Banana Man Is Back In School: Asperger’s Teen Handcuffed For Prank (Video)

 

For dressing up like a banana and running onto a football field during halftime at a Colonial Forge High School football game on Friday, September 16, 14-year-old Bryan Thompson was (1) handcuffed by police; (2) placed in a police car; (3) suspended for 10 days; (4) threatened with suspension for the rest of the school year.

Can we call this a case of the punishment not exactly fitting what wasn’t even a crime?

According to a letter from principal Karen C. Spillman of Stafford, Virginia, Bryan has been suspended for “disobedience” and “disrespectful” behavior towards an administrator, “disruption” of a student activity, a “refusal” to follow the directions of an administrator and “continued disregard of the Student Code of Conduct.” In particular, he was seen as “presenting an immediate danger to the welfare, health and safety of any person.” How a teenage boy donning a banana costume and running onto a football field, and during halftime, could cause all that is not spelled out in the letter. The video below shows what occurred:

The Monday after the game, Bryan’s schoolmates protested his suspension by wearing “Free Banana Man” t-shirts — only to have them confiscated and to be ordered to be at school on Saturday as a punishment. Clearly the authorities at Colonial Forge High school felt that the incident had to be squashed faster than you can flatten, yes, a banana. At this point, the ACLU stepped in on the grounds that freedom of speech was being suppressed. Thousands expressed support for Bryan via Facebook as did students at his school, saying that they felt the principal had been overly harsh. Some, though, said they felt that students were objecting more to a new “principal seen as overly strict by some,” rather than standing up for Bryan.

In any event, the Stafford school district reduced Bryan’s suspension to five days. Bryan, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, returned to school this Monday morning and, according to his mother, Tavia Thompson, he “was just happy to be back at school.” Bryan is planning to launch a website on Tuesday, freebananaman.com, to sell banana man t-shirts with slogans like “Free banana man,” “Run banana man run,” and “Banana man needs his education too.” His mother says that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to an autism organization:

Thompson said he sometimes acts impulsively, and she attributed that to his behavior at the football game.

Asked whether she thought the website was fueling the fire, Thompson said: “I see it as turning something negative into… something positive and using it to support autism.”

Brian and his mother met with an associate superintendent on Monday and talked about “productive ways” that he might use both his running skills and his “affinity for cartoon suits,” by joining the track team and also, possibly, serving as the school’s mascot, an eagle.

It’s an upbeat ending to an incident that, as shown by a number of other cases of autistic students being handcuffed, shows how ill-prepared school districts are addressing what they see as “disruptive” behavior. Calling the police and putting Bryan in handcuffs was simply excessive. As Susan Moffit at Autism Key points out, Brian is not the only African-American student with Asperger’s who has been subjected to harsh disciplinary treatment by Stafford:

[Stafford] is the town where Neli Latson, another teenager with Asperger’s,†was racially profiled as he sat outside waiting for the public library to open. Neli remains in jail for assaulting an officer who suddenly threw him over the hood of a squad car and tried to cuff him after he wouldn’t tell him his name. His mother is still working feverishly to secure his release from prison.

I would be remiss not to mention the fact that both Neli and Bryan are African American, making for some unsettling coincidences in relation to unusually harsh punishments for minorities on the autism spectrum in Stafford.

Tavia Thompson said Bryan’s fellow students were “happy” to see him back today. But will such good will last? Has the debacle really taught school personnel and the community of Stafford about acceptance of students on the autism spectrum?

 

Related Care2 Coverage

Toronto Police Defend Handcuffing Boy with Aspergerís

Denver Police Handcuff 8-Year-Old Autistic Boy

Why Are Children Being Handcuffed at School?

 

Photo by clvergrrl

32 comments

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S.4 years ago

Leave Bananaman alone. He's not hurting anyone by running across a field dressed like a banana. Seriously, do the authorities at this high school really have nothing better to do than create drama from nothing to draw attention to themselves?

Tavia Thomspon
Tavia Thomspon4 years ago

Banana Man now has a web site you can visit for pictures video music and more, www.freebananaman.com

Myriam G.
Myriam G.4 years ago

Thanks for another well-written article, Kristina! Please keep us posted on Banana Man!

Dear Mrs Thompson, I can relate. I'm the mother of a young man that has Asperger's Syndrome. As a kid, he always liked disguises, wore them often, and wanted to go to school wearing a kilt. Though he doesn't have any behavioral problem, he often got in trouble in school, including an incident where he ended up hand-cuffed in the back of a police car, simply because of a misunderstanding. So, I have a lot of sympathy for Banana Man.

I'm glad things seem to be looking up for Bryan. Apparently, he's got good friends, he's well-liked at his school (which is not always the case for Asperger kids, unfortunately), he's even putting together his own website. His school seems to have (a little bit of) humor, since they
talked about “productive ways” that he might use both his running skills and his “affinity for cartoon suits”. I see a young man who, as my son, will be a productive member of society.

Go banana man, go. I'm going to buy two of your T-shirts: one for me, and one for my son.

Myriam G.
Myriam G.4 years ago

Thanks for another well-written article, Kristina! Please keep us posted on Banana Man!

Dear Mrs Thompson, I can relate. I'm the mother of a young man that has Asperger's Syndrome. As a kid, he always liked disguises, wore them often, and wanted to go to school wearing a kilt. Though he doesn't have any behavioral problem, he often got in trouble in school, including an incident where he ended up hand-cuffed in the back of a police car, simply because of a misunderstanding. So, I have a lot of sympathy for Banana Man.

I'm glad things seem to be looking up for Bryan. Apparently, he's got good friends, he's well-liked at his school (which is not always the case for Asperger kids, unfortunately), he's even putting together his own website. His school seems to have (a little bit of) humor, since they
talked about “productive ways” that he might use both his running skills and his “affinity for cartoon suits”. I see a young man who, as my son, will be a productive member of society.

Go banana man, go. I'm going to buy two of your T-shirts: one for me, and one for my son.

Gloria H.
Gloria H.4 years ago

I thought Bananna Man was hilarious. But then I work in the performing arts and find football stupid and boring. Bryan has promise and will be outstanding (or out running) in what ever field he chooses. Maybe they will use him in sex education class when they do the condom on the bananna demonstration?

Wanda Walker
Wanda Walker4 years ago

Wow what do they do to students who wear gang colors or baggy clothes? If the administration hand cuffs banana man who was just having fun..... There needs to be a parent principle conference.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold4 years ago

This is what happens with "Zero Tolerance". It's time that the person "in trouble" be considered as a person themselves, not lumped with everyone else. There may have been extenuating circumstances that needed to be considered.

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

doesn't know how to be a mascot :(

Gina H.
Gina M. H.4 years ago

Gimme a break! Now what's wrong with having some fun? That would have been something I might have tried in my teens for a good laugh! So GO FOR IT Banana Man! Just give em' the slip next time. Why does anyone assume this is due to racism although I can see where throwing bananas on a field would be. Cripes! I saw the reinactment of the Fruit-Of-the-Loom gang (ala teenagers) walk down the sidewalk outside of my house a few months ago! Maybe I should have called in the National Guard! Could have been subjected to a "fly by fruiting" or something. This school system needs to develop a sense of humor versus authoritarianism.

Denise L.
Denise L.4 years ago

After all the recent stories about kids being bullied by classmates I just love that the students at this school rallied around and supported Banana Man.