A second grader draws one person shooting another and labels them “me” and “you.” Cause for concern?

UPDATE: Folks, I closed comments on this at 10 p.m. Friday. Have a great holiday weekend. Maureen

A former-teacher-turned-advocate has been talking to me about an incident involving his second grader and a classmate. The classmate had handed his child a drawing of one figure shooting another. The boy labeled the shooter “me” and the victim “you.” In the primitive sketch, both the stick figure shooter and the victim are smiling.

Upset by the possible implications of the sketch, the former educator and his wife went to the school but were unhappy with how their concerns were addressed.

Here is a description he wrote about the entire experience. What do you think?

I am a former educator and most recently represented educators on various issues. One would be hard pressed to find a parent more understanding of the demands facing educators today. Schools often talk about their desire to have parental involvement in the education process. This has been the retort anytime challenges present themselves in the school system –  “We need more parental involvement, more parents who care.”

So when parents seek open lines of communication and have questions about the learning environment of their child, one would expect the school to welcome collaboration rather than a seemingly ritualistic dance around the issue. My family recently experienced “the dance” from one of Georgia’s premier school systems at an award-winning school when our child was given a picture drawn by a second-grade classmate of a person shooting someone. Most disturbing were the captions; the artist labeled the shooter “me” and the victim “you.”

When our child told us about the picture, we were appalled that school officials had not contacted us immediately. Without knowing the severity of the threat, the school could have demonstrated some care and concern, if its administrators had been proactive, and at least informed us. Nothing.

We went to the school the next morning to inquire about the situation and were told that the administration was going to contact my family “after an investigation was complete.” We were told that the administration was going to ask the school resource officer to look at it and make a determination. To the school’s credit, they later involved the school counselor and the school psychologist.

When speaking with a direct report to the superintendent of the school system about why school psychologists were not automatically involved, we were told, “School psychologists can just say whatever you want them to say; you can pay them to say anything.” I have tremendous respect for school psychologists and was gravely disappointed to hear this from a central office official.

The investigation was deemed complete after two days, and the conclusion was that our child was not in any danger. We asked for the other child to be placed in another class. That was denied immediately. We are still struggling with questions.

–Why was this given to our child? We were told that this child had an entire notebook of pictures.

– Our child has never considered this classmate a friend. When we shared this info with the school along with the fact that our child had not had good interactions with this child, it did not change their perspective.

–Who are the people labeled “me” and “you?”

–Did they find this picture developmentally appropriate for a second grader?

–  We were told the school determined that our child is not in any danger. What made them sure of this?

The school psychologist admitted that she was not given all of the information and indicated that the picture was concerning. When we met with the principal, she ended our meeting by saying, “I don’t think there is anything left to discuss.” She did not ask if our child felt safe or if we still had concerns.

When we asked to meet with the other parents so that we could figure this out, we were told that the school does not facilitate parental meetings. If our child had given this drawing to anyone, my wife and I would be crawling over each other to apologize to the family of the other child.

Neither the school nor the system did anything to make sure that our child or my wife and I were comfortable with how the situation was addressed. They were more concerned with protecting the rights of the child who gave the picture to my son.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

281 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:03 am

Hate to say it to the former educator involved, but you may just have to SHAME the school system into being more responsive. The are taking the path of LEAST resistance, which is to duck and cover. You may have to make that the path of MOST resistance, by letting the media shine a spotlight on it.

Two Cents

December 29th, 2011
7:04 am

Plenty of concern should be involved. What if this kid shows up at school with a loaded gun and threatens another student or teacher? Safety should be the main priority. Did they talk to the parents of the student who drew the picture? The attitude of the principal and administrators are disgusting.

East Repeat

December 29th, 2011
7:05 am

Simple. The picture was of kids firing those little Nerf darts at each other. We got a couple to “hunt” the cat and dog with. Morning, Liberals!

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:06 am

“My family recently experienced “the dance” from one of Georgia’s premier school systems at an award-winning school when our child was given a picture drawn by a second-grade classmate of a person shooting someone”

It looks like they are trying to protect their reputation. You may just have to promise them you will SHATTER their reputation, by bring the media in to shine a spotlight on it.

Patrick

December 29th, 2011
7:08 am

Wow. There is a big difference between parental involvement and parental fear mongering. Guess which group that “former educator” is in. That person seems like they would not be happy unless they were given everything they want. That person also seems like a “helicopter parent” and is not doing their “precious snowflake” any good.

3rd Grade Teacher

December 29th, 2011
7:15 am

My first inclination after reading this post is that the other child is a Behavior Disordered (aka BD) student. I am repeatedly shocked at the wide variance given BD students. We have BD students that have threatened, choked other students, hit teachers and students, and completely disrupted classrooms. They are removed briefly, and occasionally given ISS, but return to the room the next day. When parents of the victims inquire about the other student, they are given very little information and administrators seem dismissive of the event. In reality, the administrators are restricted from sharing information and their hands are tied to invoke more significant consequences due to special education laws.

The above case may not be a BD case, but it definitely resembles some of the ones I’ve seen in the schools.

Homeschooler

December 29th, 2011
7:17 am

LET BOYS BE BOYS!!!! Personally, I’m glad that the school system showed common sense for once. 7 yr old boys love to draw pictures of guns and people shooting each other. My 11 yr old loved to draw people falling out of planes, getting stabbed with knives, shooting each other. He would put his name on the shooter and his cousin’s name on the “victim”. He adores his teenage cousin but likes to say he hates him because, again, that’s what boys do. My son is home schooled. He didn’t have a game system until he was 10 and we watch Little House on the Prairie every night as a family. He’s not subjected to “bad” kids in school or violent TV. He is quite interested in wars and can discuss any event from the Trojan War to VIetnam because that’s what boys like. Not all boys, of course. Some are content with being stifled as our society forces dolls on them and takes away toy guns. But others will be frustrated and not be able to become the strong, protective men that they were meant to be. People like these parents and schools who call DFCS every time a child draws a violent picture are hampering the development of these boys. I speak from experience. I have seen these kids reported to dfcs on several occasions. Recently, I was closely involved in a situation where a young boy drew a picture of his teachers hanging. They were little stick figures. DFCS was called in because the parents did not have him assessed for homicidal ideations. Seriously! Remember the Row, Row Row your Boat song about throwing our teachers overboard in school? Maybe we all should have been “assessed”. The boy who drew the hanging teachers said he did it to make his friends laugh. Of course he did. That’s what boys do!
With the little bit I know about this situation, I suspect that the teachers know this kid well enough to know that he meant no harm to his friend so they didn’t blow things out of proportion. Good. Honestly they probably see 7 – 10 yr old boys drawing pictures like this all the time. I hope they do. Personally I’m worried about what our schools and society are doing to our growing men.
Now, having said all that. There have been cases of 7 yr old boys bringing guns to school. There are also cases of children targeting and bullying other children. I would hope that a school would notice a child who shows those sorts of tendencies AND draws a picture of himself shooting another child. And I would hope they would take it very seriously. I would like to know if this child had threatened the writer’s child in any other way or if he was just drawing pictures. Was the “victim” scared of this child? I suspect not.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:17 am

Sounds to me like the parents have LEGITIMATE questions:

Who is “you’ and “me”? Why is that NOT a legitimate question?

Does the school find the picture developmentally appropriate for a second grader? Why is that NOT a legitimate question?

What criteria was used to determine why their child was not in any danger? Why is that NOT a legitimate question?

Why was the school psychologist not initially involved? Why is that NOT a legitimate question?

When the school psychologist admits to some concern about the picture, why is it NOT a legitimate question to ask what role he/she did or did not play in determining a student was not in danger?

You have a child who has drawn a violent image, and EXPLICITLY labeled it. You have a school that CANNOT explain the criteria it used to determine there is no danger from the photo, even as THEIR professional admits they weren’t fully in the involved in the process of making that determination.

And you want to claim the parents have NO legitimate concerns?

Really?

Mik

December 29th, 2011
7:24 am

Just shows what our society has become. Even for kids everthing must be politically correct. When George Orwell wrote 1984 it looks like he only missed by a few years.

drew (former teacher)

December 29th, 2011
7:25 am

Really!! Why react when you can over react? It boggles my mind that these parents have gotten their panties in a bunch over a stick figure drawing by a 2nd grader.

“The investigation was deemed complete after two days, and the conclusion was that our child was not in any danger. We asked for the other child to be placed in another class. That was denied immediately. We are still struggling with questions.”

Instead of demanding that the budding artist be removed from the class, perhaps they should have asked that THEIR child be moved to another class. Sounds like the school investigated and determined the child was not in danger. End of story. Here’s a suggestion…forget about it and move on.

And if you’re going to “read things” into the drawing, you need to consider that the stick figures were both smiling. ;-)

Greg S.

December 29th, 2011
7:27 am

What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if…What if… What if, it all meant nothing and you and the rest of America were simply over reacting?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:30 am

“Sounds like the school investigated and determined the child was not in danger. End of story. Here’s a suggestion…forget about it and move on.”

If it is really THAT easy, then in should be THAT easy for the school to address their concerns.

Simply explain WHAT WAS THE CRITERIA they used to determine their child was in no danger?

What LEGITIMATE reason would a school system have for not answering that question?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:32 am

“What if, it all meant nothing and you and the rest of America were simply over reacting?”

And what in it means SOMETHING and a child is SERIOUSLY hurt because the school cannot give a SIMPLE, DIRECT, and HONEST answer to a LEGITIMATE question:

WHAT CRITERIA did you use, to determine their is no danger to my child?

Why is this NOT a legitimate question?

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
7:42 am

“They were more concerned with protecting the rights of the child who gave the picture to my son.”

As they should be. Witch hunts are inappropriate in schools, whether they be driven by administration… or parents.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:43 am

From Beverly Fraud

WHAT CRITERIA did you use, to determine their is no danger to my child?

Why is this NOT a legitimate question?

Ok, let’s try it this way: Even though the school has NO EXPLANATION for their assertion that the child is in no danger the parents should accept it AT FACE VALUE because_____________?

Try to fill in the blank that with something WITHOUT looking completely ridiculous in the process

-Because schools are always COMPETENT in these matters?

-Because schools always act with INTEGRITY in these matters?

Again, try to fill in the blank with something that doesn’t make you look COMPLETELY ridiculous.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:47 am

“They were more concerned with protecting the rights of the child who gave the picture to my son.”

Let’s see if we can get this straight: A child draws a violent image, with an IMPLICIT threat, and hands it to another child. And the school can offer NO PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION as to why they don’t consider that image a threat.

And we should be more concerned with THAT child’s rights, not the rights of the child who was threatened?

Really?

And the

crystal

December 29th, 2011
7:49 am

To a parent, the most important element in a possible altercation is their child. To an administrator, the most important element is their job, which means ultimately protecting the organization, not the child. When you have competing priorities, you will receive conflicting and inadequate information.

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
7:49 am

“And the school can offer NO PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION as to why they don’t consider that image a threat.”

Perhaps because it was drawn by a second grader, who has no legal access to guns?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:51 am

I notice all the critics of the parents have ONE thing in common.

They cannot, or will not explain, why is it NOT a legitimate question for the parents to ask WHAT CRITERIA did the school use to determine their child is in no danger.

Again, why is this NOT a legitimate question for a parent to ask?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
7:54 am

“And the school can offer NO PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION as to why they don’t consider that image a threat.”

Perhaps because it was drawn by a second grader, who has no legal access to guns?

Jeff did you just really say that, and by saying that somehow imply that because a child has no “legal access” to guns, he cannot bring a gun or other weapon to school, or in some other way act violently?

Did all the other kids who HAVE brought guns to school have “legal access” to them?

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
8:00 am

Beverly: 1) You have no way to know that he has ANY access to any gun. 2) Neither does the school, without building probable cause to get a search warrant issued. This image would not constitute such probable cause in any court I am aware of.

And yes, at least SOME school shootings have been perpetrated by kids old enough to legally have access to the weapons themselves. (In Ga, I believe early teens have access to rifles, though I believe 18 is the youngest allowed for handguns. Could be wrong.)

Call it like it is

December 29th, 2011
8:01 am

You dont need to provide a plausible explanation for common sense. Its a child drawing a simple doodle. Not every person that wears a turban has a bomb strap to themselves, not every “child” that draws a silly picture is going to come to your school and shoot up everyone.

Silly and over the top. Only good thing I read about this story is the mother doesnt teach anymore, thank goodness.

Have to go now, I just saw that my daughter is drawing a rocket leaving the earth. This must mean she is planing an attack on China, anybody know the number to 911.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:02 am

Let’s be CRYSTAL clear here: I’m not saying their ISN’T a plausible explanation.

But if there IS a plausible explanation as to why the child, the child who was given at the very least an IMPLICIT threat of FATAL violence, then why is it NOT legitimate for a parent to ask the school what EXACTLY is that plausible reason, and how did the “professionals” make that determination?

LibertyBell

December 29th, 2011
8:03 am

Drew(former teacher) raises a valid point. If the school determined this was not a true threat, or a substantial disruption by the other child, then the parents need to request that THEIR child be removed from the classroom.

School officials probably know this second grader pretty well. If they have deemed it an innocent drawing by a seven-year-old, it may very well be true. If it is a drawing from a developmentally disabled child, they can’t disclose this to anyone. The bottom line is that noone is going to look after your child better than you are, so if he truly felt threatened and it means moving him to a new class, different school, or some other option, don’t abdicate your responsibility to your child. You certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to move him out of this school, and as parent’s, we sometimes have to make sacrifices to do this when it is in the best interest of our children.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:05 am

“Have to go now, I just saw that my daughter is drawing a rocket leaving the earth. This must mean she is planing an attack on China, anybody know the number to 911.”

Did your child hand the picture over to the Chinese Embassy, with a note saying “This is you?”

Atlanta Mom

December 29th, 2011
8:09 am

The parent said “I have tremendous respect for school psychologists “.
Interesting, the only school psychologists I’ve run into are much closer to the superindent’s description (“School psychologists can just say whatever you want them to say).

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:11 am

Beverly: 1) You have no way to know that he has ANY access to any gun.

Jeff, but the child COULD be violent in other ways. And the child COULD be an angel who likes to doodle.

What LEGITIMATE reason does the school have, to not bring the psychologist in a say “When we access the potential for a student to be violent toward another, we look at this factors (A,B,C, and so on) We do not see this child engaging in these behaviors, therefore we do not, in our best opinion, see this child as a threat to your child’s safety?

What is so COMPLETELY wrong with a parent, whose child has been given an implicit threat of violence, wanting to know the answer to that question in plain, simple, English?

bob

December 29th, 2011
8:13 am

Beverly, are you allowed to vote ?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:15 am

“School officials probably know this second grader pretty well.”

Really Liberty? And don’t you think the Westlake High administration “knew the boy pretty well” who PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED a school resource officer? And they STILL let him back into school 3 days later to break another student’s jaw!

What Liberty, makes you think that, just because they “knew the student pretty well” they would act with INTEGRITY?

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
8:17 am

Beverly:

Because absent probable cause of a crime, the school (and especially the parent) has ZERO right to question that kid. And if there IS probable cause, the school shouldn’t handle it anyway – the cops should.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:17 am

I guess we can add bob to the list of apologists for the school system NOT giving these parents the information they DESERVE, so they can make an INFORMED decision about their child’s safety.

Give me a break

December 29th, 2011
8:19 am

Random things that 7 yr old KIDS can not do in school today:
1) Have Fun 2) Joke around with friends 3) Get out of their seats 4) Forget to take their Ritalin
5) Wear jeans with holes in them 6) ride a bike without a helmet and elbow pads
6) keep a dream journal (just ask the girl that was kicked out of Roswell HS)
7) Say, draw, or think the word “gun” – after all, it’s only something they see on the school bus, in gym lockers, read & see every day in the news and the main prop in 85% of modern movies… just don’t “threaten” anyone by drawing a picture of it.

Joe Frank

December 29th, 2011
8:20 am

For GOODNESS SAKES!! They are SECOND GRADERS!!! Do the people involved work at the TSA?
People need to CHILL OUT! (Sorry I capitalized, Did not mean to sound threatening!)

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:26 am

On Feb. 29, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed classmate Kayla Rolland at their elementary school outside Flint, Michigan.

Sure it’s NOT a common occurrence. But these parents are supposed to accept AT FACE VALUE that the school system is being COMPLETELY HONEST with them?

Really? Because school systems have EARNED that trust, perhaps?

Dad

December 29th, 2011
8:35 am

Its too bad the parents are so busy pointing fingers and blaming others… They are missing out on a prime opportunity for a valuable learning experience by talking with their child about guns and relationships with others.

Its about responsibility people…. Your own responsibility. Its easy to point fingers at school personnel, psychistrists, and the other kids parents and say its their fault, they didnt do the right thing, they should have done this or that.m, Unfortunately thats the message they’re gonna pass onto their kid. Too bad. Missing out on a golden opprtunity to teach their kid a life lesson by wasting time pointing fingers.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:36 am

Beverly:

Because absent probable cause of a crime, the school (and especially the parent) has ZERO right to question that kid.

It’s not a crime to threaten somebody? Then why do we have “safe school” zones? Sorry that dog don’t hunt. A COMPETENT administration could have still addressed this parents concerns.

Even IF they couldn’t comment directly on the child, they could have explained the CRITERIA they use in accessing a threat. There is ZERO excuse not to have done that. ZERO.

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
8:36 am

Beverly: This is a dangerous world, and nothing the schools can do can prevent it.

Want your kid to be absolutely safe? Build a solid concrete bunker 100 feet under ground, with walls made of a 20′ thick slab of concrete sandwiched between 2 10′ thick layers of steel. Inside that bunker, round every edge perfectly smooth, then clothe your child in 2′ of wool, cotton, and bubble wrap. Ensure no visitors, as they could harm your child. Feed the child via carefully measured and screened IV injections. And even then, your child would not be absolutely safe!

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:39 am

Its too bad the parents are so busy pointing fingers and blaming others… They are missing out on a prime opportunity for a valuable learning experience by talking with their child about guns and relationships with others.

And just what lesson is the child supposed to learn Dad? That if someone makes an implicit death threat toward you, you should trust the GOVERNMENT to decide whether it or not you need to be LEGALLY MANDATED to share space with that person on a daily basis?

Great lesson there!

teacher

December 29th, 2011
8:39 am

Beverly….Where do you see that the parents weren’t given an answer as to why it wasn’t a threat?
Perhaps they weren’t satisfied with the answer that the school psychologist, the principal, the resource officer, probably the teacher and the school counselor gave.

They were given an answer; they just weren’t happy with it.

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:43 am

Beverly: This is a dangerous world, and nothing the schools can do can prevent it.

Agreed. It comes down to reasonable risk and making INFORMED decisions. Which is why again, there is ZERO excuse for a school not to tell a parent, how they assess the difference between a “doodle” and a “warning sign”.

Because if they have no way to EXPLAIN how they make that assessment, how can a parent trust that it is even an accurate assessment?

Dooley

December 29th, 2011
8:43 am

Beverly,

If you are unhappy with the resolution, then leave the public school system and enroll your child into private school. Can’t afford it? BS. If you want to make the change bad enough, you will do whatever it takes in order to make that happen. You may have to downsize your home, you car, work multiple jobs, etc. You will have to make some sacrifices.

If you think elementary school is bad, wait till middle school.

teacher

December 29th, 2011
8:43 am

Twenty years ago, I would have ignored it and moved on with school, but with today’s childrens’ lack of moral code, I would be concerned. Kids today have no sense of right or wrong. This has been taught to them by tolerance programs at school, their fun-loving church and their allowance to watch whatever they want since they were small.
Yeah, take it as a serious issue.

williebkind

December 29th, 2011
8:44 am

What the h*ll! This family is a bunch of whimps! GAD! I can not believe you would give time for this stupid family. Is the topic list so bad you resort to writing this? These are seven year olds with a run a way imagination. I know tell this whimpy family to home school and lock their kids up so no one can get to them. The sad thing is that these people reproduced. This is what is wrong with public schools.

carlosgvv

December 29th, 2011
8:45 am

Jeff – 8:36

So, I guess schools in Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, France and Germany also have these identical problems? And, of course, I’m sure schools in Japan, China and Russia also deal with these problems every day. Right boobie?

Dad

December 29th, 2011
8:46 am

Bev…please tell me you’re not a parent.

Mine are all grown and haven’t shot anyone or been shot by anyone. They are responsible for THEIR OWN actions and do not blame others and point fingers when they make a mistake. They learn from it…which is the entire point of my post.

This kids parents are whiners, complainers, shirk responsibility, pass the buck, blame others, and are approaching child rearing incorrectly. Kind of reminds me of Obama and his sheep.

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
8:47 am

Beverly: Who looks at a drawing from a 7 yr old and sees “threat”? I see… a drawing from a 7 yr old. Again, show probable cause that a crime has been committed…

BC

December 29th, 2011
8:47 am

Wow, didn’t make it through all these comments, but…..
I would have to agree with the majority of those I did read…
Get a grip buddy, all this situation required was an explanation to these kids that this kind of joking around is not a good idea. Your kids are gonna end up being some weenies if you coddle them too much.

Jeff

December 29th, 2011
8:48 am

Carlos: Those nations have no 2nd Amendment…

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:49 am

teacher, it’s directly in Maureen’s post:

– We were told the school determined that our child is not in any danger. What made them sure of this?

The school psychologist admitted that she was not given all of the information and indicated that the picture was concerning.

So the school psychologist is admitting that the school made the determination that the child is no danger WITHOUT the full input of a school psychologist who admits the imagery is “concerning”

And we want these parents to take AT FACE VALUE everything the school administration has to say?

Really?

Beverly Fraud

December 29th, 2011
8:52 am

I guess Dad would have told Kayla Rolland (if she were ALIVE that is) that it’s HER fault for not being able to disarm her 6 year old classmate?