By Laura Crimaldi and Laurel J. Sweet
Taunton Mayor Charles Crowley called School Superintendent Julie Hackett from his vacation today and asked her to apologize both privately and publicly to the family of an 8-year-old special needs student sent home from school and ordered to undergo psychological testing after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross.
“Mayor Crowley’s sentiments were that he would hope Dr. Hackett would meet with the family today, apologize, make a public apology on behalf of the school department, pay for the psychiatrist and come up with a policy to make sure this never happens in our school system again,” said Crowley’s assistant Todd Castro.
...The Lowell M. Maxham Elementary School second-grader was booted from the school on Dec. 2 when school officials feared his artwork - drawn to depict what he did on his Thanksgiving break - might be exposing violent tendencies. The child was allowed to return on Dec. 7 after a two-day risk assessment by psychiatrist Helene Titelbaum determined there was nothing wrong with him.
“(The boy) does not appear to be a threat to himself or others at this time. Therefore, I recommend that he return to school as soon as possible,” Titelbaum concluded in her report, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald.
The boy’s father, Chester Johnson, 40, a part-time maintenance worker for the Taunton School Department, told the Herald his son drew Jesus after visiting the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attelboro to see its Christmas display. He then put his own name on the cross instead of Jesus.
“My intention is to shed light on what is happening to children in schools because of zero tolerance,” she said. “I’m sure they expected Santa Claus or a reindeer, but that’s not where this child’s mind was.”
Johnson, she said, ”just wants to get his son out of the school. His son is really traumatized from this event.
“This is one of those ‘How is this possible?’ scenarios,” she said. “We live in a society where we’re supposed to honor children and their imagination.”
In June 2008, a Taunton fifth-grade student was suspended for a day for a stick figure drawing that appeared to depict him shooting his teacher and a classmate.
Okay, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I have something to say about this...
This little boy was drawing a photo about what he did over the Thanksgiving holiday? I am guessing (and hoping) that his family didn't go out and crucify one of their atheist neighbors as a human sacrifice to Jesus. This is clearly someone freaking out over something silly. The kid went to church, saw Jesus on the cross at some point, and then drew the damn picture. I don't see how it got to the point that he was removed from the school and asked to have a mental evaluation.
The school handled this poorly, to say the least.
Now, onto the bigger issue.
Religion and kids.
Is it fair to raise your child telling them that they already belong to the right religion and that everyone else is wrong?
Do kids really need to walk into a church and see a statue of a man being crucified? It's kind of sadistic if you ask me. Something I wouldn't really want young kids to see...
If a Catholic took their son to a movie where there was a bloody violent scene of a man being killed and left to die while people were cheering and chanting, they would be upset that their child was subjected to that. Wouldn't they? Yet they don't see the same thing in their churches. I am not trying to pick on Catholics, I think all religions are crap.
This is a big issue to me, because if there was one thing I hated about being a Mormon, it was when the mothers would escort their three, four or five year olds to the microphone on fast Sunday and whisper into their ears what to say.
Ever really listen to the words people say? It's the same thing. Verbatim.
I would like to bear my testimony and I know this church is true. I love my mother and father and my sisters and brothers. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that Thomas Monson is our living prophet today. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
These are little kids. They don't know what a testimony is. They don't understand the concept of God, heaven, hell and all the severe punishments for not doing what the church tells them. They can't read the Book of Mormon to know that it's true. They are only doing what they are told to do, instructed to do.
It's really unfair to do this to kids. It limits them and closes them off to other possibilities. If their religion is all they know, do they really have the chance to make their own religious choices?
When I was a kid, everyone in my life told me Joseph Smith was a prophet. The Book of Mormon was true, and that I must have been a wonderful spirit in the pre-existance because I was lucky enough to be born into the one true church. When I made friends with people in other religions as a child, I was sad that they wouldn't be going to heaven like I was. Isn't that sad? Should little kids have to worry and think about stuff like that?
I just wish religion was something you could pick up when you become a certain age (if you want to). Kind of like cigarettes. If you are old enough to smoke and make an unhealthy decision for your body, you are old enough to go into a religion and make an unhealthy decision for your mental and emotional well being.
Most of the people born into a religion stay there for the rest of their lives. It's pretty rare for people to convert from one religion to another. It's even more rare for someone to do it and not have it be because they want to marry a person of another faith.
Yeah, the school failed here. The little boy didn't do anything wrong. I just think it's a sad display when kids are filled with religion so early... before they can really grasp what people are talking about.