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A 14-year-old student was suspended for five days because of a stick-figure drawing he claims was a “patriotic” depiction of a U.S. Marine blowing away a Taliban fighter.
Scott Switzer, of Colts Neck, N.J., whose father and stepfather serve in the military, was sent home last week from Tinton Falls Middle School after a teacher saw the image on a computer and described it to the principal, the New York Post reported.
New Jersey student Scott Switzer with drawing (Photo: Thomas Hinton, New York Post)
“He’s been punished for the drawing,” said Tinton Falls school superintendent Leonard Kelpsh, according to the Post. “We felt it was highly inappropriate, and we took it very seriously.”
Switzer insists the discipline was unjust.
“Truth be told, it’s a Marine shooting a terrorist Taliban,” he told the New York paper. “It’s just a picture. What upsets me most is that the principal would dare say it’s not normal. To me, it’s patriotic.”
School district officials, however, contend the drawing is not being represented accurately in the news media.
“It is merely two stick figures, one with a helmet and one with no markings,” the school said in a press release. “The figure with the helmet had a pistol and a knife and is attacking the other figure. It is quite graphic and bloody. Moreover, above the head of the stick figure is the name of another student at the Middle School, not the Taliban.”
The officials say “it is quite evident that the drawing depicts one student attacking another student, who is named. It is not an attack by an American soldier against the enemy, as represented by the offending student.”
The penalty could have been 10 days, they added, but was limited to five as a “reasonable penalty.”
“The administration acted properly,” the statement said, “taking into consideration the rights of all students, not just the one student that committed the act. In the post-Columbine, post-9/11 era we must be very careful, address all threats and protect all students.”
Family members told the Post Switzer had been suspended before and was involved in three “minor” incidents.
The teen suffers from attention deficit disorder, according to his stepmother, Kim Switzer.
He lives with his stepmother and father, a Navy engineer in the Persian Gulf. His stepfather serves in the Army.
School officials might have lowered their tolerance, Scott indicated, because of a previous incident in which other students drew a “very Columbine-ish” picture, the Post said.
The New York paper said, however, the sketch was deemed benign by a local psychologist who examined Scott.
“I don’t attribute pathological significance to it,” Dr. Gloria Tillman, a psychologist who treated the boy for ADD, told the Post.
“I have to wonder what is expected of our children today when 1) our country is at war and 2) both his father and stepfather are out fighting the war.”
Scott said although he recognized the concern for safety, he was offended by the officials’ characterization of the drawing as “not the work of a normal mind.”
“Truth be told, I’m more upset that he’d insinuate that I’m mentally unstable,” he told the Post. “I’m the class clown. I’m not a bully.”