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12 year old suspended for playing the staring game

Oct 6, 2015

In a case that is even leaving right wing trolls stuttering for answers, a 12 year old was suspended from school for playing the staring game- engaging in a staring contest- with a classmate. In order for this story to make any sense at all, it becomes necessary to reveal the least important details about the entire affair: the boy is Black and the girl, while reported in the media to be white, is actually Asian with white parents, and the boy was suspended for 'intimidating' the girl.

This all went down at the St. Gabriel Consolidated School in Glendale, OH, just outside of Cincinnati. St. Gabriel is a private Catholic with a strict code of conduct, which includes a trump card for the principal to determine all punishments, irrespective of relevant facts: “The principal is the final recourse in all disciplinary matters and may waive any and all rules at his/her discretion for just cause.”

While the teacher briefly left the classroom, the boy and girl engaged in a staring match, where the object is to hold out from blinking the longest. By all accounts that came forth, the girl engaged willingly and giggled throughout the game. 

It should be said that giggling does not preclude a young girl being intimidated by a young boy. The boy even wrote a letter of apology, insisting he was both sorry for and unaware of the intimidation.

In addition to the racial component of the interaction, the boy's parents, Candice and Darryl Tolbert, assert that the punishment was disparate because other children have engaged in worse conduct that a staring contest without any disciplinary actions taken against them at all. In one example, the parents point to an incident involving the girl herself, when she allegedly poured her milk aggressively onto another student's lunch and was not punished for the act. Of course she should not have been punished for the act, but then neither should have the Tolbert boy.

In addition to exposing the extent to which "zero tolerance" environments for young people lend themselves to the school-to-prison pipeline, the entire episode is seems eerily like a 2015 version of Emmit Till, simultaneously revealling how far we have come- the boy was not lynched- and how we have not come far at all. 

In addition to being treated as if he committed a crime, sending a clear message to the other Black chldren in the Catholic school, the suspension is now part of the child's permanent record that can impact his ability to get into another private school or even college that is concerned about allowing in students with a documented history of intimidating women.

During the first week of October 2015- the incident took place in 2014- the Hamilton County court rejected pleas from the Tolberts to remove the suspension from the child's record. With no where else to turn, the Tolberts have launched an online petition demanding the school wipe the suspension from their child's record and reimburse them for the hefty legal fees incurred by this incident. The petition can be signed right below:

Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) is supporting the Tolbert family as they launch the national Let Kids Be Kids campaign fighting against school suspensions, criminalization in schools and the school to prison pipeline.