A California couple is lobbying for administrators at Great Valley Academy public charter school in Modesto to clear their 5-year-old son's record after he was suspended from school for a day for allegedly making a "terroristic threat" by refusing to remove his backpack and claiming there was a bomb inside.
The couple's son, Jackson Riley, told his teacher that the bomb inside his backpack would go off if he removed it, according to Fox 40.
The school responded by sending Jackson's parents a letter, saying he was suspended for his intent to "threaten, intimidate or harass others," according to Fox 40. They later revised the charged to reflect that Jackson had made "terroristic threats."
Jackson's father, Ian Riley, told The Modesto Bee that on Aug. 31, he got a call from the school explaining what his son did and was asked to pick him up. He was then told Jackson would be suspended.
"I said, I'll come get him, but I'm not sure what a suspension will do for a 5-year-old. They said, 'It's what we have to do,'" Ian said.
He said when he and his wife Michelle pointed out to administrators that the code under which his son was being punished only applied to fourth- through 12th-graders, the school sent them a revised letter stating that Jackson was being suspended for making terrorist threats.
They claim their son was simply joking with his teacher and believe the administrators' reaction was a "knee-jerk" one.
"We have two kids there and the teachers are amazing," Ian Riley said of the school. "Our issue is with the administration's knee-jerk reaction."
"My son never made a threat, never wanted to blow up the school," he added. "He was almost victimizing himself in his imagination, making himself the hero" by keeping the backpack on.
He said he and his wife spoke with Jackson about what he did and they believe he understands the consequences of his actions now.
"We had a bigger conversation about when they tell you to take your backpack off, you do it. You follow the rules," Ian Riley said.
Despite meeting with school officials to see if they can settle the issue, Ian and his wife said the suspension will be noted on Jackson's permanent record. They are now hoping to have more success at a meeting with the CEO of the school on Friday.
According to Ian Riley, his son said he was just trying to prank his teacher when he said there was a bomb in his backpack but he now knows that some pranks aren't always appropriate.
"He's a happy boy and still is a happy boy," the father said. "We didn't come down on him with fire and fury over this. We told him not everybody wants to be pranked."