A seventh grade student at a south central Kansas junior high school has been suspended after implying that a classmate was descended from monkeys. School officials say that the student's two-week suspension was merited by the seriousness of the offense.
Classmates say student is member of an outlaw group called the "Biology Club"
By Cole Walters, Education Correspondent
PRATT, KS—A junior high school student in this south central Kansas town has been suspended after he implied that a classmate was descended from monkeys. School officials say that they moved to suspend 14 year-old Cody DuFresne after confiscating what they describe as an "evolutionary slur" from his locker. The student had drawn a crude version of the alleged path of primate evolution, depicting a fellow student, 14 year-old Melanie Carthage, as a direct descendent of apes. [Click thumbnail to enlarge image.]
DuFresne has been banned from setting foot on school property during the two weeks of his suspension. For that period, he will attend an alternative school in Pratt for students who've been suspended, expelled, committed crimes or are chronically truant.
Not just monkey business
Liberty Junior High School principal Marty Hamlin says that officials felt that they had no choice but to make an example of DuFresne. "Saying someone is descended from monkeys is about the worst thing you can say about that person. It's as bad as saying that someone's mother is a prostitute, or telling someone that they're adopted when they're not."
Hamlin notes that this is the first time in the school's history that a student has received such a lengthy suspension for penning an offensive cartoon. A two-week ban from school property is more typically meted out to students who come to school intoxicated, are found to have drugs on their persons, or bring knives or other sharp weapons onto school grounds.
An evolving dispute
It's not clear where DuFresne got the idea to draw the crude evolutionary chart. The controversial theory of evolution has not been taught in science classes here since the Kansas State Board of Education voted to remove evolution as a key concept in the state's science curriculum. Board members are currently debating theories that might be taught in place of evolution, including "intelligent design," the belief certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Also under consideration: creation science, the widely-accepted theory that the history of the world dates back 6000 years, and that man and dinosaur once roamed the earth side-by-side.
But some students at Liberty Junior High School say that they aren't surprised that their classmate ended up running afoul of school administrators. DuFresne, they point out, is known to associate with a group of students who go by the moniker "the Biology Club," and are adherents of the notorious British naturalist Charles Darwin.
Members of the club typically keep to themselves, says seventh grader Katee Danzig. "They wear a lot of black and eat at their own table in the cafeteria," says Danzig. "They're a little creepy."
School officials say that they're hoping that DuFresne's suspension will demonstrate that when it comes to evolutionary slurs, Liberty Junior High has a zero tolerance policy. "We enforce 'zero tolerance' on a daily basis here whether it's for students who are bringing firearms to school or selling cocaine or chrystal meth on school property," says principal Hamlin. "Now we're going to take evolution-related slurs just as seriously. Be forewarned, if you're going to say that someone is related to a monkey here at Liberty you're going to pay a steep price."
What punishment do you think students should face who commit evolution-related slurs? Talk back to firstname.lastname@example.org