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Official says Arundel schools should uphold suspension in pastry gun incident

A hearing examiner recommended the Anne Arundel County school board uphold last year's two-day suspension of a second-grader who was accused of nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun.

But an attorney for the family of Joshua Welch said if the county board agrees, he's prepared to take the matter to the state Board of Education.

"We're going to do whatever we can to clear this little kid's name and take the brand off his record," attorney Robin Ficker said.

Hearing examiner Andrew Nussbaum, who was brought in by the school system to hear the case, sided with school officials in the sanctioning of Welch, then a 7-year-old Park Elementary School student whose suspension in March 2013 drew national media coverage and debate. Kimberly and B.J. Welch have since transferred their son to another school.

At an April hearing on the matter, school officials said Welch was not sanctioned solely for the incident involving the pastry, but also for classroom disruptions leading up to it.

Arundel schools spokesman Bob Mosier said Nussbaum's recommendation states that the case "was never about a gun, as Mr. Ficker and his clients claimed all along. It was about a disciplinary consequence taken against a student for repeated violations of the code of student conduct."

Nussbaum's recommendation, issued late last week, will be forwarded to the school board, which will render its own decision, Mosier said. No date has been set for consideration.

Ficker rejected the idea that the suspension "has nothing to do with what happened that day. The child was suspended that day, and the discipline referral form says he was suspended because he said he had a gun.

"The school [system] doesn't want to admit that it made a quick decision to suspend a child because he said the word 'gun' a few times," Ficker said. "They don't want to admit that's the real reason they suspended him."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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