Tuesday, January 21, 2020
US flag

Boy drew lynching, has to take mental health exam

After completing a class assignment that required him to draw a picture depicting censorship, an 11-year-old Maryland student had to miss school for a psychological exam and sign a contract saying he wouldn’t attempt suicide, the Associated Press reports.

His teacher at Montgomery Village Middle School misinterpreted the drawing, which showed the lynching of a black man, with two Ku Klux Klan members and the words “Black Lives Matter” in the frame, and thought the student was feeling hopeless about life and might do something to harm himself.

Sade Green, identified as the boy’s mother, was said to be furious about the incident, after a teacher sent her son to a counselor, who then recommended the boy seek the advice of mental health professionals.

Editorial

As teachers, we need to encourage creativity in our students. That means we need to encourage self-expression, not inhibit it. The second this teacher recommended that a boy be evaluated for psychological disturbances or possible suicidal tendencies based on a piece of artistic expression, that boy’s creativity took a blow like it has never experienced before.

“Most five year olds are totally confident that they can draw, sing, and dance,” writes Marvin Bartel of Goshen College in Indiana. “Tragically, within three or four years this child, if she is typical, will experience a crisis of confidence. She will no longer feel competent or creative. As teachers, we are often partly to blame for the diminished inclination to be creative as children become socialized and aware of their own limitations.

“The world needs more and more compassionate creativity to solve difficult problems confronting us,” he continues. “Creative people do not have answers, but they habitually question the status quo and think about alternatives and improvements. … When combined with empathy and compassion, creativity is bound to be a force for good.”

It is time for adults, teachers included, to celebrate not only the creativity of students but also their unique and individual ways of expressing it. What this student did was powerful, even raw, and any teacher who makes an assignment that includes artistic expression ought to be better trained in evaluating that student work. However, if other aspects of the student’s life would indicate that he had suicidal tendencies, then such a review would be appropriate. Absent any other sign of suicidal tendencies, though, this knee-jerk reaction on the part of a Maryland teacher reflects badly on the training he or she received as an education professional.

Honor not only what students know but how they show it.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.