Wow, I think the school principal could have used a little more discretion.
May 29, 2008
WINCHENDON- Ten-year-old Bradley Geslak was suspended from school this week for bringing a Memorial Day souvenir to school.
The Toy Town Elementary School fourth-grader had received two empty rifle shell casings from blanks used during the town celebration held at the GAR Park Monday morning.
He brought one of the casings with him to school the next day.
"He was just playing with it at lunch," explained Crystal Geslak, Bradley's mother. "He wasn't showing it to anyone; he had it in his hand and was playing with it."
Bradley said a teacher saw him with it and told him to hand it over.
"The teacher told me to give it to her and I did," he said.
After the piece of brass was confiscated, Ms. Geslak was called at work and told to come and pick up her son; he was being suspended for the next five days.
Her son was in tears when she got there.
"I was totally shocked. I couldn't believe this was happening," she said.
"Ordinarily, I try to think ahead about things, but to me, this was something good, not bad. It was just an empty shell, not even from a real bullet. A sharpened pencil would be more dangerous than this piece of metal."
Her son had been given the two blank shells by a uniformed veteran who participated in the ceremony Monday. Bradley gave one to his grandfather and kept the other souvenir for himself.
Having received the souvenir from an adult, he never considered it wrong for him to have it, his mother said.
"He was so proud to have been given them. His dad's a veteran, his uncle's a veteran, both his grandfathers are veterans. Memorial Day is a big thing to us. It's a very important holiday and we have a big celebration every year," Ms. Geslak said.
She is now concerned about the impact that having the shell taken away will have on her son and his feelings about the holiday in the future.
According to the family, a school official said on Tuesday that the shell would not be returned to them. The family said they were also told that the next step might involve assigning a probation officer to Bradley.
They also said they don't know the whole story yet.
"When I went to pick him up, I was told that the teacher hadn't finished writing up her report on what took place and that I would get that later," Ms. Geslak said. "I would have thought that when deciding to suspend my son that they would have had a complete report ready for me."
School officials refused to comment on the incident yesterday, citing privacy regulations.
"I cannot give any comment on school suspensions," Principal Deborah Peterson said. "I cannot confirm or deny a suspension took place, and I cannot speak about anything involving a minor. It's all confidential, just like at a doctor's office."
Attempts to reach Superintendent Brooke Clenchy and School Committee Chairman Michael Niles for comment were unsuccessful.
"I am worried about what having a weapon-related suspension on his school record will mean to his future," his mother said.
"He's like any other 10-year-old kid. Sometimes he can have a bad attitude," she said. "We dealt with that once earlier this year and I don't want them to now think he is a bad kid or label him as one.
"If he had been suspended for having a bad attitude, I could have understood it. I would have supported them in that. But not for this. He didn't even know he did anything wrong," she said.
Ms. Geslak will have plenty of time to think about that in the coming days, because the suspension also means that she has had to give up hours at work to be with her son.