A 9-year-old boy at St. Stanislaus Elementary School, Winona, Minnesota, was immediately and indefinitely suspended on Thursday night at a school lip-sync fundraiser after mimicking Michael Jackson’s famous groin grab during a rendition of “Billie Jean.” Mindy Boberg said St. Stan’s principal Pat Bowlin approached her and her son, Lenny, during the event and told her the performance — specifically the handful of times Lenny reached for his groin area to imitate one of Jackson’s best-known dance moves — constituted gross misconduct and that Lenny was suspended.
Boberg said Lenny has performed similar Michael Jackson routines the past two years without incident at the St. Stan’s event, and that the Winona Area Catholic Schools’ Parent-Teacher-Partnership approved all event performances during a Tuesday rehearsal. Boberg said she is upset with how Bowlin handled the situation and doesn’t understand why her son was singled out, particularly because some students at the fundraiser performed acts wearing boxer underwear and others shook their “tail feathers.”
At about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Bowlin sent an email to all WACS faculty, staff and families titled “Thank you/ apology.” It read: “On behalf of the Winona Area Catholic Schools, I would like to thank all the students, teachers, parents, and friends of our school for your support of our Lip Sync contest. So many people worked incredibly hard to make it a great event. We did have one act that was clearly inappropriate. I want to extend my apology for that situation.”
The WACS student/parent handbook states that a school principal may immediately suspend a student for gross misconduct. It defines gross misconduct as an action that “creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to another person or serious damage to the property of the school or another person, or conduct which substantially impairs the discipline and order of the school environment.” Bowlin declined comment, saying the situation was an internal issue. He said he plans to meet with the Boberg family later this morning to discuss the suspension.