It could be a case of political correctness gone too far.
Or it could be a case of a student pushing the limits one too many times.
A story posted by a pair of out-of-state bloggers about an incident in Newhall set the internet afire Monday morning, alleging that the Newhall School District had expelled 11-year old Grayson Thomas for saying that KTLA news personality Chris Schauble looked like President Barack Obama.
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Schauble was visiting the campus of Stevenson Ranch Elementary School on November 4 to have lunch with his daughter and according to the bloggers, the daughter was offended by Thomas’s comment and complained to her teacher. The teacher called the principal, who in turn called Superintendent Marc Winger.
Thomas, who was attending Stevenson Ranch on an interdistrict waiver, had his waiver revoked and is no longer allowed to attend that campus. He has been transferred to Tesoro Del Valle Elementary, which is closer to his home.
Winger told KHTS that Grayson’s misbehavior in the past came into play when the incident occurred November 4.
“It’s not what he said, it’s how he said it,” Winger related, adding that student confidentiality precluded him from sharing many of the details.
“I can tell you that there was history and that the student had been counseled and we met with the parents,” he concluded.
What allegedly happened was that Grayson made the comment about the similarities between the newscaster and the President to a friend, which was overheard by a girl who related the comment to Schauble’s daughter who allegedly got upset and told her teacher.
As in any unwitnessed conversation, the exact wording sometimes gets lost in the translation. Winger told Thomas that his son’s comment inferred that “all black people look the same” and that, in the district’s eyes, is racist and a punishable offense.
Grayson was removed from his class immediately and sent home. No chance to get his things, no chance to say goodbye.
His father shared Grayson’s version of the story.
“He said that it was lunchtime and he got his food and went outside to eat with his friend. Having seen Schauble inside, dressed much like the President might be if he was visiting a school, he told his buddy that “President Obama’s here at our school,” trying to get them to go into the cafeteria and take a peek.
The boisterous comments were overheard by a girl who doesn’t get along with Grayson, who told Schauble’s daughter. Principal Candace Fleece interviewed the girls, and the boys, who said that Thomas’ comment was just a joke about how the men looked similar – tall, well-dressed, broad smile, friendly.
“Winger said he was teasing the girl, but the girl never directly heard him speak,” Thomas said. “He can’t tease a kid that isn’t there. He told me that when Grayson said it, that Chris looked like Barack Obama, what he was saying is that all black men look alike and that is racist.”
“I told him that your mind has melted under the pressure of political correctness,” he continued. “How can you ascertain what my kid was thinking? This is what George Orwell was warning us about. You’re telling me what an 11-year-old boy is thinking?”
Thomas asked for an apology, but Winger told him that was not going to happen.
Thomas admitted that there had been previous problems, explaining that Grayson had been involved in a minor theft of school supplies with other students from a student-run store and he had also been accused of making an inappropriate comment to a girl a couple of years ago. Witnesses defended Thomas and said he did not make the comment. The theft was dealt with by the parents of the boys involved and the boys were given on-campus detention.
No matter what the Newhall District contends, this problem hasn’t gone away and it looks to be getting more serious. The girl who overheard Grayson’s comments has been texting him on his cellphone, telling him that they had a party to celebrate his removal from the school.
“He told her to stop texting him and she responded F-U and called him a stalker,” Thomas said. He’s taking hard copies of the texts to the sheriff’s department, which could take this incident from a schoolyard remark into a hate crime.
Thomas contends that the school district used discretion in previous cases, but in this case, it seems like everything was a rushed judgment.
“I told Winger, ‘there’s something to defend here because he’s not wrong. He didn’t make a mistake, didn’t do anything racist. He didn’t deserve to be tossed aside like this. You should not be the thought police.
“They could have made this a teachable moment. We have a good school, a nice town, but when we start allowing people to determine the thoughts and intents, it becomes a scary place to be – to have no recourse or common sense.”