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Sun Prairie 7th graders suspended for giving friend a trim; clipper considered a weapon

Photo by Michelle Jones. Clipper photo by Robert Chappell.

Three seventh grade boys at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie were given in-school suspension and excluded from the year-end celebration because two of them gave the third a hair trim with a hair clipper that was deemed a weapon.

Earlier in the year, Cameron Jones told his mother Michelle that he wanted to explore barbering as a career. When a friend said he was disappointed in his haircut, Cameron offered to help fix it, and brought a battery-powered hair clipper to school the next day. At recess on May 31, Cameron directed another boy in trimming along his forehead.

The boy who received the haircut was very pleased, and showed other friends his repaired hairline, Jones said. Another boy said he wanted a haircut next. 

That caught the attention of Kari Lundquist, the school’s restorative practices coach, who was monitoring recess that day. She confiscated the hair clipper and sent all three boys to in-school suspension, where they remained the rest of the day. Madison365 has not confirmed the identities of the other boys.

The behavior referral provided to Michelle Jones lists Lundquist as the teacher making the referral for in-school suspension, lists “weapon: sharp object” as the sole reason for the suspension, and incorrectly refers to the hair clipper as an “electric razor.”

Madison365 has inspected the hair clipper Cameron Jones said he used. It has no sharp edges.

A school spokesperson noted that a middle school student can not give consent for their appearance to be altered by another student, but couldn’t say whether giving the haircut alone would have warranted an in-school suspension. The behavior referral describes the haircut but lists “weapon: sharp object” as the only basis for the suspension.

Cameron Jones was then not allowed to attend the school’s year-end “Pride Party” because it’s school policy that students with any suspension during the year are not allowed to attend.

Michelle Jones, who is also an educator in the Sun Prairie Area School District, told Madison365 that she understands it was inappropriate for Cameron to give a haircut at school, and even grounded him that evening. But she feels the suspension on his record and being excluded from the Pride Party went too far.

She said she met with associate principal Emily Morehouse, who Jones said indicated that there was no discretion: bringing a weapon to school means in-school suspension, and in-school suspension means no Pride Party.

“I just think she feels like she’s stuck,” Jones said. “I don’t know who made their middle school rules. I don’t know where that’s coming from. But I do feel like some people need to feel that they can make situational decisions.”

Jones said Morehouse was open to that message.

“She really wanted to hear what I had to say,” Jones said. Still, administrators let the suspension stand and didn’t allow Cameron to attend the Pride Party, which took place June 6.

School district officials declined to comment on the specific case, and could not say whether anyone inspected the clipper to determine whether it could be a weapon, nor whether the restorative practices coach considered any restorative practices in response to the situation as an alternative to suspension. 

Officials also refused to answer general policy questions, including whether any other sharp objects, such as scissors or nail clippers, could be considered a weapon, or whether any written policy states that bringing a sharp object to school warrants an automatic suspension.

In an email to Madison365, a district spokesperson said, “The incident was handled in alignment with our secondary response matrix…” That matrix lists a number of possible consequences for bringing a weapon to school, but does not indicate any mandatory response. In fact, the matrix explicitly states, “All disciplinary actions are subject to administrative discretion.”

Michelle Jones said she understands school is not the appropriate time or place for kids to give each other haircuts, but feels the response was disproportionate.

“I don’t think (administrators) had malicious intent, but (Cameron) had no malicious intent. He’s trying to help a friend feel better,” she said. “They could have had a conversation and then made a place for it … It can’t just be black and white, very rigid. You sometimes have to look at the situation. My son had no malicious intention. He was not bringing that as a weapon. He was bringing it to help a friend feel better, and the kid did (feel better).”

She said a culturally responsive restorative justice approach, which is part of the district’s Equity Framework, should allow for teachers and administrators some discretion in how they handle different situations.

“Some people don’t want to rock the boat, but I feel like if we as a district are preaching cultural responsiveness, restorative justice and everything, we can’t just say it,” Jones said. “We have to walk the walk.”

According to the Equity Framework, the middle school restorative practices coaches “will work with a variety of school and district-based staff and community partners to improve district and school culture, increase attendance and academic achievement for identified students, reduce suspensions and expulsions, and will support the school-wide implementation of restorative practices by developing and facilitating professional development as well as assessing and evaluating progress.”

Lundquist, the restorative practices coach who gave Cameron Jones and the other two boys suspensions, did not respond to a request for comment.

“It is our job not to only be there academically for our kids but to foster their interests, not villainize their interests, which in a way is what happened here,” Jones said.

A district spokesperson said administrators are “working with the mom,” who has asked that the suspension be removed from Cameron’s record and for administrators to examine district policy to allow for more culturally responsive, restorative disciplinary practices.

“I’m not trying to cause (the district) harm (by speaking out),” Jones said. “I’m trying to make you a better district. Let’s look at this problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Cameron Jones said despite the incident, he still wants to be a barber.