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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2014/01/a-tussle-over-a-note-in-class-then-handcuffs/

Talent & education

A tussle over a note in class, then handcuffs

Freshman Kyle Thompson was expelled and faced a criminal charge after a confrontation with his science teacher. (Bridge photo by Lisa Thompson)

Freshman Kyle Thompson was expelled and faced a criminal charge after a confrontation with his science teacher. (Courtesy photo)

Kyle Thompson has done his best to move forward from that day last March.

A sophomore at a small private Detroit high school, his most recent report card is straight A’s. He is making new friends.

But he said he still can’t shake the sound of one particular word: criminal.

He was in the last few minutes of freshman science class at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, in suburban Detroit, when a friend got hold of a whimsical “hit list” from his school folder. The list contained nicknames he had coined for people he wanted to tackle on the football field. His teacher took it from him. He tried to take it back. He recalls that everyone, including the teacher, was laughing as they tugged back and forth on the paper.

At that point, accounts differ. His teacher reported she was forced to the ground and fearful for her safety. Thompson said he never shoved her down, which his mother and lawyer said classmates confirmed.

“She yelled, ‘Let go,’” Thompson recalled. “I let go.”

Not long after, Thompson was taken from school in handcuffs and charged with assault. Under state law, he was expelled for at least 180 days. “Going to criminal court, hearing the word criminal just stands out,” he said.

And thus began a nightmare for his mother, Farmington Hills resident Lisa Thompson, 45. “It affected all of us,” she said. “My hair fell out. I gained weight. It affected other people in the immediate family.”

School officials indicated they had no choice because of provisions of Michigan’s zero-tolerance law. It mandates an expulsion of at least 180 days for any student who assaults a school employee.

Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said she could not comment on the specific incident or student involved. But she issued a statement that expressed frustration with the zero-tolerance law.

The district, Zurvalec wrote, strives “to consider each student and any incident separately and individually.”

She added, “The zero-tolerance law passed by our legislature takes that ability away from us and requires all assaults to be treated the same. It is up to state policy makers to revise these zero-tolerance laws…”

Three months after the incident, Thompson was ordered placed under house arrest. He was allowed to leave home only to attend church and see a private tutor.

“I understand the process,” his mother recalled. “But it took so long to get any kind of resolution to it. He became really depressed. He relived the incident over and over and over. He hated talking about it.”

Denied admission to other schools, Thompson took online classes but struggled.

This past October, Thompson, 15, was admitted to Detroit Christian High School. His first-quarter report card shows A’s in English, religion, geometry and chemistry.

His mother said she was determined to fight the criminal charges in Oakland County court. A pharmaceutical sales representative, she had the means to hire a private attorney. She held out for a jury trial.

In early December, on the eve of jury selection, the prosecution offered to wipe the charges from his record in exchange for a plea of no contest. Her son would have no criminal record under the terms of the deal. The family accepted the offer.

Kyle Thompson said he hopes that students and teachers alike learn from his experience, “just to know that one mistake can ruin your life and to think before you act.”

Ted Roelofs worked for the Grand Rapids Press for 30 years, where he covered everything from politics to social services to military affairs. He has earned numerous awards, including for work in Albania during the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis.

20 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Rich

    Don’t you just love politicians. For everything wrong in society, they will hold hearings and pass laws after the fact. Politicians are the largest group of buffoons who have the least common sense. In this case, it would have been better to let an educational professional enact how the situation would be handled.

  2. ron

    In many schools zero tolerance is no enforced. Example that best illustrates this is in the dress code. That battle has been around for at least 30 plus years.Ron

  3. Brian

    “And thus began a nightmare for his mother, Farmington Hills resident Lisa Thompson, 45. “It affected all of us,” she said. “My hair fell out. I gained weight. It affected other people in the immediate family.”

    Hey Lisa Thompson, your kid had a “hit list!” and wouldn’t give it up! Glad your student isn’t in my kids class!

    1. Sue

      Should he have called it a tackle list???

  4. Steve

    He is the author of his own misfortune. Violence has no place in school.

    1. Kendricks

      The so called “hit list” was about tackling football players. Did you miss that part of the story?

      1. Brian

        Yes, Kendricks I missed that part of the story as did everyone else – because the story never mentions the words “tackling football players.” You added these words in your apparent attempt to twist the narrative in order to make this potentially dangerous person the “victim.” Us parents shouldn’t need to worry about sending our kids to school where their classmates may have “hit lists” with our kids names on it! This country has never tolerated this type of behavior – and hopefully never will. BTW the article does state this about Kyle: Denied admission to other schools, Thompson took online classes but struggled…

        1. Judie

          Re-read the article – clearly states it was for a football “hit” list – which is what a tackle is also called – a ‘hit’.

          1. Brian

            If you are in favor of allowing students students to run around with “hit lists” – then YOU are sick. Keep your kids away from my kids!

        2. Jeff

          Read the story Brian. I was a “hit list” or a list of nicknames he made for other kids he wanted to tackle on the football field. Let me help: Paragraph 4, 2nd sentence.

          1. Brian

            Jeff,

            If you will notice from the above thread I was calling out Kendrick for stating: “The so called “hit list” was about tackling football players. Did you miss that part of the story?”
            I was pointing out to Kendrick that the article doesn’t mention tackling football players. It mentions tackling “people.” Which of course could be more troubling/disturbing… Kendrick added “football players” as his own narrative.

            BTW Since when has it become acceptable for high school students to have “hit lists?” Any concerns?
            Seems odd to many people that this kid would have a “hit list” for people he wanted to tackle on the football field…

        3. LG

          Clearly, Brian, your reading comprehension skills are lacking. The article clearly states: “He was in the last few minutes of freshman science class at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, in suburban Detroit, when a friend got hold of a whimsical “hit list” from his school folder. The list contained nicknames he had coined for people he wanted to tackle on the football field.”

          Now, I don’t even like football and don’t think that young kids should be tackling anybody, but that’s an argument for another time and place. However, your personal dislike of the fact that this kid had a list of people to tackle in football is not a valid reason for you or anyone to say such negative things about him. You don’t know this kid beyond what you read in the article, just like the rest of us.

          And as for him struggling with online classes, there are many people who have difficulty with online communication. I would hazard a guess that you would, given your commentary on this particular forum.

  5. Dorothy

    We know violence has no place in school – . I feel that the school did not handle this situation appropriately in that they hid behind the “zero tolerence” law rather than investigate the situation fairly. Laws need to change re zero tolerence. Kyle was just being a 14 year old kid. Clearly his punishment did not fit the crime.

  6. Chris

    I’m sorry, what did this kid do wrong? He had a hit list, which as explained above – which Brian seems to want to ignore – was about tackling other players on the field of play. This was not some hit list to be used to gun down classmates or do harm to anyone.

    Again I ask, what did he do wrong? He had a piece of paper. The teacher decided to try to take it. The young man tried to take it back. Based on statements from other classmates he did not hit the teacher, he did not push her and when told to let go…he let go. Where is the assualt? She had no right or cause to take it. She had no reason to believe there was anything on that paper to cause alarm, which as it turns there was not. What she should have done was tell the student who took it from Kyle to give it back to Kyle….end of story and we never hear about this. The teacher is to blame here. She should have acted like the adult in the situation and dealt with it more appropriately.

    For those of you who think they got some big criminal fout of the Farmington PS…you are seriously misguided.

    Brian,
    I re-read the article several times and it clearly talks about tackling on a football field as being the purpose of the ‘hit list’. Dude, you need to get a grip. You are just like the politicians, and the teacher – sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, only seeing the facts that you want to see, and not admitting when you are wrong.

    Yikes!

    I agree with Rich, this could have been handled by allowing a uninvolved school admin official to sort out the details and hand out any punishment.

    1. Brian

      Chris,

      Do you know for a fact that Kyle’s “hit list” was about tackling other players on the field? You seem to have inside information that as you say “This was not some hit list to be used to gun down classmates or do harm to anyone.” You must know Klye personally to make such statements – or are you making your own assumptions? The problem with Klye’s excuse for having a hit list – Kyle Thompson is not/wasn’t listed as a football player on the Harrison High Football team roster. Plus, football season is in the Fall – not March. For all we know he was preparing to play “The Knockout Game.” Can you prove he wasn’t?

      What is most alarming to me here are your statements: “The teacher is to blame here. She should have acted like the adult in the situation and dealt with it more appropriately.” Here you display such immaturity that it isn’t worth trying to explain the teacher/student relationship or how a civil society works. I assume you will continue to blame the teacher – never the kid (victim).

      Then you mention: “You are just like the politicians, and the teacher – sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, only seeing the facts that you want to see, and not admitting when you are wrong.” Personally, I’m glad the teacher had the will power to do the right thing and investigate. In a civil society kids with “hit lists” are a problem and need to be dealt with. Sorry. Sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong…? Are you kidding me? She, the teacher (authority figure) was protecting MY kids from a kid with a “hit list!” Hello!
      BTW Do you wonder why Kyle was denied being admitted to other schools? Since you seem to know him personally – tell us why he was denied entrance to other schools…

      In closing, you may think I’m wrong, you may think the teachers, administrators, police etc are all wrong – everyone is wrong except Kyle! Ridiculous. Many of us believe that Kyle and his “hit list” supporters are destroying our civil society.

      1. Chris

        Brian,

        talk about making assumptions or grand leaps. The knockout game?? Where did that come from in this whole thing? The knockout ‘game’ is something recent that is getting press now. Kyle’s deal happened in March of 2013 before the knockout game became such a big hit with media. And my hit I mean popular not that anyone is going to kill someone. Just thought I would make that clear to you. And yes, I mean to say the media, as usual, is having a field day with this b/c it sells. But I digress.

        No, I don’t know Kyle or anyone involved with the case. I’m READING the article….try it. It’s very enlightening.

      2. Chris D

        I actually played football in that same school district. We definitely used the term “hit” to mean tackle, and used it often. In fact, we used it in at least 2 to 1 ratio over the term ‘tackle’. I can absolutely say that I would expect any football player I knew to use the term “hit” over “tackle”. The thought of the list meaning anything else didn’t even occur to me until I started reading the comments. And had it been ‘tackle list’, I would have been confused and wondered if it was about fishing. Any of us would have called it a hit list for sure.

        (note I am a different Chris than the previous poster)

  7. kay

    The student and his fellow students testified that he didn’t knock down the teacher and he was still punished? As a former teacher, I think something isn’t right here. Perhaps the school needed to investigate the teacher and her actions a little closer.

  8. Linda

    Please ignore the troll Brian everyone. By responding to his narrow-minded, judgmental comments you are encouraging him.

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