Lead Story

Tyler Stoken, 9, was suspended in May from his elementary school in Aberdeen, Washington, for refusing to answer a question on a test given to fourth graders statewide: Write a short essay describing what might happen if one day at school you “see your principal flying by a window.” School personnel repeatedly tried to get Tyler to complete the test, and his mother told a TV reporter she was called to the school “to make him answer the question,” but he said he didn’t understand how to respond in a way that wouldn’t be making fun of the principal. Calling Tyler’s behavior “blatant defiance and insubordination” and bemoaning the effect it would have on the class’s overall score, the principal issued a five-day suspension. The school superintendent quickly apologized and ordered Tyler’s reinstatement (and suggested that the “high stakes” test puts a lot of stress on all involved), but Tyler said he wanted to go to a new school.

Government in Action

Seeking to curb insider trading, the agency that oversees Spain’s stock exchange announced in May that it would soon implement a rule requiring directors of listed companies to provide not just the names of their family members but the names of anyone else with whom they have an “affectionate relationship.” Also in May, the city of Nanjing, China, stepped up its fight against corruption by ordering municipal officials to disclose any extramarital affairs they might be having.

Official guidelines issued in May by Britain’s exam boards call for students to receive extra points on standardized tests if they’ve experienced certain stressful circumstances. These include recent death of a parent or close relative (up to 5 percent extra), death of other relative (up to 4 percent), death of pet (2 percent if on exam day, 1 percent if the day before), witnessing a distressing event on exam day (3 percent), newly broken limb (3 percent), hay fever (2 percent), and headache (1 percent).


An undercover deputy in Orange County, Florida (whose name wasn’t disclosed in local coverage), went to court in May with a lawsuit against the Florida Hospital in Orlando. He claimed that in October 2000 nurses at the hospital had injected his hip with what was supposed to be pain medication for a sinus operation but was actually cosmetic glitter. After he experienced what he said was persistent pain near the injection site for three months, surgeons removed a four-by-four-inch mass that contained “green and red sparkling material.” The deputy has since been hospitalized 12 times and now walks with a limp.

Suspicions Confirmed

The Florida Supreme Court disbarred Tallahassee attorney David A. Barrett in March; among the numerous misconduct charges against him was paying for a paralegal to train as a hospital chaplain, allegedly in order to gain access to the emergency room and solicit business for Barrett after praying with patients and their families. And in County Cork, Ireland, in December, a 13-year-old boy was suspended from school for two days after he admitted responsibility for a classroom fart.

Unclear on the Concept

In May, Jim Stelling, Republican Party chair in Seminole County, Florida, won a defamation lawsuit against Nancy Goettman, a former county official who he said sabotaged his run for the state party chairmanship. Goettman had mailed a letter to other Florida Republicans mentioning that Stelling had been married six times; Stelling, who said he believes in “family values,” successfully argued that he’d in fact been married only five times. He was awarded no damages.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

In April police in Buffalo, New York, said Thomas L. Hunter, 55, tried to steal a case of brandy from a liquor store but accidentally dropped the bottles during his getaway. He was arrested when he returned to the scene of the spill and started sucking up the brandy with a straw. And at a train station in Ogori, Japan, in May a blind couple fell onto the tracks when their seeing-eye dog apparently misunderstood a spoken command and led them off the edge of the platform. They were on their way to a workshop for guide dogs.

Creme de la Weird

Four former patients of clinical psychologist Letitia Libman sued Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Illinois, in March and April for malpractice. They claimed that Libman advocated witchcraft in her treatment, employing tarot cards, love potions, and spells (she allegedly requested that one patient bring in a sample of her husband’s DNA for the purpose). Libman also allegedly stripped naked during sessions, convinced one patient to move in with her, and bragged of contact with extraterrestrials. In May the lawsuits were amended to include Libman herself as a defendant–a move the plaintiffs said they’d initially resisted because they feared Libman’s retribution.

Recurring Themes

In March News of the Weird reported on a Chicago-area doctor who sued another doctor with whom he’d had an affair, saying she’d inflicted emotional distress on him by secretly saving his sperm and using it to become pregnant. Gary Robinson, 26, filed a similar suit in West Palm Beach, Florida, in May. Robinson, a former caddie, claimed that pro golfer Jackie Gallagher-Smith, 37, started a sexual relationship with him last year in order to make him an “unwitting sperm donor.” Gallagher-Smith, who is married, gave birth in April. Under Florida law a woman’s husband is assumed to be the father of her children, and the family can’t be forced to take DNA tests, but Robinson said Gallagher-Smith led him to believe the child was his.

Least Competent People

In Danbury, New Hampshire, in March 39-year-old Steven Metallic was arrested after he threatened to fill his mother’s house with propane gas and blow it up. A standoff with police ended when the officers pretended to leave, then captured Metallic trying to sneak away.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.