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ISJ Editorial: There was no need to suspend Franklin student

April 18, 2018 GMT

It’s often been said that there’s a shortage of common sense in our society.

The recent three-day suspension of a 13-year-old Franklin Middle School student, unfortunately, seems to prove that point.

Sean Holden of Pocatello was suspended last week for allegedly not paying for a breakfast meal at school and then allegedly threatening other students.

Sean and his parents say school officials’ depiction of what happened is incorrect. They say that Sean was given the breakfast by a cafeteria worker at Franklin and then told to take the food and go sit down after it was determined he did not have money to pay for it.

Sean and his parents contend that the alleged threats occurred when two Franklin students were making fun of another student who had unexpectedly died the day before. This student who died was one of Sean’s only friends at Franklin, so he got angry at the two students who were talking trash about her.

We would hope that Franklin Middle School officials would look at the suspension they gave Sean and think about whether it was the best course of action.

School District 25 officials have already apologized for the way this situation was handled and they’ve said Franklin Middle School officials overreacted.

That response makes it clear to us that Sean’s description of events must have some credence.

It’s difficult to defend suspending a student who was hungry but had no money for a meal and who got upset when some classmates bad-mouthed a friend who died the day before.

This case is similar to the December 2015 incident in which a School District 25 cafeteria worker said she was fired just before Christmas for giving a hungry student a free lunch. When that story went viral and was picked up by news outlets worldwide, the district got tired of being portrayed as the “Scrooge” and offered the worker her job back.

Perhaps School District 25 should make it a policy that no one should get in trouble when a hungry kid wants some food.

Sean and his parents were absolutely right for being upset that Franklin Middle School officials had painted him as a thief and a threat to student safety and escalated the incident even further by calling in the Pocatello Police Department.

Considering that we’re talking about a $1.90 breakfast, involving the police seems completely ludicrous.

If cooler heads had prevailed among the adults in the room, school officials would have let Sean slide on the breakfast or charged it to his student meal account. As for the angry words he directed at the two students, who could blame him? A sit-down with a school counselor would have sufficed instead of a suspension.

Some might say that there’s more to the story and Sean deserved to be suspended.

We would disagree. We believe the account of what happened provided by Sean and his parents is accurate. Nothing we’ve been told by School District officials would make us think otherwise.

The next time local school officials are confronted by a hungry student who’s despondent over the death of a friend, we’d like to see a little more common sense and compassion entered into the equation.

Hopefully that’s not too much to ask.