Bryan Thompson, dressed as a banana
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. (WUSA) -- A 14-year-old student suspended for a half-time prank at his school's football game can now go back to school.
"Yeah! Banana Man is free!" laughed Bryan Thompson as he and his mother emerged from his disciplinary hearing.
He says school administrators told him he could go back to school on Monday. He was given 10 days of suspension. He's only been out five; the other five days will be held in reserve in case he gets in trouble again. Then he'll suffer the new punishment plus the five days.
"I think I should've been punished, but not to this extreme," said Thompson. He was even threatened with suspension by Colonial Forge High School principal Karen Spillman after he ran out onto the field during a high school football game dressed in a banana costume.
"The mascot is an eagle, but it wasn't there. No mascot, no fun," Thompson said.
So he decided to be the new mascot: Banana Man.
Thompson is a high school sophomore is a talented multi-media artist.
All self-taught, Bryan plays the piano by ear, he writes and sings Rap music, shoots and produces his own videos, and creates compelling photographs, often using himself as the subject.
He put on his banana costume and ran out on the football field during halftime, just after the band finished.
On YouTube videos, you can hear students cheering on the Banana Man. They loved it. But the principal, Dr. Karen Spillman, did not. The police escorted him off the field and handcuffed him. Then Dr. Spillman gave Bryan a ten day suspension with the possibility of expulsion.
They said he cussed at police, but he says he didn't.
"I never cuss at anybody in authority. Anybody that knows me knows I would not do that," said Bryan.
His mother, Tavia Thompson, says at their hearing, nobody mentioned cursing. And she says they told her he wasn't punished for the costume, but for his disrespect for authorities because he raised his hands up and said, "I'm gonna be famous."
But she thinks the suspension was really for the impulsive stunt. That night, Thompson says she was stunned to find her son handcuffed in a police car when she got to the game.
She says he's not the kind of kid that gets in trouble. She says everyday after school, instead of doing mischief, he's in his bedroom working on his music and videos.
His latest song and music video is titled "Free banana man." That's the saying on t-shirts worn to school by friends of Bryan, who say four of them are now being punished for wearing them to school. They each been given Saturday School, says student Chris Johnson.
Tavia Thompson says she already punished her son for his actions and would've been OK with some kind of punishment from the school. But not one in which he misses school for many days.
She fought and won in today's meeting. Thompson will be back in school Monday, most likely, to a hero's welcome.
This week, some of Bryan's friends wore Free Banana Man t-shirts. Some of the shirts were confiscated and the students are all being punished with Saturday School. The American Civil Liberties Union told Principal Spillman in a letter... that she must allow students to wear those T-shirts.
The executive director of the ACLU of Virginia says that it's well established law that students do not lose their free speech rights at the schoolhouse door. In her letter to the principal, she pointed to a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed an Iowa student to wear an armband protesting the Vietnam War.
Written by Peggy Fox