Boy Suspended Over Pop-Tart Gun Fails to Clear School Record

Nine-year-old Josh Welch failed to have a suspension removed from his school record. Anne Arundel County Schools officials suspended him for two days in 2013 for allegedly shaping his food to look like a gun.

Nine-year-old Josh Welch and his parents lost in their effort to have his suspension removed from his school record. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA TV
Nine-year-old Josh Welch and his parents lost in their effort to have his suspension removed from his school record. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA TV

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.

Bob Higginbotham July 07, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Nincompoops are nincompoops! When they can't get a real job they become moronic school officials. How can a nine year old have a long history of disruption. Maybe the background of the principal should be evaluated, in detail, to determine competence.
Noreen Dalisera July 07, 2014 at 11:16 AM
It obviously appears that somewhere along the line if the 9 year old had a history of behaviorial issues, the school officials failed to inform the parents or they truly weren't issues, just a 7 year old behaving like a 7 year old. With regards to the poptart gun, I know there is this whole zero tolerance thing, but this was a 7 year old playing with his food not make a gun in metal shop. I challenge all those adults who made the decision to suspend the child and are sticking to their decision and those who have set the policies in place to remember what they were doing with their food, toys, sticks, etc. when they were 7 years old; I bet you will be surprised at how many will remember playing Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robber's, using sticks for guns or even the toy guns and holsters they had with some of these games being played at school on the play ground at recess. Zero Tolerance is great, but the system needs to put some education on the subjects of the Zero Tolerance so a child can understand why things are this way. The packet of information that comes home with all the rules and regulations is great, but most students I know don't read them and neither do most parents for that matter. They also need to make it age the rules to fit the age of the children; most young elementary school children don't understand or can't comprehend the "why" of this policy. As a society we have become so anti-everything that can be construed as violent provoking, hateful or unpolitically correct that we fail to teach our children right from wrong and how to distinguish between the two or to think for themselves. We are doing a disservice to all children by not educating and allowing them to make decisions and quite frankly just allowing them to be kids. Bottom line: If a child is trully being disrupted in school or intentially, knowingly trying to harm another person they need to be punished in some way and the parents need to be informed of the situation when it happens, not months after the fact when the child is in trouble for something else. Sorry for the long post, but some stories just really drive me crazy.
james smith July 07, 2014 at 11:27 AM
Josh says he has difficulty recalling the incident??? I hope he does a better job of recalling his schoolwork.
Mariner July 07, 2014 at 12:16 PM
This is absolutely ridiculous. The loonies and thought police are truly running the asylum. One would think that school officials who are supposed to be "educated" people would have more common sense. Don't these people have anything better to do (like educate students) then to get their panties into a wad and escalate every inane and benign act into a major issue? Every school official involved in doing so should be discharged.
Steve D July 07, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Silly me, it looks like one pop tart partially laying on top of another pop tart. I don't see a trigger guard, trigger, site, and I'd bet is smells slightly of sugar rather than oil.


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