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Jerry Davich: Fourth-grader’s sexy show-n-tell prompts one-day suspension

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Updated: January 14, 2014 11:18AM



It’s the phone call any parent would be unhappy about from their child’s school.

“Hello Mrs. Cress, this is the dean of students. I want to let you know that I have your son Cole here in the office with me,” said Jennifer Neal from Peifer Elementary School in Schererville. “Apparently, he brought some playing cards to school that have school-inappropriate pictures.”

The playing cards were, in fact, “Hooters” cards from the popular national restaurant chain which features its servers dressed in scantily-clad workout outfits. The cards were a bit more racy, with sexually suggestive photos featuring women sporting bikinis or less. Nothing X-rated, mind you, just sexy.

“Cole brought them and he has passed them out, showing other kids and sharing them. It’s created quite the disruption here at school,” Neal said in her voice mail to Cole’s mother, Angella Cress-Kuryga.

Cress-Kuryga returned the phone call and later learned that her son, a fourth-grader at that school, would be punished for his misdeed by a one-day suspension.

Suspension? Yes, suspension.

“This suspension includes all extracurricular activities and school-sponsored activities,” stated a letter given to Cress-Kuryga.

“Prior to being suspended, I provided Cole with an informal hearing on the alleged misconduct,” Neal wrote. “In this informal hearing, it was determined that his conduct violated the following validly adopted school rule(s) or provision(s) of Indiana law.”

For the record, this law is Indiana Code 20-33-8-14-a-1. Sounds very official, doesn’t it? Even dangerous or possibly criminal, huh? Instead, it’s Hooters cards on display.

“I was really taken back by the strong reaction from the school,” Cress-Kuryga told me after the suspension was served last Friday. “I just feel it is a bit much. The whole thing was just so blown out of proportion, in my mind.”

“They kept him in the office all day and made him eat lunch there until they could get a hold of me,” she added.

Two other kids also were suspended, I’m told, for the same “offense.” For more details, I contacted Neal, as well as the school’s principal and the district’s superintendent, but received no response.

It doesn’t matter really because this issue transcends an elementary school in Schererville, Indiana. It’s more about our society and its ridiculous politically-correct overreactions to what was once chalked up to either childish horseplay or “boys will be boys” mischief.

I mean it’s not like the boy brought a knife, gun or weapon to school, which immediately (and rightfully) sets off alarms in this country after all the mass shootings at schools. And it’s not like the boy was being a bully or attacking other students, I’m told.

He simply found playing cards that belonged to his older brother and he brought them into school, likely to show off to his friends. At that age, I would bring just about anything into school to make my friends laugh, or to break up the monotony of another boring school day. And I would probably have tried to sell them for a quarter a pop, as I did with other smuggled booty from home. But no such cards existed then.

Cole, on the other hand, dutifully served his one-day suspension and returned to school without incident.

Cress-Kuryga noted that the school her older son attends recently suspended a sixth-grade student for 10 days for selling marijuana and cocaine.

“In my opinion, that student should have been expelled and my son should have gotten a phone call home, possibly recess taken away or maybe a detention or something,” she told me. “Clearly, Lake Central School District has their priorities all out of whack.”

She posted something on Facebook about this incident and it sparked more feedback than she expected, as well as many unexpected opinions — in her favor.

“I braced myself for the certain friends who I was sure would tell me the school was right, and to scold me as a mother for taking a suspension so lightly,” she said. “But even they were shocked by the reaction of the school.”

I am, too, but then again I’m not. Our schools’ — and our society’s — “zero tolerance” policies are what’s being examined here. For instance, take the recent case of a 6-year-old boy from Colorado who was suspended from school for kissing a girl.

“It was during class,” young Hunter Yelton told reporters afterward. “We were doing reading group and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That’s what happened.”

“I did something wrong. They sent me to the office, fair and square. I feel sorry,” he said.

School officials there accused him of sexual harassment and added it to his official record. The boy’s mother is livid and understandably so. Even if the boy did this before, which he allegedly did, is it truly “sexual harassment”? Really?

(The school, after some outcry, removed the “sexual harassment” reference from the boy’s record.)

What do you say: Did that school go too far? Or does the punishment fit the “crime”? Should such “inappropriate” behavior be met with such stern consequences? Is this the only way to maintain order in schools thee days?

And, on a broader scale, is this strictly for safety reasons? Moral reasons? Learning a lesson reasons? Legal reasons?

These are some of the surreal questions and real-world dilemmas facing us as a society. It’s up to us to respond, to act, to take a side. Most schools are reacting to our society’s fears, norms, concerns, mores and dictates. Plus, they want to cover their butt in case anything goes wrong.

In the case of Cress-Kuryga’s fourth-grader son, I say a phone call and note to his parents and a stern “right versus wrong” reminder should do the trick. Not a suspension.

“Suspension from school attendance is a serious matter,” that letter stated.

Yes it is, I agree. But this incident is not.

Tenured discrimination?

Did an Indiana University Northwest professor get denied tenure because she is gay, prompting her to file a formal complaint?

I’ll explore this topic on today’s Casual Fridays radio show, in addition to talking with a representative from the school’s GLBT group, Connectionz.

Tune in at noon at 89.1-FM, streaming at www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org.

Call in with your questions or comments at 769-9577.



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