Surprises

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
overreaction, schools, students



Another Teen Frightens School Personnel With Technical Stuff; Panic, Stupidity Fail To Ensue

from the where-did-all-this-logic-and-restraint-come-from? dept

Ahmed Mohamed, age 14, arrived at school with a clock sitting inside a pencil box. It was obviously a hoax bomb, which is a Texas thing that allows people who don't possess bombs to be prosecuted as if they did. Fun stuff. I'm sure everyone involved wishes their day had gone another way -- with the exception of Ahmed Mohamed, who has now been invited to Facebook, the White House and MIT. Everyone on the other side of the equation has been invited to do other stuff -- most of it involving nearly-impossible sexual acts or perversely scatalogical feats.

Here's another story about a student with an interest in things school personnel tend to find inordinately worrying. The climate of fear far too many schools actively encourage with zero tolerance policies played a part here, as did law enforcement's worrying willingness to feed off the negative energy this climate generates. On the plus side, overreaction and idiocy played nearly no part in this incident.

Lt. Raul Denis, spokesman for the Horry County Police Department, says someone found the two notebooks containing disturbing material inside a classroom at Forestbrook Middle School. A school resource officer was alerted of the discovery last Wednesday.
The notebooks belonged to an autistic 13-year-old. Here's what police found inside them:
Police say the journals contained information on “sensitive subjects like weapons and explosives science, maps, blue prints, jobs and stories pertaining to a video game called Balloon Tower Defense 5.” Denis said in a release there was also a reference to a school the student had once attended.
The contents have not been published, so we'll never know how much of a threat was posed by the teen's Balloon Tower Defense fan fiction. The "sensitive subjects" deemed "disturbing" by the school are also easily Googled subjects. And this student was hardly the first teen boy to express an interest in weapons and explosives. Perhaps the real problem was the mention of a school, which is like waving a red flag in front of a bull camera in front of a tank factory.

But there's a happy-ish ending to this story. While we may find issue with the contents of the notebook being inherently suspicious, the police did the sort of thing they're supposed to do: they investigated before leaping to ridiculous conclusions.

For a very brief period, the autistic teen was facing charges for "disturbing school." The statute is, as expected, incredibly vague, which makes it a handy thing to use to detain teens with scary notebooks while everything is sorted out.
(A) It shall be unlawful:

(1) for any person wilfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State
The rest of the statute deals with loitering and "acting in an obnoxious manner."

But this was a very brief detention. The police did all the things they should have done. They determined there was nothing threatening about the contents. They discovered the teen had no access to weapons or explosives. Most importantly, they CONTACTED HIS PARENTS, who explained everything.
“The investigation and examination of the journals found that the child is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and is highly intelligent, and the journals, which the parents were aware of, are used as a therapeutic/comforting mechanism,” Denis said in a press release. “the child focuses on these subjects because he dreams of being a nuclear engineer.”
At which point, the student was released to his parents and the charge dropped. It would have been better if this could have been conducted without detaining the teen, but considering all the variables, this went about as well as can be expected in the zero tolerance era.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 8:11am

    You know what struck me? The almost complete sanity that was displayed throughout the whole thing (detention excluded).

    When you are surprised that people in management and law enforcement positions act sanely then something is very wrong with society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:17am

      Re:

      When the first thing the school does is involve the police, then you know massive progress has been made towards implementing a fascist state.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      radix (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:29pm

      Re:

      They found a notebook with mentions of guns, bombs and the name of a school Can you imagine the insanity that would have ensued if the kid were brown?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 8:37pm

      Re:

      Might be more because of the very large public backlash against the texas police acting in a criminal manner recently in the similar incident.

      They might be the sort that do their jobs like they are supposed to. Pardon my cynicism that I doubt they are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 9:43am

    No, the detention makes it just as bad.

    The detention negates anything "positive" that could have happened.

    Kind of like "I know you are black, that's why I stopped you. But it's all good, because I let you go."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 26 Sep 2015 @ 3:40pm

      Re: No, the detention makes it just as bad.

      From what I read, all the kid lost was a bit of time which might even be a pleasant change from monotony. It could'a been fun. There doesn't appear to be any negative involved here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 25 Sep 2015 @ 9:47am

    Shouldn't the school TEACHERS already know he is an aspiring nuclear engineer? They act like they didn't even know him. Shouldn't the PRINCIPAL have done what the police did? It's alarming that the people that are supposedly teaching our children are so mind-numbingly lacking common sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      The are in full on See Something Do Something or We'll be Liable!
      There was an odd shaped cloud, put the school on lockdown, because if it turns out it was a fighter plane about to gun down all the children we'd be responsible!!!

      Parents have abdicated their responsibilities to society to handle, so you have to be as idiotic as the dumbest parent (or most vocal voter). The policies are written to cover their ass to the utmost and professionals are supposed to be the cooler heads... and sadly many times they get whipped into the hysteria and go full bore.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      They act like they didn't even know him.
      It's not a good idea for guards to get to be friendly (or even on good terms) with prisoners.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:03am

    The good ole gov'ment will take care of it.

    Another lesson kiddos. No matter how small and trivial it is, we'll just hand it over to the gov'ment cuz they'll take care of everything... A case of no common sense being handed over to negative common sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, no the other Mike., 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:30am

    Why would detainment during the investigation not be warranted?

    I understand it was all about nothing, but how do you ask questions to someone that isn't there?

    I'm glad the cops had a moment of sanity, but I don't think detainment was unwarranted. Especially when after calling the parents it was all cleared up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      A notebook does not pose an immediate danger, therefore an investigation before detaining the child would be a much better approach.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DCL, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      Well if they actually had a bomb or a gun, sure detainment would be warranted...

      If the "weapons and explosives science, maps, blue prints, jobs and stories" were for the actual school and real weapons (and not a game) then, yeah detainment would be warranted.

      Being detained just for having a journal for something that looks scary but can be easily be identified as fantasy is problematic. I would have spent ALOT of time being detained since I normally had "blueprints for weapons and stories" for various Role playing games like D&D and Robotech. I even made a role playing game based on maps of the city about defending against a Soviet attack (it was the 80's and was into Tom Clancy novels). That probably would get me on the No Fly list these days.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      Why would detainment during the investigation not be warranted?


      Because there was no crime. There was a notebook. The proper procedure is not to make an arrest and THEN read the notebooks to see that there's no threat. The proper procedure is to read the notebook, see there is no threat, and return the notebook to the student without arresting him.

      They arrested him under a law that seems unconstitutionally broad, especially as they applied it here. The notebook "disturbed" someone? That's enough to get him arrested?

      I understand it was all about nothing, but how do you ask questions to someone that isn't there?


      Asking questions and arresting someone are not the same thing. And he has a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself - he does not have to answer their questions. (Speaking of the 5th Amendment, there's also a right to not be deprived of liberty without due process of law. You can't just arrest someone for no good reason.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 6:56pm

      Re:

      > Why would detainment during the investigation not be warranted?


      Because they'd be all too liable to detain the kid instead of the one who caused the panic: the one who saw the notebook as a threat.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mattshow (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:32am

    They are concerned about the contents of this notebook for all the wrong reasons. Bloon Tower Defense 5 (and 4 before it) absolutely devastated my productivity for over a month. Frankly I'm amazed I was never fired. This kid's entire academic career is in jeopardy.

    Sure, getting that Super Monkey feels food. But at what cost?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffry Houser (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:33am

    I love Bloon Tower Defense

    I'm a big fan of the Bloon Tower Defense games. I'd put Bloon Monkey City up against your favorite Facebook game in the addiction category.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 1:48pm

      Re: I love Bloon Tower Defense

      I'm a big fan of the Bloon Tower Defense games. I'd put Bloon Monkey City up against your favorite Facebook game in the addiction category.

      I had to delete Bloon TD5 off my phone a few months back. Too addictive and way too fun.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:34am

    Or vs and

    (A) It shall be unlawful:
    (1) for any person wilfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State"


    Willfully OR unnecessarily? So if it was necessary (like, if you pulled the fire alarm because there was an actual fire) you could still go to jail? Or if you accidentally trip the alarm because someone pushed you into it, you could go to jail because it was unnecessary even though it was not willful?

    Also, I don't think "wilfully" is how you spell that word.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:07am

      Re: Or vs and

      And to take that a step further, if you willfully or unnecessarily disturb in ANY way or in ANY place the students or teachers of any school in the State, you are guilty. A brother annoys a sister at home? Guilty; she's a student, and it says in ANY place. I post a comment on my blog unnecessarily expressing my totally unrelated thoughts on a topic totally unrelated to this? Guilty; I still disturbed a teacher in South Carolina even though I'm not from that state.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 5:11pm

      Re: Or vs and

      Then there is the whole matter of how party X poking around in party Y's stuff is manufactured into party Y causing anything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:37am

    What frightens me..

    I am a father of an autistic son. I'm afraid something will happen in his school and they will interrogate him without me present. He will say yes to almost anything when asked because he likes to nod his head. If someone wants an easy confession, it will be hard to pass on my son.
    Luckily he has dependable friends to keep an eye on him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:06am

    I've actually played the game in question

    They got the name wrong. :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:08am

      Re: I've actually played the game in question

      Oh, right, it's "Bloons".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 28 Sep 2015 @ 6:47am

      Re: I've actually played the game in question

      I was going to say this, but didn't want to seem pedantic. It was making me nuts that everyone was saying the name wrong. Thanks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:08am

    They did EXACTLY what they were supposed to...

    It's a police state and a CYA (cover your arse) state, where it's panic and call the authorities first, let rational though prevail later... after the authorities tell us it's ok to use our brains.

    I agree with the poster above, when it's newsworthy that people acted WITH sanity, it's a disturbing world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:14am

      Re: They did EXACTLY what they were supposed to...

      There's one remedy that comes to mind when the attitude is CYA. And that is, ironically, to sue them. They're worried about a small chance of maybe being liable unless they do something stupid? Counter that with a 100% chance of being liable if they do the stupid thing, and maybe you remove the incentive for stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:25am

    Fotunate

    I'm glad I grew up in a different day and age. When I was in elementary school I asked some specific questions of teachers and based on what I learned drew up a diagram for a very simple electronic trigger for explosives. When it was done I showed it to a teacher. At the regular scheduled parent-teacher conference he told my mother about it in a positive way specifically my interest in science and cognitive ability to put things together.

    If I were a young student today I can only imagine how things would go down, I can be completely sure nothing like it did, but rather somehow where I would be completely unwittingly bewildered and equated with being bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Enslaved American, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:26am

    We are all terrorists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 11:31am

    LOCKDOWN

    Well the fact that the prison er school didn't go into a lockdown is quite something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 25 Sep 2015 @ 12:21pm

    Zero tolerance... for people being allowed to choose how they live their own lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bri (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 12:54pm

    For a country that likes to make a lot of weapons, we sure beat down the youth who actually have an interest in making them or studying them. You'd think those would be the kids the DoD would be mentoring hoping to fastrack them into R&D instead of losing them to private tech companies or just beating them down into ACTUALLY becoming a problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 1:01pm

    (A) It shall be unlawful:

    (1) for any person wilfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State

    So if you are a student, quietly sitting in class, and a teacher calls on you, aren't you being "disturbed"?

    If you are a student sitting in class, and someone knocks on the classroom door, aren't you being "disturbed"?

    The best way to change this absurdly vague law, would be if students with cell phones would start abusing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 3:05pm

      Re:

      I think the police disturbed that student when they arrested him. Perhaps they should arrest themselves next. They'd have exactly the same grounds.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 6:50pm

      Re:

      Really I think a better way would be to bring it to a supreme court. That sort of absurd unconstitutional vagueness should get struck down with extreme prejudice and the legislator who drafted it set on fire. Twice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 1:52pm

    nuke lovers deplore projectile water baloons

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr Evil, 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:52pm

    Zero Tolerance

    Zero Tolerance automatically means Zero responsibility and Zero intelligence. If rules are completely cut-and-dried why are any management personnel even needed? If A then B. there is no flexibility or consideration of circumstances. no decision needs to be made. no management needs to be done. no thinking is required. no intelligence required..... waaaait ...now I see.... zero tolerance environments are like kingdoms for stupid people? you disturbed me - illegal. I disturbed you - illegal .. they disturbed us - illegal .. now back to my donuts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 5:17pm

      Re: Zero Tolerance

      Yes, Zero Tolerance and CYA mesh nicely with the ever expanding culture of proud ignorance / anti-knowledge / anti-factual all-opinions-deserve-equal-time and are to be held in the same regard as established facts, as well as the culture of fear we seem to enjoy so much and i guess missed terribly when the Cold War "ended". (Thank god for drugs and terrorism.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 6:03pm

    This reminds me of the Role Playing Games witch hunts that happened during the 90's.

    Having an AD&D or a MERP book with you flagged you as a psychopath.

    And better not talk about Magic cards...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 25 Sep 2015 @ 6:44pm

    Science Is Just Another Religion

    Maybe this kids parents should put him onto a more wholesome and mainstream belief system. Preferably one that doesnt assign a ridiculuosly large value to the age of the Earth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2015 @ 2:27am

      Re: Science Is Just Another Religion

      Let's correct that title:

      Scientism Is Just Another Religion

      Science in and of itself is belief neutral. It is a logical, systematic methodology. What beliefs you bring with you may (and usually do) dictate what you may see as the cause of the results you obtain. That is the hypotheses and subsequent theories you may develop will depend on your initial belief system, your resultant belief systems can change based on your scientific investigations.

      What we quite often see today is an unquestioning adherence to a specific philosophical viewpoint. How often do people (scientists) ignore opposing viewpoints and hence any evidence that supports that opposing viewpoint? Much more often than we admit or even want to admit.

      As I sit here pondering my next words, I am struck by the very clear mysticism of much of modern "scientific" thought. All of under the guise of extremely complex mathematical models and the incredible flights of fantasy by those who promote these ideas. Of course, if you propose a different model, you become branded as a "heretic", which interestingly enough is a "religious" term. The ensuing witch hunts just highlight how far "scientific" thought has fallen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2015 @ 3:20am

        Re: Re: Science Is Just Another Religion

        The first principle of any scientific is questioning everything, even the most basic and fool proof stuff.

        Sadly, it's a principle that is hardly followed (like journalism and neutrality, lol). Those who follow it are the geniuses in our society.


        And I don't think it's only a matter of intelligence, but also of attitude.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2015 @ 7:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Science Is Just Another Religion

          The first principle of any scientific is questioning everything, even the most basic and fool proof stuff.
          This is a part of the process. It includes recognising that one's basic understanding will always be limited and that we cannot truly know. We are just trying to get some understanding that works.

          One good example of your statement is in the study of galaxies. Instead of questioning whether gravity is the sole/major influence on galactic motion, they instead postulate that dark energy and dark matter "must" exist, even though there have been no tests/experiments that have shown either of these things exist. All in the pursuit of preserving the idea that gravity is the sole influence. This is simply not applying your statement about questioning everything.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 9:30am

      Re: Science Is Just Another Religion

      I suppose if Mr. Big Content changed his name to Mr. Poe, it would be a little too obvious and spoil all the fun.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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