N.C. Middle School Student Suspended for Doodling Ninja Turtle, Stick Figures in Notebook

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | April 12, 2018 | 4:02 PM EDT

Ninja Turtle (Screencapture)

A 13 year-old boy was suspended from school for two days for drawing stick figures, such as a Ninja Turtle holding swords (picuterd below). The boy’s father, Ray Herring Jr.’s, is working with a civil liberties law firm to have that suspension rescinded and his son’s school record cleared.

Herring’s son, a deer hunter in a county where hunting is typical, was suspended from Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School (RSMS) in Sampson County, N.C., last month after a teacher saw stick figure drawings in his notebook:

  • A Ninja Turtle holding swords,
  • A car,
  • A Medieval warrior with a sword and shield,
  • A man performing magic,
  • A tower holding a bow and arrow, and
  • A stick figure holding a rifle pointed toward nothing but the edge of the page.
Student suspended two days for doodling these stick figures in his notebook.

Herring’s son had finished his class assignment and was waiting for the rest of the class to finish when he began drawing the stick figures in his notebook. Nothing in the drawings depicted violence toward any person, and his teacher was the only other person to see the drawings, Rutherford notes.

Without issuing a warning, or even notifying his parents, the school suspended the boy for two days, even though he had not previously been in any trouble with the school.

Thursday, in a letter to Sampson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, Rutherford Institute demands the school district rescind the suspension which, it contends, violates the student’s Constitutional rights:

“Rutherford Institute attorneys assert that the punishment infringes on the student’s First Amendment right of expression, is excessive and is contrary to district policies guaranteeing children a right to an education. Moreover, Institute attorneys points out that the drawings were not seen by any other student, did not cause any disruption of the school, did not threaten anyone, and had no impact on the safety of anyone.”

Students throughout the U.S. are being cruelly punished – even arrested – for simply being “childish,” Constitutional attorney and Institute President John W. Whitehead warns:

“There are hundreds of cases like this around the nation involving young people who are being suspended, expelled, and even arrested under school policies that criminalize childish behavior and punish all offenses severely, no matter how minor the so-called infraction may be.”

Instead, schools should focus on actual threats and disruptions, not normal childhood behavior, Whitehead says:

“We all want to keep the schools safe, but it is far better to see something credible done about actual threats, rather than this ongoing, senseless targeting of childish behavior that poses no threat, causes no disruption and is a creative and healthy part of childhood.”


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