The Attorney General has decided that the Lewiston Middle School student who placed a paper bag containing a ham steak on a table where Somali Muslims were sitting will not be charged with a crime.
He has, however, been suspended from school, and will probably have to undergo reeducation and self-criticism sessions.
LEWISTON - A student who tossed ham on a school table occupied by Somali students last month will not be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.
But that decision, announced on Wednesday, will not have any bearing the school’s handling of the incident. The Lewiston Middle School student who placed the bagged ham has been suspended, according to Lewiston school officials.
Police who investigated found that no crime had been committed, and their part of the probe ended shortly after. “We referred our findings to the Attorney General’s Office,” police Chief William Welch said Wednesday night. “And we support their decision.”
From the start, there was debate in the community about whether the student’s actions constituted a hate crime. Muslims consider pork unclean and offensive.
A 14-year-old Somali boy told the Sun Journal last month that he was eating at a table with four other Somali students on April 11 when the ham was thrown on the table. The teen said the ham was in a bag and that the student who tossed it laughed along with other students who witnessed the incident.
Letters were sent to the parents of Middle School students, and the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence got involved to help address the issue. Ultimately though, it was up to the AG’s Office to determine whether the incident constituted a hate crime.
Had it been deemed as such, further legal action could have been taken against the student. Typically, when a person is accused of a hate crime, the AG’s Office requests an injunction or restraining order against the culprit. Violations of an injunction can result in fines and jail time.
Now that it has been decided the ham incident did not constitute a hate crime, the student’s discipline will end with the school system.
If you’re wondering what sort of community would consider for one second the idea of charging a middle school student with a crime for something like this, a reader comment for this article compares the ham steak in a bag to burning a cross on someone’s lawn.
D, having ham is fine. Throwing it at someone who cannot eat it isn’t. That would be the same as me going around and burning crosses on peoples lawn. It’s not just harmless fun. Justice, same to you. They are fine with other people having it, but not having it thrown at them. Debra, use common sense. Dropping ham wouldn’t be considered a hate crime. Only someone stupid would really believe that. MBR: Saying someing isn’t a hate crime, doing something is. If someone came up to your daughter, and burned a cross in front of her, that’d be a hate crime, just as much as throwing ham at them. You all need to stop being so ignorant, and learn a little common sense.
UPDATE at 5/3/07 12:14:52 pm:
In case anyone is confused about my point of view, I’m not cheering this kid’s behavior. But it’s the kind of mean schoolyard crap that happens every day, in a million ways, in a million schools across the world. It’s part of growing up.
To even think of making it a crime is simply deranged.
Give the kid a talking to. Make sure he knows he behaved badly. But call the police? That’s sick, on a whole lot of levels.