Massachusetts School Suspends Eight Year Old for Drawing Jesus on the Cross

An 8-year-old boy was sent home from Maxham Elementary School and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after he drew a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The boy’s father, Chester Johnson, said he got a call earlier this month from the school informing him that his son, a second-grade student with special education needs, had created a violent drawing and was being sent home. The image depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’re violating his religion,” Johnson said. “They told me he would have to leave the school and get a psychological evaluation, which I didn’t see necessary for the picture that was drawn. Especially after I told them he went to the La Salette on Thanksgiving with his mom. I didn’t see anything wrong with the picture that was drawn.”

The boy and his family had recently gone to see a Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, a Catholic retreat center in Attleboro.

Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center who is working with the boy and his parents, told the Taunton Gazette, “I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent. They weren’t looking at the fact that this is an 8-year-old child with special needs.”

“They made him leave school, and they recommended that a psychiatrist do an evaluation,” Saunders said. “When I got that call, I was so appalled that I had to do something,” she added.

Maxham School principal Rebecca Couet refused to comment to the media about the event and referred all questions to the superintendent’s office.

Superintendent Julie Hackett told the Taunton Gazette that district policy prevents her from discussing a “confidential matter regarding a student.”

School committee member Christine Fagan told WBZ radio, “I find the decision very disappointing. But I think there’s so much pressure now on people to look for all kinds of things. I think that’s what generates these types of responses. I think we really need to be careful about how far we want to take this idea of political correctness.”

The boy’s father said the school overreacted and his son was traumatized by the incident. The school district subsequently approved the family’s request to have the child transferred to another school.

“This is a highly intelligent kid. He gets 100’s on his tests,” Johnson told WBZ.

“I want him transferred to another school and I want something done about this. They owe my family an apology and they owe me an apology and what they can do is keep giving my son the education that he needs and work with him.”

Kerri Augusto, a professor of psychology and family studies at Becker College told WBZ that the school did more harm than good for the boy.

“More disturbing than the knee-jerk interpretation of this child’s drawing, is the response of the school,” Augusto said.

“The extreme lengths to which the administration went to ‘protect’ the child, resulted in punishment for the child and his/her family and shows blatant disregard for the child’s social and emotional needs.”
To contact Maxham Elementary School with your opinion/comment:

Rebecca Couet – Principal
Lowell M. Maxham School
141 Oak Street
Taunton, Massachusetts
Phone: 508-821-1265
Fax: 508-821-1274

To contact Superintendent Julie Hackett with your opinion/comment:
Taunton Public Schools District Office
Dr. Julie Hackett – Superintendent of Schools
110 County Street
Taunton, MA 02780
Phone: 508-821-1203

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  • isidore

    Once again, LifeSiteNews presents us with a “story” the writer has not actually investigated. “Reporter” Thaddeus M. Baklinski has done nothing more than re-write reports from local radio and newspaper. LifeSiteNews had as much to do with this story as I had to do with designing Windows 7. We have absolutely no idea what kind of jobs are being done in Taunton, MA, and inviting readers (Catholic Exchange or not) to contact the Principal or Superintendent can only hinder the work of two people who otherwise would be running schools. The only fair part of this story is that principals and superintendents cannot legally comment on confidential student matters. This doesn’t make them wrong – it shows they’re following the law. Come on, people!

    PLEASE, Catholic Exchange, stop using for reporting. Their style of reporting is prejudicial, inflammatory, and anti-productive. How many more examples do we need?

  • Mary Kochan

    Give me a break, Isidore. You act like every other news outlet in the country sends its own reporter to everyone of these local stories. I guess you never heard of API. Get a copy of your own local paper sometime and figure out how much of the news you read actually was reprted by someone your paper put on the story.

  • isidore

    Mary, my point is that Catholic Exchange can do much better than Please understand what your wonderful website means to Catholics all over who thirst for truth and use CE as an excellent resource for that truth. It isn’t just that doesn’t do its own reporting, it is that it attempts to inflame the Christian community with non-stories and half-truths. That is not how we want to be treated. Your API retort is a good example of what is not. BTW, I do not subscribe to my local newspaper for this very reason.

  • Mary Kochan

    That Lifesite news uses the same sources that other news outlets use was my point. If you only want to read first hand accounts of news — well good luck finding that. If you think something is a non-story, then don’t bother to read it, I guess. Other people may be interested in an event that does interest you.

    If you find soemthing in one of our articles from them, or from any source, that can be shown to be inaccurate, I will remove it.

    As for them being inflammatory, I don’t see that as a problem. I see Christian aparthy as a much greater problem than than Christians becoming incensed over what is going on.

    All that being said, if you have some source that you think would better serve our readers, I am open to your suggestions.

  • jpckcmo

    It would serve CE well to investigate the facts of the stories it posts, no matter who the source. As the story unfolded, it was revealed that perhaps the drawing the father was showing was not the drawing the teacher saw. It was revealed that perhaps the student was never suspended. It was revealed that perhaps the children were not asked to draw something that reminded them of Christmas. It was revealed that perhaps the boy stated that it was himself on the cross, not Christ. And now, the father is claiming that the school district owes him monetary compensation. That alone makes me question his motives.

    Since, as Isador says, the school district is prohibited from discussing the case, it could be awhile before we know what really happened. Calling for teachers to be fired, etc., is premature when no one really knows. And as a former teacher, I can tell you that a teacher is legally obligated to report if she thinks a child is in psychological or physical peril. Shall we wait until the facts are out before we make judgment?

  • Mary Kochan

    I’ll get our army of staff reporters right on those investigations…

  • jpckcmo

    It doesn’t take an army. All it takes is a waiting period and some checking of alternative sources. Can easily be done on the web. I think the main objection is that the story presents as facts things that were rumor and from one source, and a biased one at that–the father.

  • Loretta

    You guys must not live in Massachusetts.
    This is the MO of many school districts here.