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Pasco fourth-grader ditches controversial backpack

The image on Quentin Ferrer’s backpack was deemed inappropriate after a parent complained to the principal.

Special to the Times

The image on Quentin Ferrer’s backpack was deemed inappropriate after a parent complained to the principal.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Quentin Ferrer has a new backpack.

The Richey Elementary School fourth-grader gave up his old bag, which featured a sketch of a scantily clad woman and a snake, after watching his father and the school principal feud over it much of Wednesday morning.

"He said, 'I felt uncomfortable at school. This guy keeps bothering me,' " said Fred Ferrer, Quentin's dad. "He said, 'I don't want you to get in trouble.' So we went out and bought two new backpacks."

Principal Ken Miesner had banned the original backpack after a parent complained about its illustration. Miesner said it caused a disruption and was inappropriate. Fred Ferrer challenged the move as censorship and vowed to fight after the School Board declined to intervene.

The dispute drew attention across the country, including a segment on the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford.

Ferrer said Thursday that he continued to seek options to protect his son's freedom of expression. But he did not want his son to feel bad about going to school, as was beginning to happen.

He explained that Quentin, 9, took his banned backpack to school on Wednesday, with an embroidered patch over the cleavage and bra strap of the woman in the drawing. Miesner came to the boy while eating breakfast and brought him to the office to take the backpack away, Ferrer said.

The father came and fought to allow the boy to keep the backpack. Some police officers were there, he said, to monitor the situation. At one point, Quentin thought his dad had been arrested, Ferrer said, but that did not occur.

Ferrer said he still thinks the district policy governing student attire is unclear, because it leaves too much discretion to a school principal. He wants to see that changed. But, he added, he does not want to harm his child's education in that pursuit.

School district officials said they consider the matter resolved with the boy's new backpack. Board members have not ruled out reviewing the policy in the future.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Pasco fourth-grader ditches controversial backpack 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 8:18pm]
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