Private joke too public; dad says Bellevue schools overreacted

BELLEVUE A Bellevue High School student who displayed his genitals in class as a joke was unfairly e
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

BELLEVUE

A Bellevue High School student who displayed his genitals in class as a joke was unfairly expelled for the remainder of the year, the teen's father claims.

"I don't think there was anything funny about it, but he meant no malice," the father said. "This is an injustice."

The 17-year-old junior walked into his sixth-period class on May 15 with his zipper down, holding his genitals, according to a police report. A small group of friends had discussed performing the lewd joke, but only the 17-year-old went through with it.

The laughs and commotion attracted the notice of a teacher's aide who saw the teen with genitals in hand, the police report states. The female aid told him it was very inappropriate and he was getting detention.

This is the point when the father says things got out of control.

After school administrators found out about the stunt, they contacted the police department to file charges. They also suspended the teen from school. A few days into the suspension, they sent a letter to the family with a notice of an upcoming expulsion hearing set for May 22.

"They went right up the line and the next administrator who got involved expelled him from school for the balance of the year," the father said. "Not to say my son shouldn't have been dealt with harshly, but expulsion -- come on."

The teen and his father maintain there was nothing aggressively sexual about the prank. While inappropriate, they say it was neither violent nor meant to deeply offend anyone.

In his report, Bellevue patrolman Tom Saleski said the teen "seemed embarrassed over the incident and remorseful for his actions." Even so, he was charged with disorderly conduct.

Bellevue school officials contend the punishment fits the crime.

"We do not tolerate that activity in the Bellevue City Schools and I took action to expel him," said interim superintendent Stephen Schumm.

The father agrees that the suspension was in order. But when the district expelled his son -- causing him to fail two classes -- school officials went further than necessary, the father said.

The district's decision to expel the teen was appealed, and the teen will be allowed to return to the district for his senior year.

But even that decision puzzled the father.

"You are telling my son he can come back to school next school year," he said. "What magical event do you expect to occur that will make him something he is not now?"

But Schumm stands by his decision.

"He violated the student code of conduct. We have all kinds of things we can do. You can give a student detention, you can give them suspension, you can give them expulsion, you can give them permanent expulsion. It's all spelled out in the handbook," Schumm said. "It's a disgraceful act."