Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lying with facts - Taunton school edition

Here is a followup to Tuesday's story, about the boy from Taunton who drew the crucifix, that demonstrates how easy it is to lie without actually giving any false facts.
Although reporters regionally and nationally jumped on a story about a 9-year-old boy supposedly suspended for drawing a stick-figure Jesus on the cross, it now appears the tale was overblown.

Contrary to news reports -- including a story on ParentDish -- the boy was never suspended. He and his classmates at Maxham Elementary School in Taunton, Mass. (40 miles south of Boston), were never given an assignment to draw pictures that reminded them of Christmas.

Lie number 1: "The boy was never suspended." According to the boy's father, and, as far as I know, neither addressed nor contradicted by anyone in the school department, he was told that he could not return to school until he had gone through a psychological evaluation. Was he removed from class before the school day was over? Were his parents called to come get him? Were they told that they couldn't come back until he'd been evaluated?

After being removed from the school on Wednesday, he finished that evaluation on Monday, and returned to school either that afternoon or the following morning. Assuming that this is true, he may not have received a nominal suspension, but he certainly received a de facto suspension.

Lie number 2: "He and his classmates...were never given an assignment to draw pictures that reminded them of Christmas." According to the father, they were given the assignment, two days after their Thanksgiving break, of drawing something that reminded them of their Thanksgiving holiday, which had just finished. And the boy had visited the La Salette shrine with his family over the holiday weekend.

In other words, this news report attempts to debunk the story without actually contradicting anything the father said. Given how careful the Superintendent is being with the words she's using, I assume that the father is right. They aren't saying that the boy wasn't given an assignment to draw a picture about their holiday, only that he wasn't given an assignment to draw something about "Christmas or any religious holiday." They aren't saying that he wasn't banned from the school until after an evaluation, only that he wasn't "suspended." Those are weasel words. Rather than debunking the story, they tend to confirm it. I believed it the other day when I posted it - the officials in the Taunton school system have, thus far, strengthed my belief.

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