Jumping to conclusions

An Eagle Point 6-year-old's one-day suspension from school last week has erupted into a national story this week, another in a string likely to make people scratch their heads in wonder as they contemplate Southern Oregon.

What could a 6-year-old do to attract attention from the likes of Fox News and bloggers from one coast to the other?

It is the picture he drew of a hotdog-shaped gun pointed by one stick figure at another — and his school's reaction, a one-day suspension — that's making headlines from here to New York. The drawing also was central in the first of two stories Mail Tribune reporter Chris Conrad wrote on the child and the suspension last week.

But despite our national tendency to want to turn every issue into a sound bite, this one is not as simple as the boy-draws-gun-picture-and-gets-suspended issue people would make it.

In fact, no one but those involved directly know for sure what the whole story is here: School officials won't talk about the case's specifics publicly, which is entirely appropriate. The boy's father has a version, but parts of it don't match the version provided by parents of other children whose kids know the boy.

We know there was a drawing and that this wasn't the first time the child had run-ins with other children at his school. What we don't know includes at least this: how much of a threat this child was to others, how much of an issue his behavior had been at school, how often administrators had worked with him or his parents. We don't know, can't know, whether he was merely aggressive like lots of little boys or someone headed down a frightening path.

Much of the national discussion on this story wants to label it as an overreaction by educators. It could be, but it also could be an example of a quick and appropriate response to a potentially dangerous situation. We don't know.

What is clear here is that the loser in all this is the boy himself. He is 6, and when you're 6, a Google search of your name ought to bring out your T-ball history, maybe, not a national debate about your potential for violence.

This situation is neither as simple nor as clear as the people doing much of the writing about it would have it be. It was news that the school suspended this child. But conclusions about his emotional state or the school's handling of him ought to be left to the very few who know the entire story.

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