May 9, 2006

Georgia Student Suspended for Singing Parody

Left: Peachtree Ridge HS

(Suwanee, GA) A high school junior was suspended for five days after singing a spoof of the song "On Top of Ol' Smokey."

The version of the song that Beth Ann Cox, 16, sang includes the lyrics: "On top of Ol' Smokey, all covered with blood, I shot my poor teacher with a .44 slug."

Cox, a student at Peachtree Ridge High School, admitted that she had been humming the song during German class, but claimed that she was not singing loudly or directing the lyrics at the teacher, Phil Carroll.

"I'd had a song stuck in my head all day, like the tune of it," she said. "This kid in front of me asked me about the song. So I told him the words. I didn't say them loudly."

Sloan Roach, a spokesperson for Gwinnett County schools, disagreed with the version of events as presented by Cox. She said the student was discussing a grade with Carroll when she began singing the song out loud in class. Roach also said that the five-day suspension was "appropriate disciplinary action" for disrupting class.

Cox was pulled out of class later on Friday and accused of threatening a teacher. She began serving her suspension on Monday of this week.

School administrators told the student that they would also revoke her permissive transfer, which means she will not be able to return to Peachtree Ridge for her senior year.

Beth Ann has had previous difficulties with the teacher in the past, according to her mother.

"We feel that Dr. Carroll has some kind of a vendetta out for our daughter. And he used this to take a stand against her," said Suzanne Cox.

The family plans to meet with their attorney today to discuss possible legal action, arguing that the suspension and forced transfer were unfair.

I am the parent of teenagers, and they do some goofy things from time to time. If my children got suspended every time they did something as foolish as singing "On Top of Ol' Smokey," they would be out of school more than they would be in it.

Heck, one of my daughters only got three days for being in a fight with another student, although she did get a trip to the Lucas County juvenile detention facility for violating the Safe Schools ordinance.

As a child I sang a similar version of the song:

On top of ol' Smokey all covered with sand,
I shot my poor teacher with a green rubber band.

I went to her funeral, I went to her grave,
Everyone threw flowers, BUT I THREW GRENADES!

(The last portion of this version must be sung at the top of the lungs for maximum effect).

In my mind a five-day suspension to Beth Ann Cox for "threatening" a teacher is ludicrous. For school officials to call this a "threat" - with a straight face - is the height of absurdity. One would hope that a sensible district administrator will step in to avoid dragging this out into a protracted legal battle.


Anonymous said...

Oh my God - what a bunch of morons. Did they really think that girl was going to shoot her teacher?

M A F said...

This is an after effect of a post 9/11 world moreso than it being too PC. It is a threat in a world where middle school and high school students shoot their fellow students and teachers.

Just for the record, when I was a child I sang:
On top of old smokey,
all covered with blood,
I shot my poor teacher,
she fell in the mud.

I went to her funeral,
I went to her grave,
instead of throwing flowers
I threw a grenade

I never sang this in the presence of my teachers, mind you.

historymike said...

Yes, MAF, that and post-Columbine.

On the flip side, I have a daughter who got a written death threat from a classmate ("I am going 2 cut U, B***H - I'm crazy like dat"), and I had to push the school to intervene.

They felt that, because the threat was composed and delivered off-site, they couldn't do anything, even though the threat was supposed to be carry out on school property.

I finally convinced them that a stern talking-to (with the school police resource officer present to remind the party of aggravated menacing laws) would probably work to get said hoodlum to knock off the threats.

It just amazes me, though, that the range of interpretation by school administrators can be so wide.

Another quick anecdote -

One of my girls (let's call her Kid #1) got jumped by a classmate and was getting thoroughly whooped; never even got in a punch. Her sister (Kid #2) tried to pull the assailant off, and when a teacher arrived, kid #2 (the "helper") bumped the teacher.


** Aggressor got a 3-day suspension.
** "Jumpee" (Kid #1) got a 3-day suspension for getting jumped.
** "Bumper" (Kid #2) got a 10-day suspension PLUS she got expelled for "assaulting a teacher."

Now Kid #1 probably got mouthy, and may have "deserved" getting some payback.

But Kid #2 was "guilty" of only trying to keep Kid #1 from getting stomped.

The witnesses - including teachers - agreed that Kid #2, if she actually did bump the teacher, did so while backing up.

We appealed, but the superintendent rubber-stamped the original suspension of the principal. No witnesses, just an incident report from the principal plus my scared child giving her side of the story.

I would have rather that Kid #1 get expelled, if anyone, since Kid #2 was trying to be a loyal family member (Kid #1 has a reputation for being a bit wild, while #2 has always been a good student and was never in trouble prior to the incident).

historymike said...

OK, that was more than a "quick" anecdote...

beth said...

I'm from GA and we used to sing that song too (many years ago (g)).

But I think it is post-9/11 post-Columbine over-reactions. There is a happy median between being too lax and too reactionary.


Maggie Thurber said...

I guess I missed out...we only sang:

on top of spaghetti,
all covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball...

This is the first I've heard of the "other" versions.

Hooda Thunkit said...

School administrators seem to have lost their sense of humor..., since Columbine.

I'll go a little further and say that they've gone waayyyy overboard, since Columbine.

Crazy, huh?

historymike said...

Maggie definitely missed out on the rowdy versions. She must not have been hanging out with the sort of hooligans that I did.

Of course, I did go to Detroit Public Schools...

historymike said...

Agreed, Hooda. Some of these administrators really need to lighten up.

I agree with being proactive if, for example, a teenager threatens to blow up the school on a MySpace site.

However, anyone taking this parody song as a "threat" seems to be looking for a reason to go after the student.

Long Time Lurker ....... said...

You've got me between a rock and a hard place on this one Mike. At first glance it might seem right to make a sign that says "get a life morans" (See fark photoshop cliche #137) but it goes deeper than that. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for common sense but there comes a point, not so much due to post-Columbine/9-11/whatever this week... but rather society has changed as a whole. I'm a junior high teacher in TPS, (so therefore I'm already part of the problem) and I have several students that I genuinely don't trust and won't turn my back on for fear for my safety and my students. Society has become more coarse and violence has become more acceptable and couple that with the decline of personal responsibilty and you can see it coming from where I am. Also, remember that this was a high school junior not a second grader.(Anymore does that make a difference?) If a student that I am on good terms with I would probably think nothing of it, but some of the others that I have had a beef with, I'm not so sure. So where does the line get drawn?
Sorry for the rambling post, and actually could go longer but I'll stop here.

historymike said...

I do agree that we have only scant evidence with which to make judgments, NWTPG.

And given the fact that you work in TPS, I can appreciate the difficult nature of your job.

I have seen teachers and administrators on all ends of the discipline spectrum, from the "boot-them-out-immediately" crowd to the "hey-let's-try-to-understand-the-child" softies.

A good balance goes a long ways. You sound like the type of teacher who tries to work with students up to a reasonable point, but for whom there are non-negotiable limits (threats, violence, Harry Potter fans).

Sorry - I just have never gotten into the series...

Dariush said...

I think organizing a charity boxing tournament between teachers and students would do a world of good.

Both sides would be able to take out of some of their frustrations, and at the end of the day a bunch of money would be raised for the Sisters of the Poor or whomever.

I just remembered an incident in H.S. were my bus driver intervened in a fight on the bus and... uh... proceeded to beat the living hell out of the more aggressive of the combatants, before kicking her off the bus. (Yes, all three fighters were girls)

Faculty members have always gone overboard when it comes to security. At my H.S. we had a "no hats" rule, supposedly so that people who didn't belong in the school would be more easily identified. Also a "no large overcoats" rule, to discourage people from hiding weapons on their person. And by my senior year ('91) most of the exits were padlocked during regular school hours.

We did have some completely amoral sociopaths at that school though, so I can definitely sympathize with "long time lurker" and wouldn't want to be in his or her shoes for all the money in the world.

Praguetwin said...

I was always partial to "Glory,glory hallelujah, teacher hit me with a ruler... hid by hind the door with a loader .44 and the teacher don't teach no more."

But like LTL pointed out, that was in third grade, not high school.

I think the question becomes what the teacher feels the intention was. They have to use their discretion. Discretion seems to be a rare commodity these days. Could be a symptom of an over-regulated society.

Brian said...

The version I used to sing:

On top of old smokey-
All covered with blood
I shot my poor teacher
with a 44 slug.

I shot her for pleasure
I shot her for fun.
I shot her for stealing
My Juicy Fruit Gum.

"Zero Tolerance" policies are popular in schools because they require "zero thinking" by school administrators.