7 yr old commited a crime by snorting?

Our 7 year old son in in second grade this year. He is very smart, but sometimes thinks he is too smart and tries to defy his teachers. We have worked closely with his teachers and the school principal to improve his behavior. Last year he was suspended a couple of times for it. This year, he had some discipline problems early and then with a lot of pressure from all of us, his behavior improved dramatically. Many days he was actually one of the best behaved students in his classroom. Then last Halloween, he smarted off to his teacher again. He made a snorting noise as he often does when he is disgusted with things his nose and some snot landed on the teacher’s arms. He says he did not mean to actually snot on the teacher. It turned out he was very sick that day, and within 24 hours he developed a fever of 104. He was immediately sent to the principal’s office, which I would agree with. However, the principal then immediately called the school’s public safety officers. When I got there, there was a uniformed and armed officer already there. The principal and the safety officer were calling the event an assault. He got into my son’s face and told him what he did was a crime and if he had done that to him, he would have been immediately sent to juvinile hall. Furthermore, he told him he would be one of the people they see being slammed on the hood of a car on COPS some day. He made a report to the local juvinile office.

I called several people about the incident, including another second grade teacher, a juvinile lawyer, a person who worked as a school nurse in that school, and someone close to the administrator of a private school. None of them say they would have handled the situation that way. In fact, a very common response was ‘you’re kidding!’. As a result, my wife and I feel we can no longer trust the principal or teacher of that school to deal with our son in a fair, measured, and apporpriate way All the effort and good will we developed working with the principal and teachers the past two plus years has been destroyed with this one event.

Is this a normal response for school personelle to a situation like this? Am I right to think the school grossly over-reacted to the situation? Have things like this happened in the schools in your areas?

When a kid that age shows that level of attitude, I’m not surprised that some adults see it as a problem which requires a strong and definite response to stave off a long line of problems in the future.

However, I would say that threatening a 7 year old with being sent to juvenile hall for something where the intent is unclear and getting into his face for it with comments like ending up on Cops was out of line. At the very least, I’d expect an apology from the security officer – his job isn’t to scare children, his job is to enforce school rules and security and maintain a safe environment. A safe environment should also include safety from threats and intimidation from other students and the adults in the school alike.

Such an incident would certainly make me wary about how the administration and personel at the school viewed my child, and how fair they would be with him in the future.

I’m curious about two things – first, you say that this happened last Halloween, do you mean one year and four days ago? If so, why are you still fulminating over this? Have there been incidents since?

Second, you say that the security officer reported the incident to local juvenile authorities. Was there any follow up? Did a social worker or a juvenile officer visit or call you to discuss this incident with you or lay out any guidelines for your son’s future behavior to help avoid further problems?

AIDS tends to make people nervous, so I can understand the extreme emotional reaction.

Looks to me like the school district has the law on their side, and that the cop was technically correct. Now, as to whether this is the best way to handle a 7-year-old with behavior problems, I can’t say, not being familiar with the particulars. Probably if it had been a kid who didn’t already have a history of behavior problems, they’d have let it slide.


I’m curious about two things – first, you say that this happened last Halloween, do you mean one year and four days ago? If so, why are you still fulminating over this? Have there been incidents since?
It was this Halloween, 2003. I should have probably specified more clearly.

IMO that was a totally inappropriate and damaging over-response by the school, and if it were my kid he would be out of there, absent a complete apology from the school.

But maybe standards are different here.

I think many adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. Things were always happening to me that I didn’t anticipate. Kids aren’t able to predict the outcomes of their actions, or the consequences to themselves or others, or the way their actions might be percieved by adults.

I even got a few comments about my “smart mouth” from my own little friends (!) after their hearing me talk to my dad. I honestly didn’t think that I was was being a brat; he had let me learn to argue and ridicule bad thinking to the point where I got (slightly) sarcastic and sassy about things he said, and he put up with it.

The point being that kids are constantly getting themselves into situations way over their heads. This was innapropriate, unless the officer honestly thinks that your son purposefully blew onto the teacher.

Wait a second… a “Snort” caused this? By which you mean a nasal exhalation? I wasn’t aware that exhaling was illegal… although we all know what the gov’t. thinks about INhaling!

And the child was sick at the time? Isn’t it more or less a given that the exhalation of a (pardon the term) snot-nosed kid will, in fact, contain some snot?

In addition, it was only the proximity of the child to the teacher that made such an ‘assault’ possible. I doubt the child voluntarily went up to the desk; did the teacher not bring him close?

So you call a sick child to the front of the room and they drip snot on you. How is that a crime?

If it IS a crime, then the childs NOSE IS A WEAPON!

The teacher can file Assault charges if the child POINTS his NOSE at him/her!!

The child’s nose must not be brought to school!

Are we going to start having nose-detectors at airports, courthouses, and schools now?

“I’m sorry sir, you can’t bring that nose on the plane.”

And as for the police officer… I guess the word ‘illegal’ in the definition of assault makes his threat to smash the child into the hood of a car perfectly ok?

Did the officer stand close to the child while speaking? Did he, at any point, release saliva during his speech which might have landed on the child? How would that be different from the child’s actions ‘against’ the teacher? Oh, right… badge and gun, nevermind.
On a completely different note, I’d like to make a wild-ass guess about the reason the child snorts.

The teacher makes some statement the child finds funny. Of course he can’t openly laugh about it, that would get him in trouble. So he tries to stifle the laugh, and it comes out his nose instead. Involuntary response.

I know it took me a very long time to learn to stifle that one myself!

Disagree. If the OP is telling the truth (which he probably is not, because let’s face reality – it’s difficult for people to look at their own behaviour or their children’s behaviour objectively. I don’t see how a snort could result in a flying booger. More likely, the kid meant to do what he did; has done it many times before; and is now claiming he didn’t mean it), there was no intent to cause harmful or offensive contact. So no assault.

As a cop who has been put it dumb situations like this, let me translate what happened. The teacher has a behavior problem with a student and pushes it off on the principal. the principal then tries to push the problem on the cop because they don’t want to deal with it. The cop can’t really do much so to try to stop future problems he tries to scare the brat with horrible punishments. of course then the parent calls a lawyer

It sounds to me like the only assault was committed by the school’s faculty. Call the school superintendant and file a complaint. Describe what happened and tell him that you want the principal fired. This person has no business being in the same building as your children.

IMHO, any teacher or principal who calls in an officer to handle a situation with a 7-year old child makes a fool of himself. If he cannot cope with that on his own, it may be best not to let him be in charge of your child any more.

And the cop gets his hat handed to him in court for being a macho dumbass and indulging in behavior that verges on abuse. The parent calls a lawyer because the cop crossed a line beyond acceptable policing. Last time I checked, making threats against little children is not considered good police practice, but I also don’t live in a police state.

You seem to be asking more for opinions suggestions and anecdotes than facts, so I’ll move this thread to IMHO.

moderator GQ

You know when I snort I breath in my nose. How do you snort and blow OUT snot?

Let it go. You’ve had your vent.
If you don’t, your child will always have this story as part of himself.
That’s where shrinks make all their dough, is people who belabor past stories about their kids until their kids feel it is a major part of their psyche, for good or evil, usually for shame.

I’m actually finding it difficult to fault the principal in this situation. The OP has rationalized booger-shot down to a harmless unintentional side effect of his typical expression of frustration, but from his teacher’s perspective, it was no different than having a mouthy kid go off and spit on the teacher. That’s seriously disruptive behavior that can’t be tolerated in a classroom.

The OP mentions that the child, at the age of 7, already has several suspensions, and that meetings about the child’s behavior have already taken place with the principal. I get the impression that the child has no respect for the principal, so the principal had little choice but to try to elevate the discipline to a higher level. That’s a tough situation for a principal to be in, since nowadays he is under such a huge microscope – if he raises his voice too harshly or says the wrong thing, parents are running off to lawyers and the school board. The principal had to elevate the descipline to some level that the child might respect.

It does seem that the public safety officer’s rebuke was a bit over the top, but then again, having a child with such behavior as to earn multiple suspensions by age 7 calls for a little more than your average “tsk tsk!”

I wouldn’t call any lawyers or complain to the school board. Giving the OP’s side of the story the benefit of the doubt, the response was slightly overboard, but making a big stink out of it only detracts from the message your son needs to get from this: nasty behavior leads to nasty situations. I would seriously consider a change of schools, possibly at the beginning of the next school year, as your son has built up a reputation at the current school. Teachers are going to see him as “that brat that had the cops called on him for spitting on his teacher” and treat him accordingly, and that’ll only help him to live down to those low expectations. If you can get his attitude in check, a fresh start might do a world of good.

I understand what you’re saying, but I think a kid who has behaved badly in the past needs to understand that they aren’t always going to get called down regardless of who actually was “the bad guy” in a particular incident, that if someone else behaves badly, that person will get called on it if it’s too big to just let go.

It’s damaging to a kid to know that his parents will always back him up, no matter what, and it’s also damaging to a kid to know that his parents will never back him up. (NOTE: I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here; I don’t think it is.)

To the OP: yes, the school overreacted, and yes, it seems that they have lost their objectivity as relates to your son. Maybe you should try to point that out to them.

Then the teacher’s perception is a bit off, CrazyMonkey, because spitting is an intentionally disrespectful and gross behavior, whereas what this kid did was unintentional, and, though slightly disrespectful, nowhere near as disrespectful as spitting. What did he do, exactly? He exhaled through his nose (to express disagreement or disgust, most likely), which is a fairly common way to indicate non-verbally that you don’t agree with what’s going on. (That’s not exactly polite, but it’s certainly nowhere near spitting or flipping someone off.) Since he was getting sick, some snot came out of his nose.

Well, according to the 7 year old it was unintentional. Young children who are in trouble are not exactly known for being completely truthful. Let’s not forget that the snort was completely intentional, and VERY disrespectful of the teacher.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be mightily upset if some 7 year old snorted at me! If it takes a cop yelling at him to teach him some respect for his elders, then so be it.

Guess I’m not cut out to be a teacher, since I don’t want little kids to mouth off to me then snot on me, and not be disciplined for it.

Well, of course kids shouldn’t mouth off to their elders. Or anyone, for that matter. It’s rude. But the OP said the kid has a habit of exhaling through the nose when he’s disgusted, and also, he was getting sick. I have a hard time believing that he saved up snot and made a smart remark for the express purpose of getting close enough to the teacher to snot on her, or even that he snotted on her on purpose when the opportunity presented itself. At the very least, calling it “assault” is way over the top.

Smarting off absolutely should not be tolerated, of course. For that, I imagine an appropriate response would be, oh, making him miss a recess. Having a uniformed officer get in his face and tell him he was destined to be a criminal was a completely inappropriate response to the actions of a seven-year-old.