Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Rubber Band Story

We have had a couple of folks send us email wanting our take on The Rubber Band Story. So here goes:

A 13-year-old student in Orange County, Fla., was suspended for 10 days and could be banned from school over an alleged assault with a rubber band, according to a WKMG Local 6 News report.

Robert Gomez, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, said he picked up a rubber band at school and slipped it on his wrist.Gomez said when his science teacher demanded the rubber band, the student said he tossed it on her desk.After the incident, Gomez received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a weapon, Local 6 News reported.

"They said if he would have aimed it a little more and he would have gotten it closer to her face he would have hit her in the eye," mother Jenette Rojas said.Rojas said she was shocked to learn that her son was being punished for a Level 4 offense -- the highest Level at the school.

Other violations that also receive level 4 punishment include arson, assault and battery, bomb threats and explosives, according to the Code of Student Conduct.The district said a Level 4 offense includes the use of any object or instrument used to make a threat or inflict harm, including a rubber band.

As a classroom teacher with more experience than I care to confess, I believe that there is more than meets the eye (or the press release) to this tale. Citing "confidentiality" the district cannot give any details. This is because incidents involving minor children may not be released by the school to third parties. Therefore, we are only going to get "one side" to this, and that side will be anything but objective.

Having said that, I would need to know some additional information before I can say that this young man is getting the proverbial Raw Deal from the school system. (And he very well could be getting a Raw Deal; it happens plenty.)

  • When the teacher "demanded" the rubber-band, did he "fire" it in the direction of any other students or at the teacher? If he did, it could very well be an expellable offence.
  • What prior record (if any) of disciplinary problems did Gomez have with the school? Was this the first incident involving rubber band? Had he hit any other children or adults before this occurrence?
  • Was Gomez on any type of behavioral contract with the school? (This is where the students, his parents, and the school have agreed to certain behavioral expectations in order to avoid some sort of disciplinary consequence due to prior incident. In other words, it's a promise not to do it again.)

Without having those facts, it is very difficult to say with any certainty that the school has over-reacted. If what the news report said was true, it would be reasonable to believe that the school's punishment did not fit the crime.

What is certain is that we have yet one more "snapshot" into the wild, wooly, (and completely illogical) World of Public Education.

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