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Move Over Clock Boy, Meet Dandelion Boy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

14-year-old “Clock Boy” Ahmed Mohamed has nothing on 5-year-old “Dandelion Boy” Drew Johnson. Hands down, Johnson is the real victim of our politically correct culture.


Clock Boy has achieved global notoriety on par with Cecil the lion whereas few Americans have heard the story of Dandelion Boy: Indiana kindergartner Drew Johnson of Cumberland Elementary School. Today I’ll utilize Dandelion Boy’s story to explain a trend in American public schools and playgrounds that threatens your child’s long-term psychological development.

Johnson is now a freshman in high school, but several years ago he was on the front lines of what is today a common technique in American grade schools to micromanage malleable minds at recess. From California to New York. From Minnesota to Texas. Children are at risk.

Dandelion Boy

One day during recess, little Drew noticed a patch of dandelions growing near the playground. He picked a few of the bright yellow flowers. Before he knew it, the principal was sentencing him to many days of lunchtime detention.

The principal informed Drew’s parents that their son violated the school’s ban against picking up anything off the ground during recess. Everything was off limits—including non-rock items like grass, ladybugs and flowers. This rule was instituted after a group of children threw rocks on the playground. The principal hinted that lazy recess monitors—who didn’t want to spend the extra few seconds to find out what a child clutched in his or her hands before blowing the whistle—helped shape this rule.


Playground policing like Drew experienced is a now a fashionable craze that taxpayers like you and I are being forced to subsidize. Most notably, self-described “playground consultants” from the nonprofit known as Playworks have wiggled their way into school districts in at least 21 states.

Playworks is notorious for instituting playground bans on supposedly hurtful phrases like “You’re out!” Playworks also controls and develops all activities, reducing the opportunity for children to choose a game like pick-up basketball at an open net if basketball is not on that day’s allowable activity list. Most notably, children cannot invent their own games or imaginative fun.

The Threat To Your Child

As Boston College psychologist Peter Gray argues, a militant management style for children’s playtime will stymie their long-term development. Playtime is authentic and beneficial only when children develop it on their own—without adults—says Gray. Furthermore, author Virginia Postrel cites copious resources in Bloomberg View showing: “bans deprive children of the very experiences they need to master peaceful social interactions.”

All the major research indicates that children who depend on adults to police trivialities like how to say “You’re out!” (Playworks allows “Nice try!” or “Good job!”) will struggle to function as adults. These children will lack the diplomatic and interpersonal skills to resolve simple disputes with friends or coworkers—without enlisting an outside referee.


Playworks often cites Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University studies indicating that its style of playground policing reduces bullying and increases focus. Certainly, treating kindergartners like robots is one way to keep them focused and in line. But there are better and healthier ways.

Parents are the best “playground consultants.” No one—no matter the number of certifications beside their name—is more qualified than you as a parent at deciding how your child should learn.

The Clock Ticks

Sudanese American Ahmed Mohamed was treated like the World’s Number One Victim when he showed up at his Texas school in September with a clock that looked like a bomb. President Obama immediately tweeted out his support for his “cool clock” and passion for “science.” MIT, Facebook and Google also opened their doors to Ahmed for personalized tours and meet-and-greets.

Much ado was made of Ahmed’s brief arrest. Little was said about the fact that police never charged Ahmed with a crime and swiftly turned the case back to the school upon realizing that the clock only looked like a bomb.

“I am glad that this happened to me,” Ahmed said afterward. “I get to spread my word out to the people and tell them it’s not about the color of your skin or your religion.”

Glad indeed. Ahmed’s fleeting arrest turned him into an international celebrity and garnered him a scholarship to attend the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development’s Young Innovators program. Last week, his attorney Kelly Hollingsworth threatened to sue Ahmed’s school and the city of Irving, Texas if they don’t pay $15 million to her 14-year-old client.


Ahmed’s "reputation in the global community is permanently scarred," causing severe psychological damage, his attorney wrote. Hold up. How was Ahmed scarred by having America’s largest tech institutions and the world’s most powerful leader—the President of the United States—welcome him with open arms? How was he scarred when #IStandWithAhmed became a trending topic on Twitter? Finally, how was Ahmed scarred when TIME Magazine named him one of the world’s 30 Most Influential Teens? C’mon!

If any children have cause to sue their school, it’s your children who are being policed by manipulative playground consultants and lazy principals. Your children are being denied the ability to play on their own; to think creatively; and to overcome mini setbacks like being called “out” in a game of tag. Your children are the real victims of our politically correct culture.

President Obama has committed to bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States this year. 47 Democrats voted for a bill to block the president’s wishes, showing bipartisan support against the president. We lack the ability to fully vet these refugees—and even current Muslim refugees like Dr. Mudar Zahran are warning of the connection between migration and terrorism.

ISIS terrorists could easily take advantage of America’s clear obsession with political correctness and send a 14-year-old Syrian girl to a school with a bomb that she says is “just a calculator.” Her teacher might, in the wake of Clock Boy’s petulant lawsuit, be too intimidated to call the cops. ISIS knows that Americans have a poor track record of exercising common sense. Let’s not wait for a smiling schoolchild, exploited by ISIS, to blow up a school before we wake up and smell the dandelions.


Dandelion Boy picked a few flowers and was publicly shamed as a violent rock-thrower. Clock Boy carried a bomb look-alike clock into a gun-free zone and was treated like a rock star. Like Dandelion Boy, your children are being excessively policed on the playground—on your dollar. Spread the facts while there’s still time.

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