Catholic school has zero-tolerance policy against violence, real or imagined

By Hilary Shenfeld
November 06, 2015 02:00 PM
Courtesy Miele Family

A 6-year-old boy was out on the playground at his Ohio school pretending to be a Power Ranger with other first graders when he decided to deploy his secret – and imaginary – weapon.

He drew back his arm and pretended to shoot his invisible bow and arrow. In doing so, however, he violated the Catholic school’s zero-tolerance policy on violence – whether real or make-believe – and was suspended for three days, his father, Matthew Miele, tells PEOPLE.

“I feel it was a severe overreaction,” Miele tells PEOPLE of the suspension after the Oct. 29 incident, adding that he wants the school to revise its policies. “Obviously this suspension is not a teaching moment,” he says.

The principal of the elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes school in Cincinnati, did not reply to PEOPLE’s requests for comment. But in a letter to parents, which was verified as authentic by Miele, the principal, Joe Crachiolo, contends that strong measures are necessary in light of recent school shootings and other violence.

“These games are not appropriate in a Catholic school, or any other school setting,” Crachiolo wrote. “It is not ‘fun’ and certainly not Catholic to pretend to harm another person.”

He noted that similar imaginary games were considered acceptable years ago, and that he himself engaged in them, but said that nowadays they are “no longer appropriate.”

“Schools have been in the news far too often due to violence, threats and the like,” he wrote.

As such, he wrote, “I have no tolerance for any real, pretend, or imitated violence.”

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Miele, 36, a Cincinnati firefighter, and his wife, Martha, 35, a pediatric nurse, say their son had no prior disciplinary reports and that he was sad when he was learned of the suspension.

“He was kind of upset and confused,” Matthew Miele says. “I don’t think he understands that it was violent. He’s thinking, ‘I’m acting out a character.'”

That kind of imaginary play is beneficial for kids, he said. “It’s incredibly important for a child developing his abstract thought and empathy,” Miele says, who likened the fantasy violence to that in Peter Pan other children’s plays.

Martha Miele said her son was told on the first day of school about the restrictions, but, she tells PEOPLE, “He told me, ‘Mom, I just forgot.'” Martha Miele says she would like the school to exercise more discretion. “He’s a little boy playing a game,” she says. “He’s not malicious.”

The couple says their son will finish out the school year, and that he knows to follow the rules. However, Matthew Miele says he isn’t certain if his son will return to second grade at the school.

“I told him, ‘Right now we can’t have any superpower play at school,” says Matthew Miele, adding that he plans to work on getting the policy changed. “I hope we’re able to show him that adults can disagree and bring positive solutions out of it.”

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