Friday, February 25, 2011

CO: 11-year-old arrested over “inappropriate” stick figure drawing

An 11-year-old Arvada boy was arrested and hauled away in handcuffs for drawing stick figures in school - something his therapist told him to do.

The boy’s parents say they understand what he did was inappropriate, but are outraged by the way Arvada Police handled the case. The parents do not want their real names used.

“Tim” is being treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and his therapist told him to draw pictures when got upset, rather than disrupt the class. So that’s what he did.

Last October, he drew stick figures of himself with a gun, pointed at four other stick figures with the words “teacher must die.” He felt calmer and was throwing the picture away when the teacher saw it and sent him to the principal’s office. The school was aware that the boy was in treatment, determined the drawing was not an actual threat, notified his parents and sent him back to class.

His mother, “Jane,” however, was shocked when Arvada Police showed up at their home later that night. She says she told her son to cooperate and tell the truth, but was horrified when they told her they were arresting him and then handcuffed him and hauled him away in a patrol car.

Tim’s mother says she begged police to let her drive her son to the police department and to let her stay with him through the booking process but they refused. Instead, they put him in a cell, took his mug shot and fingerprinted him. He thought he was going to jail and would never be able to go home again.

According to the police report, “Tim” explained he made the drawing to release anger and would never hurt teachers or anyone. At first, the school did not want to press charges, but changed their mind when police called them later that night.

A juvenile assessment report shows Tim has never been in legal trouble before and is at low risk to reoffend. Regardless, he is charged with a third degree misdemeanor, interfering with staff and students at an educational facility.

The system says it’s doing what’s in the best interest of the child. But Tim’s therapist says handcuffing an 11-year-old and putting him in a cell over something like this is “quite an overreaction” and does much more harm than good.

Tim is on probation and, if he completes that successfully, the criminal charges will be dropped. But his parents say its cost them thousands of dollars so far. And if they had known that their son’s cooperation would be used as evidence against him, they would have hired a lawyer at the beginning and exercised their right to remain silent.


Chaotic British State school

A draconian ‘super head’ has been sacked just two days into his new job after suspending seven pupils for minor offences. Craig Tunstall, who earns more than the Prime Minister and is one of Britain’s highest-paid head teachers, lasted less than 48 hours in his role as executive head of a failing primary school.

Within hours of joining, Mr Tunstall, who was thought to have been receiving a pay package of close to £200,000, had excluded seven pupils as young as five. Their offences included wearing the wrong coat in the playground, refusing to finish their school lunch and failing to stand in line. One of the suspended pupils was a five-year-old boy with special needs.

His manner was so authoritarian that staff and children alike said he created a ‘climate of fear’. And he provoked outrage by demanding that all the pupils walked with their hands behind their backs. Council bosses, who had parachuted Mr Tunstall into Oval Primary in Croydon after ousting the previous head, were forced to take immediate action to remove him following a barrage of complaints.

The school was put into special measures last month after a disastrous Ofsted report. Its local council, Croydon, on the recommendation of the Department for Education, arranged for it to be taken over by a body that runs two well performing schools in South London. Mr Tunstall, as executive head of the federation, was brought in to turn Oval Primary around. It is believed the appointment would have boosted his annual pay package to close to £200,000.

In a manoeuvre that shocked the school, he arrived on Thursday, February 17, the morning after the former head teacher, Ruth Johnston, quit. But his tenure was shortlived. The council sacked him before the end of the day on Friday.

One of the children suspended by Mr Tunstall was Callum Simms. The five-year-old, who has special needs, was reprimanded for not lining up quickly enough when asked to by one of his teachers.

His outraged mother, Nikki Simms, said: ‘When I heard from other parents that a number of other kids had been excluded, I did worry for Callum because he has behavioural problems. ‘But he didn’t have a fight or cause a lot of trouble. ‘He’s just a little boy with learning difficulties who didn’t line up in the playground. ‘That he was excluded for something so stupid is unbelievable.’

Another distraught mother, Sarah Ellacott, said her daughter Rachael, seven, came home from school saying pupils had been told to walk with their hands behind their backs as if ‘in prison’. Mrs Ellacott, 27, said: ‘Children were going to school afraid to do anything in case they got suspended. That’s not the way to make children behave.’

Mr Tunstall, who has no children of his own, recently split from his wife Carol, 37, who works for an animal sanctuary.

Until recently he lived in a £500,000 semi-detached red-brick three bedroom house in a residential area in Bromley, Kent – a far cry from the deprived area of Croydon where Oval Primary is located. Mr Tunstall remains the executive head of the Gypsy Hill Federation, which runs two successful primary schools in Lambeth, South London – Kingswood Primary and Elmwood Primary. They have both received outstanding Ofsted reports.

It is Government policy to link failing schools with successful schools in the area. Croydon council leader Mike Fisher yesterday admitted the appointment was a mistake. He said: ‘We apologise for any sort of upset we have caused the parents and that the organisation brought in turned out to be the wrong one – we made a mistake.’

A council spokesman said: ‘We have a strong record of setting up partnerships with schools and have done so successfully in the past. ‘On this occasion it became clear the arrangement would not work and the authority took swift action to resolve it.’

Mr Tunstall, speaking through a friend, refused to comment.

The council is set to announce the appointment of a new head teacher on Monday who is believed to be from a local academy.

Mr Tunstall was revealed to be the eighth highest-paid head in London, earning a salary of £137,991, and a total package of £151,835, last year. The Prime Minister is paid £142,500. Primary school head teachers typically earn around £55,000.

Education Secretary Michael Gove plans to cap head teachers’ pay. It is currently being reviewed by the School Teachers Review Body, which will report in March.


Now FOOTBALLS are "unsafe" in British school playgrounds!

For decades, the nation's playgrounds have echoed with the thud of a firmly-struck football. But children living in the streets where England football star Steven Gerrard grew up are being denied that innocent, wholesome pleasure - and it's all in the name of health and safety.

Pupils at a primary school in Huyton, near Liverpool, have been banned from bringing modern synthetic or leather footballs into the playground and told to use balls made of sponge instead.

Teachers say the heavy balls are unsuitable for an enclosed space where young children may be playing, saying it risks injury.

However amid fears over Britain's childhood obesity epidemic, as well as worries over where our next generation of sporting champions is going to come from, critics last night slammed the edict as an absurd over-reaction.

The rule was spelt out in this month's newsletter sent out by Malvern Primary School in Huyton, a deprived area with Britain's second worst obesity record.

The district has nevertheless long been regarded as a hotbed of footballing talent, having produced the likes of Liverpool captain Gerrard in addition to former Everton hero Peter Reid - now manager of Plymouth Argyle - and notorious Newcastle United player Joey Barton.

It informed parents: 'Please can we request that only sponge balls are brought into school. This is to ensure the safety of all our pupils when on the playground.'

But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, said: 'Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn? 'It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball. 'Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.'

Critics say it is just the latest obstacle created by political correctness to stand in the way of the exercise and life skills children can gain from taking part in sport.

Last summer a primary school in Devon banned playground football altogether, saying pupils were copying the cheating and fouling displayed at the World Cup.

Shortly afterwards, brothers Henry and Alex Worthington, 12 and 11, were threatened with antisocial behaviour orders by three police officers while having a kickabout in the cul-de-sac where they live in Timperley, Greater Manchester.

Mr Fry added: 'We do have a litigation culture, but you can't tell me Steven Gerrard did not play football in the playground - I bet he even fell over a few times.'

And Adrian Voce, director of Play England, which advises schools on safe, fun pastimes, pointed out that last year's review on health and safety by Lord Young recommended a common sense approach to managing risk in children's play-times. 'Research tells us that children need to play adventurously and test themselves, yet many children don't get the opportunity to do so in our risk-adverse society,' he said. 'Children must be allowed to encounter some risks for themselves as a natural part of their play and growing up.'

Knowsley, Huyton's local district, has among the country's worst GCSE results, and in 2004 was ranked behind only Hull in a league table of Britain's fattest towns.

Malvern Primary School yesterday insisted the football crackdown was not new, saying the reminder had been issued after a parent complained that a child was nearly hurt.

It pointed out that its cramped playground was shared by pupils of all ages but stressed it was supportive of sport and backed the importance of physical exercise.

In a statement it added: 'Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks, especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11.'


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