5th Grader Wears Face Paint Of OBL Death Date Pulled From Class

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DAUPHIN, Pennsylvania ~ (The Patriot-News/PennLive.com) ~ A woman took her son out of class for the day when school administrators informed her that his face paint honoring the date of Osama Bin Laden’s death was disruptive to studies.

11-year-old Conner Tressler went to class at Middle Paxton Elementary School on the morning of May 1st, sporting decorative face paint in response to the death of the terrorist mastermind. However, his patriotic display ran afoul of school administrators; Central Dauphin School District spokeswoman Shannon Leib said the paint violated the student dress code. “As part of their dress and grooming, they must adhere to a scholastic atmosphere, and the face paint was causing a distraction within the school,” Leib said.

Jennifer Tressler, Conner’s mother, told The Patriot News of Harrisburg that she was informed Conner would have to remove the body art to remain in class. “They told me it was against the school’s code of conduct, that they’re not against the patriotic display, but that the paint goes against the scholastic environment,” she said. It was then that Jennifer decided to pull Connor from class for the day. Mary Catherine Roper, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, called the district’s response “an overreaction.” She said, “just because a student’s speech is effective does not make it disruptive,” Roper said, “there’s a difference between discussion and debate, which schools should encourage, and a breakdown of discipline in the classroom.” Roper pointed to the recent federal court decision allowing students in the Easton Area School District to sport ‘I Heart Boobies’ bracelets to support a breast cancer charity. “What the court said is that a couple of kids making remarks is not a disruption,” she said.

Connor said he has several friends with parents who have served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he was partially thinking about them when he planned his patriotic display. Mom and son both had plans for Connor to attend school the next day, but without decorations. “I guess I won’t paint my face anymore,” Connor said. “They didn’t say anything about my shirt, so I’ll stick to T-shirts.” 

Photo credit: Dan Gleiter/The Patriot-News

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