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    Student removed from class because of drawings

    The principal at Oldsmar Elementary says the 11-year-old probably won't return for the rest of the year.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2001

    OLDSMAR -- A fifth-grader was taken from Oldsmar Elementary School in handcuffs Wednesday after a teacher found drawings he had made of weapons, school officials said.

    The 11-year-old, who is not being named because of his age, was not charged with a crime. The boy was taken to meet with his parents and counselors after classmates told school officials about the drawings.

    "There were some drawings that were confiscated by the teacher," principal David Schmitt said. "The children were in no danger at all. It involved no real weapons."

    The boy has received a discipline that Schmitt said he couldn't discuss. But he said the boy probably won't return for the rest of the year and probably would be moved to another school.

    The boy was handcuffed by campus police for his safety and not because the student was violent or out of control, said school district spokesman Ron Stone.

    "That's normal procedure in a situation like this," Stone said. "The primary concern was to make sure we get appropriate services for the child."

    It is not unusual for students in elementary and middle schools to make threats, said Nancy Zambito, a director of school operations for the school district. The typical procedure involves immediately notifying a campus police officer or a school resource officer, counselors and the student's parents to "assess the threat and work with the child," she said.

    Depending on the severity of the threat, Zambito said, the outcome for the student can be a number of things ranging from disciplinary action by the school, such as suspension or expulsion, to being arrested or taken to a hospital under Florida's Baker Act, which allows for the involuntary commitment of people who threaten or attempt to hurt themselves or others.

    "It's nothing unusual and we address them all seriously because, of course, we don't know," Zambito said. "And in most cases, our prime goal is to let those students know what is appropriate to say and what is not and how to be angry and cute and funny without alarming people."

    The classmates who turned in the student after seeing his drawings should be commended because that was the right thing to do, Schmitt said.

    "All I can tell you is it was a threat . . . against students," he said. "Nobody in particular, but students in general."

    Schmitt planned to send a letter home to parents Thursday letting them know generally what had happened.

    "We just need to get it through kids' heads that there are certain things you don't say and there are certain things you don't draw," he said.

    - Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report.

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