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US boy dresses as vagrant for class, is suspended

October 27, 2013

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A U.S. student who dressed as a homeless man for a drama assignment was so convincing that he fooled school officials — and was suspended from classes.

It began with an assignment last month, Michael Bodomov, 17, said: Create a character and be that person for an entire day.

Bodomov said he created a homeless man named John who had a separation from his family after he ran over his younger sister. John was also swayed by a guru to give up all his material possessions.

“I wore like a couple layers of coats and some sweatpants,” Bodomov said. He added a pair of fingerless gloves, mismatched shoes and plastic bags for socks. He smeared ink on his face to make it look dirty.

Bodomov usually walks to school, but his mother, Marina, thought he looked so much like a homeless person that she drove him and dropped him off early, before the main entrance was open. Bodomov went to an alternate entrance, shook the door and attracted the attention of a teacher or hall monitor, who asked what the stranger wanted.

“I kind of mumbled” and “said I need to talk to some people,” Bodomov recalled, adding that it might have made officials think he was mentally unbalanced.

Bodomov said he was stuck between the desire to play his role and the temptation to tell officials who he was.

“At one point, I think I said, ‘I might be a student here,’” and a school official responded, “No, you can’t be. You look like you’re 30 and you haven’t showered in 10 days.”

He also tried showing them the garbage bag he was carrying, since it contained his school backpack. But the bag was also filled with empty plastic bottles.

Then the police showed up.

After staying in character for a little longer, Bodomov explained the whole situation. The police left, and an administrator said he was suspended for insubordination and for breaking a rule that students must identify themselves to an administrator when asked.

Officials said the district can’t comment on individual discipline.

Bodomov understands that the school was in an unusual position, but the two-day suspension still hurts. “I definitely think they overreacted,” he said.

But Bodomov’s mother said the school was right to be careful, given safety concerns in the wake of recent violent shootings around the country.

When a mumbling stranger carrying a garbage bag shows up at a school, she said, “Who knows how it’s going to turn out?”

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