WHITING | That pretty, soft white snow that blanketed Northwest Indiana earlier this week proved irresistible to two Nathan Hale Elementary School fifth-graders as they walked the couple of blocks home Tuesday afternoon.
Booker Rothenberg, 10, and his friend engaged in that time-honored tradition, pelting each other a few times with the soft snow on the way home, having some good, old-fashioned fun after a busy day at school, according to Booker's mother, Dado Gyure.
A school staff member, on school property, saw the boys, who were off school property, across the street from the school and told them to stop, according to Gyure. Booker told his mother they stopped immediately.
However, neither of them expected what happened next.
Gyure said she was called to the school Wednesday, and her son was suspended for two days — Thursday and Friday. He's scheduled to return to school after winter break Jan. 6.
Gyure said her son is a good student. She said he is on the honor roll and was student of the month last fall.
"I think this is really a teaching moment for a child," Gyure said.
"I understand why the rule exists. I've found out that my son understands the difference between fluffy snow, icy snow and packed snow. I understand the school believes that anything that happens between school and home is their responsibility. But I think a two-day suspension for an elementary student is too much. Throwing soft, fluffy snowballs is not the same as fighting. It's trampling on something that is a time-honored tradition.
"I think the punishment is extreme for a model student. Maybe something like detention, in-house suspension or writing, 'I will not throw snowballs,' is more appropriate."
Gyure said she almost feels like it's her fault. She said her son came home a few days before this incident and said school officials told him students could not throw snowballs on school property. "He was pretty sad about it," Gyure said.
"I told him he could probably play in the snow and throw snowballs off school property."
Neither School City of Whiting Superintendent Sandra Martinez nor Nathan Hale Principal Penny Banfield responded to several phone calls each Friday from The Times.
Gyure said when she talked to the principal, she was told a middle school student threw an icy snowball at someone. She said she understands the student was suspended as well, but she believes the punishment should not be unilateral.
"There are different degrees of emotional maturity. I think the punishment was too severe for fifth-graders," she said.