One eight-year-old in Taunton just learned a valuable lesson in political correctness, and a school district may wind up learning a little something about free speech, religious expression, and not asking questions to which one does not want to hear the answers. An elementary school student was asked to draw something that reminded him of Christmas. When he drew a picture of Jesus on a crucifix, the teacher and the administration recoiled in horror at the “violent image.” No, really:
An eight year old elementary school student in Taunton was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick figure picture of Jesus on the cross.
The second grader at Maxham Elementary school was told by this teacher that the drawing was violent. This was after the class was asked to sketch something that reminded them of Christmas. …
The father tells the “Taunton Gazette” because his son put Xs on the eyes of Jesus, the teacher thought it was violent.
But he drew Jesus with a smile! Doesn’t that count for anything?
It’s hard to imagine a more clueless, knee-jerk response than the one given by this school. First, Jesus on a crucifix has been a symbol of Christianity for two millenia. Since Christmas is in fact a Christian holiday, at least nominally, the crucifix in this drawing clearly came from Christian symbolism and not some latent threat of a reenactment of the last scenes of Spartacus from a second grader. How dense or deliberately obtuse must a teacher and administrators be not to understand the symbolism involved in this drawing?
The story does end on a happy note. The father of the student has been given permission for his child to attend another school in the district. They should have transferred the teacher and the administrators instead, preferably to quiet rooms with as little contact with children as possible. The real threat here is that the gross stupidity will infect the students.
But after a few days on the cross themselves — and staying silent because of confidentiality issues — Taunton school officials began telling a much different story. In a statement posted on the system’s Web site, school officials said that in fact the boy had never been suspended, the teacher never requested that the children make a drawing that reminded them of Christmas or any religious holiday, and that the drawing that the boy’s father distributed to the media is in fact not the one the boy’s teacher discovered and was concerned about.
The school said it could not provide further information for reasons of confidentiality, but it noted that until Chester Johnson spoke to the newspaper the family and school officials had been “working together in a cooperative and positive manner.” It said all proper protocols had been followed and that school officials would do the same thing again if presented with similar circumstances …
Johnson acknowledged that his son was not suspended but insisted the drawing was the one that upset the teacher. He added that his son wrote his name above the Christ figure and said it was a self-portrait. It was also reported that in June 2008 a fifth-grade student was suspended from a local middle school for a day after he drew a stick figure that appeared to show him shooting his teacher and a classmate — an event that led some to believe the incident with the second-grader may have been related to that episode and heightened concern over possible school violence since the Columbine massacre.
Still, Johnson wasn’t backing down. The Boston Globe said he “held court” for the media at his girlfriend’s apartment Tuesday, insisting that the school apologize and that his son’s rights were violated. “It hurts me that they did this to my kid,” Johnson said. “They can’t mess with our religion; they owe us a small lump sum for this.”
So the school disputes what the father said, and the father is still sticking to his story. The “self-portrait” claim seems a little beyond a second-grader, but not impossible. Even so, demanding a psychological evaluation over a drawing of a crucifix seems very, very strange — and if the school would do it again, I’d still wonder whether parents wouldn’t do better to follow Johnson’s lead and send their children somewhere else.