An attorney for an Anne Arundel County 7-year-old suspended from school for nibbling a pastry into the shape of a pistol has filed an appeal with the county school system to have the suspension overturned and the student's record expunged, saying he will "go all the way to the Maryland Court of Appeals" if needed to pursue the case.
"This kid was just as imaginative and is just as adventurous as Steve Jobs was at the age of 7," said Robin Ficker, a Montgomery County who has been hired by the student's father, J.B. Welch, to represent the family in the appeal.
"It would be funny if it wasn't so serious as it being on his record."
Park Elementary School student Josh Welch was suspended March 1 for two days after school officials accused him of shaping a breakfast pastry into the form of a gun and waving it around. School officials sent a letter home to Park Elementary parents saying that the student had been "removed from the classroom" for making "inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class."
"They tried to brand this kid and throw him under the bus, and he's going to be in the school system for more than 10 years," said Ficker, who contends the incident could reflect on Josh Welch later in his academic career in Anne Arundel County.
"Who knows what doubt he's not going to be given the benefit of later?" he asked
Ficker said he sent Welch's appeal via e-mail to Anne Arundel County Superintendent Kevin Maxwell on Thursday.
Bob Mosier, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, confirmed the school system had received the appeal, but could not comment on it. "We got it. It gets reviewed and we'll go from there," he said.
Josh Welch's suspension came in the wake of heightened security concerns in schools across the country following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children were killed.
The Park Elementary School incident became a national story in the weeks following Welch's suspension. Josh and his father appeared on FOX news and local television broadcasts, and the story has swept across the Internet, with critics saying the incident shows unnecessarily heightened fear and zero tolerance from government entities.
The suspension has prompted State Senator J.B. Jennings, a Republican from Baltimore County, to introduce a bill to prohibit principals "from suspending or expelling a student who brings to school or possesses on school property a picture of a gun, a computer image of a gun, a facsimile of a gun or any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose."
Ficker said the Welch case is the fourth time he has defended youngsters in cases where they have received suspensions for being accused to making a reference to weapon when no such weapon existed. In the other three -- which he said involved a first-grader in Montgomery County who pointed a finger at a fellow student, a second-grader in Loudon County, Va., and a kindergartner in Northumberland County, Pa. who talked about using a "bubble gun," the students' records were expunged, he said.
Ficker said in all four appeals he has requested apologies from the school systems, but has not received one. ___