Note: we are republishing this story amid recent reports that suggest student misbehavior is on the rise across the country due to the challenges of the pandemic and its effects on student learning. More on this here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-student-misbehavior-remote-learning-covid-11639061247
A middle school student was suspended for bullying after he reportedly said the number "21" on a school field trip.
Tonya Johnston told WXYZ that her son, a student at Pierce Middle School in Waterford, Michigan, was sitting on a tour bus during a school field trip when another student prompted him to say the number "21," which he did.
After teachers heard him say the number, the boy was given a ten-day suspension.
The 13 year old was reportedly upset at the punishment, fearing that the nearly two weeks spent out of school would cause him to fall behind in classes. He texted his mother that he may as well drop out of school, according to WXYZ.
When Johnston met with school officials to discuss her son's suspension, they explained that her son, along with other students, had been told not to say the number "21" because an autistic student who went on the field trip had an issue with the number and would lose control whenever he heard it.
Although this student was not on the bus when Johnston's son said the number, he was outside within earshot.
The mother of the autistic boy told WXYZ that her son broke down whenever he heard the number "21" because it reminded him of an embarrassing situation involving a math problem. The answer to the problem was reportedly "21."
The boy's mother also said that Johnston's son was among a group of students who regularly taunted her child by saying the number "21." She said the alleged bullying caused her son to have severe panic attacks.
Johnston said she was never informed of her son's behavior until he was suspended.
"I would have absolutely talked to my son about it," she told WXYZ. "I would have explained the severity of it and what this child is going through."
When contacted by WXYZ, school officials said that they were willing to reduce the boy's suspension if he agreed to attend counseling.
"School is for learning - and not just subjects like English and math," said district superintendent Keith Wunderlich. "School is also about learning to work with people. If a student is having trouble with others, we truly would like to help with counseling."
A survey conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that 63 percent of children with autism have been bullied in school, CBS News reported in 2012.