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National Post

Parents defend son's speech on boredom

School prohibits boy from reading essay

National Post, by Melissa Leong, Monday, February 26, 2007

The parents of an 11-year-old Mississauga student are charging that school officials violated their son's right to freedom of speech after the boy was prohibited from reading aloud a dissertation about classroom boredom.

Frank and Donna Trimboli say they were upset when their youngest son, Gianmarco, returned home from St. Sebastian Catholic School about two weeks ago with news that his speech was "unacceptable and derogatory." The teacher and principal asked him to produce another for his Grade 6 class, Mr. Trimboli said.

"I was really upset. You're taking my son's voice out of his mouth," he said last night.

The beginning of Gianmarco's speech makes reference to how bored he and potentially other classmates are in French class.

A spokesman for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board could not be reached last night but spokesman Bruce Campbell told The Mississauga News: "By speaking about class being boring, he undermines the authority of teachers.

"One of the prominent things we teach is respect for authority figures," he added.

Gianmarco had won last year's class speech contest with a piece about laughter. Ms. Trimboli, an artist and mother of three, said this time, Gianmarco worked on his speech for a few weeks; it was a topic she suggested.

"The essence was phenomenal," she said. "I thought, 'This is a really good message.' "

Mr. Trimboli added: "He was speaking out: 'I want to be stimulated. I want to learn. I'm not bad.' "

Gianmarco's speech also touched on facts about boredom gleaned from the Internet ("one-third of students are bored at school") and reflections on what constitutes a boring teacher and what makes for an engaging one.

"Boredom is misunderstood and labels children as lazy or misbehaving," he wrote. "We students need information and learning in our everyday life that sets our soul on fire."

After speaking with the school principal, Gianmarco was allowed to hand in his speech but he could not present it before his classmates. Ms. Trimboli said he received a mark of zero.

She said Gianmarco, who enjoys math and science, is a smiley and out-spoken boy -- the latter quality used to get him in trouble in Grade 4.

The family said that although they will not pursue the matter further, they are disappointed the school board views the speech as "half-empty" rather than "half-full," and they hope more parents appreciate what children have to say.

Gianmarco likes his speech. He said he thinks his first paragraph makes the listeners want to hear more./p>

His motive: "So the teachers will make the class funner."

© National Post 2007