world out there who will try to bully him out of doing great stuff and he should be prepared.

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