Mom fights for son, 3, kicked off school bus
By KENT FISCHER
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Zero tolerance run amok or a deserved punishment for a chronic troublemaker?
Renee Remy says her son shouldn't have been kicked off the school bus for three days for threatening to shoot the driver's aide on Friday. Justin is, after all, only 3.
"My kid is not a whacked-out loser," Remy said. "I don't think he meant any harm. He's only repeating what he hears on TV."
The principal at Mittye P. Locke Elementary School, though, sees it differently. Justin attends a preschool program for kids with emotional problems. Taylor suspended the boy from the school bus for three days this week. Taylor said they've had trouble with the boy's behavior in the past, and he issued the suspension hoping it would get Remy's attention.
It got mom's attention, alright. So much so that she started calling the media. On Wednesday morning, her son's story was featured on the nationally syndicated Paul Harvey radio show. Television stations started calling. Wire services picked up the story and reported -- incorrectly -- that Justin had been expelled from school. Principal Dennis Taylor said he spent all day Wednesday dealing with reporters.
"A lot of people are calling me asking how we could put this kid out of school," Taylor said. "We did not put him out of school. We just removed him from the bus. I know the driver has talked to the mother before about (Justin's) behavior."
Remy and Taylor agree on the facts: Justin's bus driver and his aide routinely reward kids for good behavior with a piece of candy. On Friday afternoon, Justin didn't get the treat and got mad. He told the aide he was going to get his father's gun and shoot her. The driver filed an incident report documenting the threat. The police were called, although no arrests were made.
The Pasco County School District has a strict zero-tolerance policy on threats. So far this school year, principals have asked the School Board to expel 18 students for making threatening remarks to teachers or classmates.
Superintendent John Long says Justin was not suspended from the bus for three days over Friday's threat alone. Nobody really thought a 3-year-old was going to shoot his bus driver's aide.
"All we're trying to do is to get the mom to help us control the child's behavior," Long said.
Remy acknowledges that her son can be a handful. He's got attention deficit disorder and is in a preschool program for kids with emotional problems. Justin already has been kicked out of "seven or eight" preschools for being disruptive, she said. The last one dismissed him for cursing, although she says her son doesn't swear, and that the preschool just used that as an excuse to expel him.
"I've had enough of this s---," Remy said. "All of a sudden my son's a psycho. I'm just so p----- off."
Although the district did not suspend Justin from school, Remy has kept him home all week. Justin thinks the whole thing is cool, his mom said. He spent Wednesday riding his bike and eating ice cream.
"He's loving every minute of it," she said.
- Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6241.
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