Modesto, CA – A 5-year-old boy was suspended from school after he told his teacher he had a bomb in his backpack, his parents said.
Jackson Riley was in his third week of kindergarten at Great Valley Academy on Aug. 31, when his teacher told him to take off his backpack, the Modesto Bee reported.
The child told his teacher that he couldn’t remove his backpack, because there was a bomb inside that would explode if he took it off.
His teacher then asked him if he could look inside the bag, and Jackson readily agreed.
The teacher found nothing inside, but school officials contacted his father, Ian Riley, and told him Jackson was suspended for the day and to come pick him up.
“I said, I’ll come get him, but I’m not sure what a suspension will do for a 5-year-old,” Ian told the Modesto Bee. “They said, ‘It’s what we have to do.'”
A letter from administrators soon followed, WTAE reported.
It said that Jackson “intentionally engaged in harassment, threats, or intimidation,” in violation of school code. But the letter also noted that the code applied to students “in any of grades four to twelve.”
“We said, ‘This doesn’t fit, and furthermore we don’t really feel like our son was threatening you,’” Ian told WTAE.
Administrators agreed that the code violation didn’t apply to a kindergartener, and instead sent a second letter to Jackson’s parents upholding the suspension on the grounds that Jackson had made “terroristic threats.”
“It’s all in the world of pretend play and we’re talking about an imaginary bomb but, where was the threat?” Jackson’s mother, Michelle Riley told KRON. “We still haven’t received a clear answer.”
Ian argued that Jackson is being accused of something he doesn’t even understand, KRON reported.
Ian and Michelle told the Modesto Bee that they sat Jackson down for a talk about what is acceptable to say at school and what isn’t okay to joke about.
“We had a bigger conversation about when they tell you to take your backpack off, you do it. You follow the rules,” Ian said. “We didn’t come down on him with fire and fury over this. We told him not everybody wants to be pranked.”
Jackson’s parents thought the situation was resolved, until they learned that the suspension would remain on his student record.
“We don’t want ‘terrorist threats’ to be on his permanent record,” Ian told WTAE in disbelief. “The kid is five!”
“It becomes easy to label the kid, ‘Yeah, he already made a terrorist threat. It wouldn’t shock me if he meant this in malice too,’” Michelle noted.
Ian said Jackson is unaware of the media coverage his pretend play created, and that he seems to have forgotten all about the event, the Modesto Bee reported.
“The next day, he was out in our back yard, picking flowers to bring to his teacher,” Ian said.
Ian spoke positively about the family’s history with the school, and said Jackson loves his teachers. “We have two kids there and the teachers are amazing,” he told the Modesto Bee. “Our issue is with the administration’s knee-jerk reaction.”
The outcome of the meeting has not been released.
UPDATE: The father says that the record of the suspension got dropped.
Do you think that it’s justifiable to suspend a 5 year old over this sort of incident? We’d like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.