GAITHERSBURG, MD (WUSA9) - Two Gaithersburg parents are very upset at the response their 11-year-old got after he drew a lynching scene in a class assignment.
The sixth grader appeared to have been making a social statement with the drawing, but a teacher and counselor didn't see it that way.
WUSA9 talked to the 11-year-old Monday, after he got back from a mental health screening at the Montgomery County Crisis Center.
"I felt like I did something wrong but as I come back home, my mom tells me I didn't do anything wrong, so I'm proud of this,” said Tidiani Epps.
The sixth grader told WUSA9 he thought the assignment last Thursday, for Banned Books Week, was to draw something you didn't want to see anymore. So he drew a lynching to depict racism still existing in the United States. The drawing is titled "Black Lives Matter."
"Most people because of what's going on in the world now, they're scared. The little kids that are growing up. They shouldn't have to know that they lived around this,” Epps said.
"I'm still a little angry at how things were handled,” Sade Green said.
Green told WUSA9 her son never got to explain this and instead, was pulled out of class most of Friday, questioned on his mental health, told to sign a 'Contract for Safety' promising not to harm himself and was then told to undergo a mental health evaluation at the Montgomery County Crisis Center.
Green said the teacher saw her son’s drawing of a noose and thought suicide.
"I felt like it kind-of rattled them a little bit. Especially coming from an 11-year-old, they didn't expect it. They didn't like it and it just bothered them so instead of turning something into a positive, they just brushed it off and said, 'Okay, something's got to be wrong with him,” said Green.
Green said the family talks about recent events, shootings and protests to help keep Epps safe.
"Just always pay attention. It's not just about Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter but right now that's what's going on unfortunately in the world and kids aren't dumb,” she said.
"Coming from a kid. An 11-year-old, it should send a message to all adults in saying that, they should stop it and need to do something about it,” said Epps.
Montgomery County Schools Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told WUSA9 the teacher was really just concerned about Epps’ well-being.
She believes there was first miscommunication and then a misinterpretation, but says Epps still saw a counselor and was sent to be evaluated because a ‘Crisis Plan’ had already been activated.
Onijala told WUSA9 over the phone, it’s not a county issue in terms of training. She said the middle school’s principal will need to have a conversation with his staff.
Epps just said he hopes to explain his drawing and have a discussion around it.
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