School Suspends Fourth Grader for Using Imagination

One Ring to Rule them All resizedIt is typical for young children to re-enact the stories that they watch in a movie. One of the reasons they do this is simply because it is fun. In addition, children engage in imaginative play in order to figure out the world around them and where they might fit into it as an adult. Play can be an important component of learning.

That being said, a fourth grader who is a student at Kermit Elementary School, in Kermit, Texas, was suspended for using his imagination in a way that is typical of children who have been inspired by a movie. The boy was suspended for allegedly “making a terroristic threat”. It was a one day suspension.

That sounds really serious, until you dig into the details. The boy brought a ring to school. He then allegedly told another student that his magic ring could make the classmate disappear. It sounds to me like he was using his imagination, and playing with a concept he saw in a movie his family watched.

The movie was “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. Tolkien fans will immediately realize that the boy was pretending he had the ring that Bilbo Baggins uses to make himself disappear. In the movies based on Tolkien’s work, and in the books themselves, the ring can only make the person who is wearing it disappear.

Things get a little fuzzy from here. The boy’s father says that the principal of Kermit Elementary School, Roxanne Greer, said that “threats to another child’s safety would not be tolerated – whether magical or not.” The principal has declined to comment as all things related to students are confidential.

I’m unclear on why, exactly, the incident was described as a terroristic threat. What is clear is that the school considered what many would consider a harmless use of the imagination as something incredibly serious that was worthy of a suspension.

The father of the boy claims he has received a discipline referral slip that says the boy was suspended for “using magic”. The slip says that the boy told his classmate that he would put the ring around the classmate’s neck and cause him to disappear. The father claims the Principal assumed that “disappear”, in this context, meant that the same as “death”.

It’s all a bit confusing. What is clear from this incident, however, is that parents may want to talk to their children about the kinds of imaginative play that would not be appropriate to engage in while at school. Misunderstandings can occur when the teachers lack the context that a child’s imaginative play is deriving from. That lack of knowledge could cause an adult to see a threat in something that was innocent.

Image by idreamlikecrazy on Flickr.

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