11-year-old adds ‘bow tie’ to pig drawing and school labels it inappropriate, mom says


A Michigan mom said she is fighting to have her daughter’s drawing removed from any school records after administrators found it “inappropriate.” But the school district has said the drawing has not been added to any student records.

The drawing in question is of a bright pink pig — with one yellow ear, a yellow tail and two red arms — standing up on its legs as it says “Hi,” as shown in a TikTok video created by mother Sierra Carter. The pig is wearing a bow tie, she said.

@sierraleann30 Replying to @victoriaupdike ♬ Colors - Stella Jang

Carter said her fifth-grader drew the pig during art class at Hanover-Horton Elementary, then she got a phone call from a teacher saying the bow tie was inappropriate.

“A little boy had come up to her and made her aware that he thought my daughter drew boy parts on her pig project,” Carter said in a Jan. 17 TikTok.

“My daughter told the teacher right away that she drew a bow tie,” the mom said.

Carter said she met with the teacher, a school social worker and the principal, but was told a “bow tie” would only include a bow.

“To her, a bow tie is a bow and a tie,” Carter said. “And if another kid happened to look at it and think that it was something else, that sounds more like a he problem, not a she problem.”

While the principal agreed not to write her daughter up, he said he was going to keep the drawing in a folder “in case any future incidents come up where she’s inappropriate.”

In a statement to McClatchy News, Hanover-Horton School District Superintendent John Denney said “our staff is charged with maintaining schools that are safe and free from distraction or disruption.”

“In performing that responsibility, they strive to follow all legal and policy requirements,” he continued. “Any decisions related to this matter were made consistent with, and in furtherance of, those principles.”

Since the initial meeting, Carter said she has met with Denney to discuss her daughter’s artwork to ensure it isn’t placed in any file and to request an apology.

After the meeting, on Jan. 27, she said “the school is refusing to remove the artwork from her file or apologize for the accusation.”

“It is unfortunate that a one-sided narrative has been created on social media that paints our staff in a negative light,” Denney told McClatchy News. “As with every situation, there are two sides to this story. In this case, a student appropriately brought concerns to the attention of our staff. In response, our staff handled the situation with compassion and discretion. Staff contacted the student’s parents to discuss the situation. No student was singled out or ostracized. Every effort was made to protect the privacy and dignity of all students.

“Nothing has been placed in any student’s school records related to this matter,” he continued.

In a Feb. 2 TikTok, Carter shared a copy of an email she received from the superintendent. Denney confirmed to McClatchy News that he wrote the email.

“I have come to the conclusion that I do not feel it would be appropriate for (the principal) to dispose of the artifacts that he currently has from the drawing,” he wrote. “As it stands right now, they are basically notes that can be referred back to if there were any significant issues through the end of the year. Her official file has no reference to or indication of the situation in question.

“This is not a case of holding something over her head, even though it may feel that way,” Denney continued. “ ... It is our way of giving a bit of a break while still having something to accurately look back on if a similar thing occurs later in the year.”

Carter said she is not going to drop the issue. She’s planning to attend the next school board meeting on Feb. 13 and is inviting others to attend “in support of my daughters artwork.”

Hanover is about 95 miles southwest of Detroit.

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