The suspension will remain on the record of a then 7-year-old boy who chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun while at school.
The Washington Post reports that a hearing examiner last week upheld a principal's assertion that the suspension was based on a history of classroom disruption by Josh Welch, and not the imaginary gun incident.
At this spring’s hearing, school personnel called Josh a threat to classmates who has more than once shaped his school meals into a gun. But, his parents claimed he is a victim of an Anne Arundel County school system that can’t evaluate a situation and has unfairly penalized a child.
A hearing was held in April for the boy who has become a national symbol for gun rights advocates. Josh’s family sought to clear his school record after he was suspended from the second grade for two days in March 2013 for reportedly nibbling a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.
Afterward, politicians scrambled to his cause, and one even gave him a lifetime membership to the NRA.
According to the Post, hearing officer Andrew W. Nussbaum wrote: “As much as the parents want this case to be about a ‘gun,’ it is, rather, a case about classroom disruption from a student who has had a long history of disruptive behavior and for whom the school had attempted a list of other strategies and interventions before resorting to a suspension.”
Nussbaum wrote that he was convinced that “had the student chewed his cereal bar into the shape of a cat and ran around the room, disrupting the classroom and making ‘meow’ cat sounds, the result would have been exactly the same.”
According to an earlier Patch story, Josh said he was suspended two days for fashioning his food into what his teacher interpreted as a gun. But Josh, now 9, and his father said he was making a mountain out of his food, and not a gun.
The boy’s father called the punishment “outrageous.”
"Zero tolerance takes away the ability to think and to make judgment calls on certain scenarios," said B.J. Welch in a WJLA TV report.
Josh said in May that the incident was difficult for him to recall. “I don't think I remember because that was like a year ago."
At the April 2014 hearing, for the first time Josh’s teacher and the Anne Arundel County School system gave their version of what happened the year before at Park Elementary School in Baltimore.
Teacher Jessica Fultz claims the suspension wasn’t about a so-called "Pop-Tart gun," but rather a daily pattern of escalating classroom disruption and even violence by Josh.
Fultz also claims the boy had threatened classmates and made shooting noises, chewing the gun shape with his breakfast food more than once.
Josh’s father says that the claim that his son disrupted class was not shared with him before.
“I don't think he was suspended because he was being rowdy. I think he was suspended because of the sensitive nature of the topic," Welch said.