An 8-year-old boy was sent home from school and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after he was asked to make a Christmas drawing and came up with what appeared to be a stick figure of Jesus on a cross, the child's father said Tuesday.
Chester Johnson told WBZ-TV that his son made the drawing on Dec. 2 after his second-grade teacher asked children to sketch something that reminded them of the holiday.
Johnson said the teacher became upset when his son said he drew himself on the cross. Johnson, who is black, told WBZ he suspects racism is involved. He said he thinks the school overreacted and wants an apology.
Johnson told the Taunton Daily Gazette, which first reported the story on Tuesday, that his son gets specialized reading and speech instruction and has never been violent in school.
An educational consultant working with the Johnson family said the teacher was also alarmed when the boy drew Xs for Jesus' eyes.
A call to Johnson was not immediately returned.
District rebutts claims
The school district on Tuesday was rebutting the father's claims. The Taunton School District said in a written statement that the second-grade student was never suspended over the drawing. It also said a drawing circulated to reporters by the boy's father, Chester Johnson, is not the same one that was discovered by the teacher.
The district says the boy's teacher never assigned students to draw something that reminded them of the holiday season, as Johnson told reporters.
Johnson earlier said the boy made the drawing Dec. 2 after witnessing a holiday lights display. He said his son was suspended and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation over concern about the drawing.
Johnson did not return a phone message from The Associated Press on Tuesday night. The boy was cleared to return to school on Dec. 7 after the evaluation found nothing to indicate that he posed a threat to himself or others.
But his father said the boy was traumatized by the incident and the school district has approved the family's request to have the child transferred to another school.
"They owe my family an apology and the kid an apology and they need to work with my son (to) the best of their ability to get him back to where he was before all this happened," Johnson told New England Cable News.
'A good thing'
The father said in the days before the incident the family had gone to the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, where there are crucifixion statues.
"That was fresh on his mind," he told NECN. "And that was a good thing that he saw."
Superintendent Julie Hackett said she could not discuss an individual student and did not address the drawing specifically or the teacher's reaction to it, but did say the school has safety protocols in place that were followed.
Hackett did not return multiple calls from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
In June 2008, a Taunton fifth-grade student was suspended for a day for a stick figure drawing that appeared to depict him shooting his teacher and a classmate.