If School Officials Got Confused By Kid's Science Project, Why Does The Kid Need Counseling?

from the shouldn't-it-go-the-other-way? dept

Slashdot points us to the story of an 11-year-old student who tried to build his own motion-detector system as a science project, and when he brought it to school to show people, school officials thought it was a bomb and freaked out. They called the police, evacuated the school and all of the expected chaos followed. Law enforcement even brought in a robot to examine the device, and the student’s house was searched for explosives (none found, of course). After all of this (and it was said that the student and his parents were “very cooperative” throughout the ordeal) you might think the family deserves an apology. Instead:

The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent….

I’m trying to figure out what “policies” could have been violated, and why it would require that he and his parents get counseling. It wasn’t the kid who did anything wrong. It was the school officials who freaked out. Perhaps they should be the ones to seek counseling?

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “If School Officials Got Confused By Kid's Science Project, Why Does The Kid Need Counseling?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if the device worked or not. Making a motion detector at age 11 is pretty impressive.

But lets look at the situation.

Kid does something smart
School freaks out
School blames kid for freaking out
School cites ‘broken policies’ as the reason

The only way I can see it is either the school has a ban on wires and ‘electronics’ or it’s against school policy to be smart.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Making a motion detector at age 11 is pretty impressive.”

Oh please, I bet you at least one of the parents was like an electrical engineer. The kid had little clue how to make it without the help of the parents. Since it’s the kid who should be making the project, I might give the student a bad grade just because it’s clear that the parents made it and not the kid. Or else I might independently ask the kids a bunch of questions about motion detectors and see if the kid can answer without the help of his parents.

Oh wait, most teachers at his grade level won’t know enough about motion detectors to know what to ask.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If they don’t know the difference between a bomb and a motion detector then what makes you think they’ll know what questions to ask?

teacher: Does your motion detector involve explosives?

Student: No.

Teacher: So your project will not explode upon detecting motion

Student: No

Teacher: Ok, you get an A.

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And there are books aimed at the 10-12 year old range that teach them how to make stuff like this. Just go take a look at the “Evil Genius” series. I just bought one for my nephew for Christmas. The one on spy gadgets has lots of interesting gadgets. Granted, they may need some assistance, but the projects aren’t difficult to build.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where is this?

See, if you knew what words mean you’d realize that you can’t have the word Federal in the title because it entails agreement among states to unite under a federal body. In this case CA is a single State. However, you certainly can say The People’s Republic of California which, if it became such, would instantly flush the rest of the country to the last 3rd of countries ranking in terms of development and wealth.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Where is this?

that only works if the counties exist as valid entities without the state giving them authority.

if the state exists by the authority and agreement of the counties, then it could be a federation. if the counties exist at the dictate of the state, then it is unitary, i believe.

then there’s Feudalism, which can be kinda both and neither…

a-dub (profile) says:

“Police and fire officials also will not seek to recover costs associated with responding to the incident, the spokesman said.”

The vice principal should be responsible for paying the police and fire officials, as well as paying the child’s parents for time and even mileage. But what the hell was the VP thinking? You see a young student showing other students a suspicious device and you go run to call 911? Any moron can look at an empty coke bottle with wires and quickly determine that it’s not an explosive. If it were my kid, I would have that principal by the balls and I would give him valid reason to call the police. What a joke.

“A MAST robot took pictures of the device and X-rays were evaluated. About 3 p.m., the device was determined to be harmless, Luque said.”

This whole thing reminds me of that Baby Ruth in the pool incident in Caddyshack. Lets drain the pool and send in hazmat to determine what that floater is….ridiculous.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Any moron can look at an empty coke bottle with wires and quickly determine that it’s not an explosive.”

Yeah, the thing this has in common with Boston’s Mooninites freak-out is that someone should have realized that a bomb requires something to actually be doing the explody. You can cram as many Lite-Brites and Gatorade bottles together as you want, and it doesn’t matter how many wires and circuit boards you wrap it with, it ain’t going to go Boom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: (sigh)

The right-wing would have used this incident as an excuse for all Amurricins to carry side-arms to shoot the kid before determining the “explosive device” was, in fact, a motion-detector science project.

Apparently it was an “emotion detector”, and the kid requires school mandated counseling to get over his justifiable “terrorist” vitriol against administrative stupidity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: (sigh)

But most gun control type of legislation is passed by the left. This being an extension of over control protectionist “save-the-children” but not the unborn children type mindset.

Simple truth is that yes, might not be a leftist that over-reacted, but most educators at least at university level are liberals and conservatives are not well recieved there.

rooben (profile) says:

Re: (sigh)

I was thinking exactly the opposite! Typical right-wing fear (everything/everyone is a terrorist if they are not part of the Hive Mind).

If you look at San Diego, they actually lean further right wing than left. Most of their State and National reps are Republican.

Unfortunately, Terrorism fear is the responsiblilty of right-wing hacks trying to scare their way into office, and the blind media promoting fear in order to boost ratings.

JB says:


Man, I remember taking film roll canisters with a mall amount of vinegar and baking soda, shaking them up and rolling them behind occupied toilets at school. Everyone had a good laugh and the chemistry teacher decided to incorporate such things into the lessons. Now, I wouldn’t doubt that the bomb squad and haz-mat would be called in to deal with possible bombs unleashing a white powder in the lavatories. School would be shut down, parents freaking out, police making arrests and kids being scarred for life due to overzealous enforcement and paranoia. Sad thing is, I’ve only been out of high school for 10 years.

Ryan (profile) says:


how the times have changed. I remember making a spud gun (it looked like a cannon and shot a potato about 100 yards) for my high school physics class. We used it to study velocity and motion equations in a way more fun way than simply doing calculations on the blackboard.

I can’t imagine what would happen if I were a student today and pulled into the parking lot with what looked like a cannon in my pickup truck.

Michael (profile) says:


Didn’t you know that there was a policy against cool science projects in most public schools?

Great message – don’t build anything remotely cool and bring it to school.

Next thing will be that the school will realize that the kid came up with some new technology for motion detection and they will want to own the rights to it because it was a science project.

Tyanna says:

School Mission Statement:

All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their technology skills to enhance their motivation and curiosity to excel academically in order to become productive citizens that will drastically impact the developing information age.

All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills to enhance their motivation to excel academically in order to become global leaders and productive citizens in their chosen career path.

Makes me wonder what rules the school has to contradict that….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Because of the school's reaction

I think my family would benefit from some counseling for PTSD after this type of reaction.

While one can understand why a school official might have raised eyebrows when first confronted with an unknown device, I wonder if anyone ever asked the boy what it was before launching into “full lockdown mode”? It is one thing to err on the side of caution, and quite another thing to throw reason out the window.

Nick Dynice (profile) says:

The counseling might go soemthing like this:

“Look kid, there are a lot of dumb people out there, and your teachers and principals are no exception. They have been trained by Hollywood movies as to what a bomb looks like, and have probably never seen or heard of an electronic project kit. So, in the future, house your project in project box so that no one can see the wires or batteries.”

The terrorists win again by making everyone unreasonably vigilante, resulting in possibly fewer kids experimenting with electronic kits, making us a less technically literate society, causing innovations to occur elsewhere.

chris (profile) says:

children are too much liability

children and the institutions necessary to adjudicate them are a drain on society.

i don’t see why we should continue this nonsense. children ruin everything, why not just ban them instead of letting the government ruin our lives to protect them?

it has to be cheaper to just institute a national curfew that forbids people under the age of 21 from leaving their homes physically or electronically. perhaps a hunting season where it is legal to shoot children for sport would be incentive to keep children out of sight without taxing law enforcement unnecessarily.

just like guns or animals, children are dangerous items that need to be should be registered, tracked, and kept under lock and key.

once public spaces are free from the threat of children, perhaps a little sanity will return to our government and society can return to normal operation.

Colg says:

Sigh… we made a methane oxygen bomb in physics class (under supervision) and set it off in the hall way. It rattled all the windows in that wing of the school and brought everyone running. Today I guess we would have all been arrested.

Actually I agree that the whole family is in need of counseling. The have just been vigorously mindfucked and should be treated for stress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well played, dorp.

Actually, I’m not all that interested in this story. I’m more interested in Mike’s motivation in posting this. The story is all over the place and now it’s here too. Mike / Techdirt has enough credibility and influence that people might talk to him. Add something to the story and I’ll be impressed. Shouting “yeah! what’s up with that?” isn’t so interesting.

SkullCowboy (profile) says:

Between the lines

It’s a pity the reporter who wrote the article didn’t ask a few probing questions, like what school policy the student broke. Or, ‘after talking to the student’ what led them to believe evacuation of the school and a search of the student’s garage was warranted.
I can almost here the ultimatum offered by the school officials at the end of this.
Admit this was all you and your child’s fault, don’t contradict any of this at a later date and we won’t file a bunch of bogus charges, make you pay for police and fire response and expel your child for reasons that will keep him out of anything but a school for violent offenders.
Oh, the student handbook for the school can be found here:
Maybe some of you can figure what policy he broke…

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Between the lines

> It’s a pity the reporter who wrote the article
> didn’t ask a few probing questions, like what
> school policy the student broke.

I’ve noticed this trend in journalism across the board. Most news stories these days leave me wanting for basic facts. The news media seems to focus more on feelings and emotions than factual information.

Anonymous Coward says:

In defense of the school...

Once upon a time it was neat to have those 1001 electronics boards and radio kits back in the 80’s, these days all these items will be viewed by the non-technical (and the trained bomb squads) as suspicious, no matter what the owner says. And with all the Arduino/atmega/xbee/electronic hobby sites cropping up (hackaday.org, sparkfun.com, adafruit.com), its easy to have access to many of these cool hardware kits, and easy for security to brand you as a terrorist if seen with these items.

Keep in mind people that with everything that has happened since 9/11 and the shoe and underwear bomb attempts, everyone is on their toes when they see something out of the ordinary.

Let me ask you this: if *you* were vp of a school (technical or not, doesn’t matter) and you see a kid with a device inside a bottle with electronics and wires, wouldn’t that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand and raise all kinds of alarms in your head? I don’t agree with their response to counseling, but you have to give the vp at least a little credit for properly responding. What if it *was* a real bomb? The VP was in his place to make that call, he would not have been doing his job otherwise.

You can’t possibly expect someone to walk into a public place with a circuit board and wires exposed to open air and not have someone yell ‘terrorist’. It’s just not possible nowadays, thank the gov’t and terrorists for that. They created the perfect amount of paranoia in our country for incidents like this to be blown way out of proportion.

Joe says:

Re: In defense of the school...

What you meant to say is that once upon a time it was cool to be an intellectual, to stand up above the rest, to have the desire and drive to create something new and innovative. For example, Bill gates was selling his software to cities at 14. However, we now live in an age where intelligence, science and reason in general are frowned upon, it is not cool to be the smart guy. This child should have been celebrated, instead of traumatizing him for the rest of his life. If he did truly create a functional motion detector at 11, can you imagine what he would have been making by 21? But not anymore, because now his parents will never let him around another circuit board in fear of causing another ‘terror’ panic.

The part that completely blows my mind is the fact that a principal thought that the kid would bring a bomb to school. Are you serious? How paranoid and demented do you have to be if the first thought that came to this DB’s mind was “it’s a bomb!”.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: In defense of the school...

I agree that the initial suspicion may not be overreaction. But maybe instead of calling in the bomb squad, the VP should have asked: “What is in that bottle little Timmy?” And little Timmy would go: “Nothing sir, I’m using it as part of my project in the following XYZ ways.” “Do you mind if I peek in?” “No at all.” [VP peeks in] “OK, cool Timmy, have a nice day…”

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: In defense of the school...

So now explain to me where in 9-11 and the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber, electronics were where? Who saw all the exposed circuit boards? As I recall, 9-11 was box cutters, the shoe bomber was trying to light his shoe with a match, and I didn’t want to know how the underwear bomber was trying to detonate his.

Hiccup says:

I will give them the benefit out the doublt...

And assume that the counseling they are recommending the kid take is because of how they over-reacted and to make sure he knows he didn’t do anything wrong.

I don’t see how after talking to the student about his project they came to the conclusion that they should call in the bomb squad.

It would be cool to see a picture of his project too, and what his final grade on it was.


ok ill put a real pipe bomb schematic on my website

this way kids teachers and the govt idiots can all see what a real bomb looks like and yea BTW i take absolutely no liability nor warranty when you frak up and blow up the garage as two 12 year olds did 10 years back

yea see we need more stupid people right at least this way we can get rid a the frak tards in society by having them blow themselves up

SuperSparky (user link) says:

Government in control

See what happens when you throw out common sense and hand it over to government bureaucrats. You see, the most competent work for the private sector. The morons settle to the “government knows best” slime pool.

I am curious as to how “zero tolerance” can even be applied to this case. The kid did his assignment, a completely clueless moron freaked out over his own ignorance (why is that guy in charge?), and then when the spotlight shows his own stupidity, he blames the kid for his obvious mistake. What was the school not tolerating? Homework? I believe the “zero tolerance” should apply to the VP for scaring a population of students and parents for no reason whatsoever. Throw the moron out. Such a person should never be involved in education.

Rant over, but perhaps all school staff should have a familiarity what classes are being taught and that all electronic circuits aren’t bombs. Bombs usually involve an explosive.

What does this kid learn? Label his science projects with a big bold sign saying “MOTION DETECTOR”.

Anonymous Coward says:

motion-detector incident

I wonder if it detected any motion in the school officials’ undergarments…

The original article states “After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined.” – I wonder what was said during that discussion ….. ?

Monarch (profile) says:

Maybe it is being recommended they get counseling for the psychological distress they were subjected to by the school and local authorities? I would say I would need city funded counseling for my child and myself if I were subjected to that kind of abuse of power by the local government. Probably speak to a lawyer about a civil suit against the city for violation of my civil rights also.

1$ for you says:

the race the americans won to the moon

apart form some possibilities it was all in a Hollywood stage

funny last i checked the rockets that got to the moon were made entirely in america by americans. YES they were new immigrants some like the project leader but hey THEY WERE AMERICAN

even my dad was smart enough to immigrate out of the usa to canada

every american i dealt with has soo much money they just buy the intelligence and worry about getting scammed latr

Overcast (profile) says:

hahah, sounds like the school officials are the ones in need of ‘counseling’.

Speaking of which – why do we never hear about how politicians and other government officials need ‘counseling’.

Would just the concept and overwhelming desire to stay in a position of power so long be considered ‘mental instability’?

Seems to me, it’s “Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder” or some variation of such.

Anonymous Coward says:

I remember when I was a kid in elementary school, my dad had bought me one of those ’60-in-1′ kits. I would take it to school and build radios/alarms out of it and a crowd of kids would gather around to see what I was making. I can’t fathom had I done that as a kid nowadays; I’m sure it could’ve turned out much like this story.

Prince Manjee (profile) says:

Those "Educators" are a joke

This is another case of the student being smarter than the educator and being punished for it. The kid obviously must have put some real work into building his home made motion sensor with photo electric cells and relays etc. The teacher is so dumb to assume its a bomb when in fact they were inviting science fair experiments. He could have built a bomb and it still would have been a science fair project.

Simply put those school officials are morons and now have the tenacity to tell the parents of the students under their charge that they know whats best for their kids. And to the parents of that kid.. “PRIVATE SCHOOL ASAP”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...