Arundel school board hears case involving student suspended in pastry gun incident

September 03, 2014|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

The case involving an Anne Arundel County elementary school student suspended last year after nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun went before the county school board Wednesday, the latest attempt by the boy's parents to have the incident removed from his record.

Joshua Welch, then a second-grader at Park Elementary school in Brooklyn Park, received a two-day suspension in March 2013 in a matter that drew national attention.

The school system has argued that Joshua, who is now 9 and has been transferred to another school, was suspended not solely for the incident but for a series of behaviors. A hearing examiner in June recommended that the suspension be upheld, prompting Wednesday's review by the school board.

The Welch family was not present for the hearing, but their attorney, Robin Ficker, criticized the school system for failing to expunge Joshua's record. He asked the board not to "brand" Joshua — a comment that prompted member Teresa Milio Birge to note that Ficker and the boy's father, B.J Welch, had called media attention to the case.

"No one would have known about the suspension at all if his father hadn't gone to the news and this case hadn't been public," Birge said. "How is the school system branding him, or is it really you and his father that are doing the branding?"

"He is certainly branded within the school system," Ficker said. "He's going to be here in the school system for, what, nine years now? This is going to follow him around."

"From my perspective, that might be something a future teacher would want to know," Birge said.

Board president Stacy Korbelak said a decision would be rendered at a later date.

Ficker said if the school system upholds the suspension, additional steps could involve taking the matter to the state Board of Education, or to court.

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