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School accused of trying to 'demonize' student in 'pastry gun' suspension

The attorney for a Maryland boy who was suspended after shaping a pastry into a gun says school administrators are trying to "demonize" him in their bid to fight an appeal to have the punishment erased from his school record. 

Joshua Welch, 9, was suspended from Park Elementary School in Baltimore for two days in March 2013 after his second-grade teacher accused him of chewing his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.  

The case received national media attention and led to legislative efforts in Maryland and other states to prohibit suspending students for having imaginary and toy guns.

School official have denied the family's attempts to have the suspension removed from Joshua's school record, prompting an appeal heard Tuesday by a school system-appointed hearing examiner, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Laurie Pritchard, the Anne Arundel school system's director of legal services, said the suspension was the culmination of "ongoing classroom disruption" by the boy, including one incident in which he struck another student, the report said.

Robin Ficker, an attorney for the family, told The Baltimore Sun that the school system had previously said it suspended Joshua solely for the pastry gun incident.

"The Anne Arundel County school board is now bringing other facts into light that aren't relevant," Ficker said. "For some reason [the school system] doesn't want to let go of Joshua Welch. They are trying to terrorize him and demonize him."

Joshua, who was 7 at the time of the incident, has since been transferred to another public school in the county. He testified on his own behalf, saying he would like to see his record cleared, The Baltimore Sun reported.

"Yes I want that taken off my record. I don't think it should be on my record," Joshua said in response to a question from Ficker.

The hearing examiner is expected to send a recommendation on the matter to the school board, according to the report.

Click here for more from The Baltimore Sun.

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