Detention OK for 6th-grader who called vegetarians 'idiots'

AP News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2016 12:01 PM

MONTGOMERY, N.J. (AP) — A school acted reasonably by giving detention to a sixth-grader who told a student who doesn't eat meat that "vegetarians are idiots" and that "he should eat meat because he'd be smarter and have bigger brains," education officials decided.

The state education commissioner's office ruled that the Montgomery school district was allowed to discipline the 11-year-old student, The Courier News of Bridgewater reported (http://on.app.com/1Oelvtl ).

The comments were made in October 2014 in the cafeteria of Montgomery's Lower Middle School. Lesley Haas, the school's guidance counselor and anti-bullying specialist, found that the comments were harassment, intimidation and bullying because they targeted a "distinguishing characteristic" under state law.

Superintendent of Schools Stephanie Gartenberg agreed with Haas' assessment, and the student received five lunch-time detentions. No other disciplinary action was imposed.

The child's parent requested a hearing before the school board, an option under state law, to dispute the punishment. The board ultimately confirmed Gartenberg's decision and Haas' conclusion.

An appeal to the state commissioner of education in 2015 challenged whether being a vegetarian met the legal definition of a distinguishing characteristic. Administrative Law Judge John Kennedy said that it does, citing previous bullying cases in his decision.

The parent's attorney, Adam Wilson, said he doesn't plan to appeal.

Legal fees in the case cost the Montgomery school district just short of $8,000.

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Information from: Courier News (Bridgewater, N.J.) , http://www.mycentraljersey.com