Even in a business where we tend to dive off the deep end of silliness from time to time, this one may stretch the definition of Breaking News just a tad. Dr. James Joyner highlights a story out of North Carolina (all of you who had already guessed “Florida” lose this time) regarding an elementary school boy, Grayson Bruce by name, who was kept out of school for bringing a book bag emblazoned with the popular children’s series, My Little Pony. But after national attention was drawn to the situation, the school has relented and will allow Grayson to return, book bag and all.
Grayson Bruce’s My Little Pony backpack will return, and with it may come new initiatives to prevent bullying in local schools.
Buncombe County Schools administrators met Thursday with the mother of Grayson Bruce, the 9-year-old boy who was propelled into the national spotlight this week after saying he was prevented from carrying his “My Little Pony” backpack to school because administrators told him it “triggered bullying.”…
Buncombe County Schools administrators released a joint statement Thursday, saying they would work with Bruce to make “a safety transition plan and an allowance for Grayson to bring the bookbag to school.”
“We have appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Bruce family and discuss the issues. We sincerely regret that the issue of being told to leave the bookbag at home was perceived as blaming Grayson. While that was not the intent, the perception became reality. We support Grayson bringing the bookbag to school.” the statement said.
It turns out that the school didn’t have a ban on all things My Little Pony related, (like they do with toy guns) nor were they conducting some sort of War on Bronies. In this case, they apparently felt that a boy with such a book bag was likely to get the snot beaten out of him by other young boys and they were going to protect him by keeping him and his bag out of school. Is that a good policy? Joyner’s take:
Yes, it’s wrong to bully a little boy for wearing a backpack marketed to little girls. (My five-year-old daughter loves My Little Pony, especially Rainbow Dash.) And, yes, the ban was effectively blaming the victim. But the fact of the matter is that kids of that age can be vicious, bullying and mob behavior here was quite predictable, and it’s impossible for teachers to be everywhere at once. It was just easier to tell Grayson to leave the backpack at home, removing the immediate catalyst.
Schools do this sort of thing all the time and have forever. For decades now, schools have banned clothing with potentially inflammatory messages or even banned wearing hats and other clothing in colors locally associated with various street gangs. The fact that people ought not react viciously to other people’s free expression is outweighed, especially with children, by the probability that they will.
It’s hard to tell from the coverage precisely what the parents were thinking when they agreed to send Grayson off to class with that bag. I suppose it’s possible that they felt they were striking a blow for gender neutrality. (Unisex bathrooms in public school, anyone?) Or maybe they just weren’t paying attention and didn’t notice that their boy was setting himself up as a target. A far less likely scenario is that the parents were taking a page out of Johnny Cash’s book, based on his song, A Boy Named Sue.
Father: You’re letting him go to school with THAT book bag?
Mother: Well, you said he should learn to fight. I reckon that’ll do it.
Anyone who went to public school back in the day and dealt with the various groups of boys there knows how that story ends. A less gentle approach to the question might find that it would turn out to be a teachable moment for the kid no matter how it ended. But I suppose I agree with Joyner, at least to a point. If the parents can’t recognize an invitation to a whooping when they see one, maybe it wasn’t so out of line for the school to step in before Grayson wound up black and blue on the playground. Of course, given the litigious nature of our society, the school was going to wind up losing on this one anyway. And now that the parents have turned their son’s situation into a national news story, he’s probably toast out near the swing sets when he goes back anyway.
This wasn’t a case for new government action, changes in rules or forcing a bend in the social order. This was a situation which could have been avoided with a little common sense, but I’m afraid that ship has already sailed.