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Not a Good Week for Six-Year-Olds

By Elizabeth Rich — October 16, 2009 2 min read
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It was a strange week for six-year-old boys—a trifecta of odd events that read as follows:

As of today, Ohio has repealed a school safety law that was named after a six-year-old who was killed in school, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Jarod’s Law,” honoring a boy who was struck by a falling cafeteria table, required every public and private school to undergo an annual inspection and repair anything that presented a danger to a child. It had strong legislative support. But, the Plain Dealer reports, the law’s repeal was buried in the state’s budget. Said principal Jill Petitti of Lorain County Joint Vocational School, who has spent more than $50,000 to comply with the law, “It’s kind of frustrating. Schools spent so much and so many people got involved with this, and then it just stopped. We thought that it was very strange.”

On Monday, six-year-old Zachary Christie of Delaware made news for facing a 45-day sentence in a reform school for having brought his Cub Scout camping utensil to his school, which has a zero-tolerance weapons policy. In an articulate statement on the Today Show, the 1st grader said he’d delivered utensil to a teacher who said she’d give it his classroom teacher, but then turned it over to the principal. His mother, Debbie Christie, created a Web site and pushed the issue, figuring publicity would bring the board of education around. It worked. The threat of punishment was dropped. Zachary has returned to his 1st grade classroom. It is not clear if his record will be expunged.

And then, finally, yesterday, much of the country was gripped by the images of a jiffy-pop looking helium inflated balloon sailing 7,000 feet in the air across the Colorado Plains. Could six-year-old Falcon Heene be inside the balloon his storm-chasing father built? Anyone watching wouldn’t have had to think for too long or too hard about what might have happened to a little boy trapped in his father’s science experiment. After the balloon touched down without the child who was later “found” in the family’s attic, speculation arose about the possibility of a hoax, particularly after a strange interview on CNN during which the boy said, looking at his father, “You said that we did this for the show.”

According to reports, the father enjoys building science projects with his children. “We’re always doing some kind of scientific research,” Heene said. “We’re always building something together. I teach my kids how to shoot cameras. It’s highly educational for my boys...This is not some kind of hoax.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.