The Washington Post

Principal resigns after suspending ‘Banana man’

Mari-Jane Williams is a news design editor at The Washington Post and a regular guest contributor to the On Parenting blog. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children, one of whom has special needs.

Stafford County schools accepted the resignation of Colonial Forge Principal Karen Spillman on Tuesday night, days after Spillman suspended sophomore Bryan Thompson, 14, for 10 days — and recommended his expulsion — for running onto the field during halftime of a Sept. 16 football game wearing a banana suit.

Thompson returned to school Monday after the school shortened his suspension to five days. Valerie S. Cottongim, public information officer for Stafford County Public Schools, declined comment on the incident, citing privacy concerns surrounding personnel and student issues.

Bryan, meanwhile, is a little overwhelmed by all of the attention he’s received for what he thought was a little joke and is just trying to get back into a normal routine at school, said his mother, Tavia Thompson.

Bryan has high-functioning autism and has had an Individualized Education Plan since second grade, she said. He is in general education classes with support from special educators.

“All of this has happened so fast,” Thompson said. “I’m really concerned about him going back to school and being in a normal setting… I don’t want the teachers to lash out at him. I know he’s probably going to be under a microscope for every little thing he does. ”

She added that she is considering taking him out of school for a few months to home-school him until the attention abates, because she is worried that Bryan, whom she says does not understand all of the fuss, will not be able to focus and control his impulses with all of the attention that he is receiving.

“He wants to go back to just being Bryan,” Thompson said. “He doesn’t understand any of this. ... To him it was all just fun and games.”

Bryan's plans to start selling t-shirts on his Web site,, are on hold, Thompson said, because he wants to let some of the attention die down. Bryan hopes to donate proceeds from the sale of the shirts to an autism advocacy organization.

Related content

Dressing autism in a banana suit does no one any favors

Mari-Jane Williams edits community news for Local Living.


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