Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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“Banana man” has good return to school, mom says

UPDATE:  Colonial Forge Principal Karen Spillman was not at the school today because she was at home with a sick child, schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim said.

Lisa Martin, who was promoted this year to assistant superintendent of secondary education after 11 years as Colonial Forge’s principal, “came over so they would not be a person down in the building today,” Cottongim said. She said Martin gave the school’s announcements.

She said Martin filled in due to last week’s events and because it was Bryan’s first day back. Cottongim did not mention Bryan by name.

Colonial Forge sophomore Bryan Thompson, the so-called “banana man,” had a good return to school today, his mom told me today.

“He just came home and said he’ll be excited when he can move on from being a banana man,” mom Tavia Thompson said.

She later added: “He said that the kids were happy to see him back at school, and there wasn’t too much disturbance.”

Bryan, 14, was issued a 10-day suspension after running onto the football field in a banana costume during half-time at a home game Friday, Sept. 16.  Colonial Forge Principal Karen Spillman recommended he be suspended for the rest of the 2011–12 school year.

Director of Legal Services Daryl Nelson on Friday lifted the suspension effective today, Thompson said. Bryan served five days of the suspension last week and will have to serve the remaining five if he misbehaves.

“He was just happy to be back at school,” she said.  Bryan, who his mom said was outside playing, was unavailable for comment.

His mom said that tomorrow Bryan will be launching a website called, where he’ll sell banana man T–shirts with a variety of slogans: “Free banana man,” “Run banana man run,” and “Banana man needs his education too.”

She said the family plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to an autism organization. 

Bryan has high-functioning autism. Thompson said he sometimes acts impulsively, and she attributed that to his behavior at the football game.

Asked whether she thought the website was fueling the fire, Thompson said: “I see it as turning something negative into…something positive and using it to support autism.” 

At Colonial Forge this morning, Thompson said she and Bryan met with former Colonial Forge principal Lisa Martin, currently an associate superintendent with the school system.

She said Martin was “very nice and attentive” to Bryan’s needs.  Martin told her Spillman was out sick, Thompson said.

“We talked to her about him joining the track team,” Thompson said.

She said she was surprised by Bryan’s speed when she watched a YouTube video of the “banana man” incident, which currently has almost 75,000 views.