Another school weapons policy results in another ridiculous outcome. Dinosaurs -- pet dinosaurs -- are involved. As are lawyers, a defensive police captain and a silent set of school administrators. (h/t to Techdirt reader Violynne, who sent this in with the note "Tim's going to love this one: guns and dinosaurs!" And I do. Even though I might be the wrong Tim.)
Police were summoned to a high school after a boy wrote a story about using a gun to kill a dinosaur. The boy was searched, suspended from school, and subsequently handcuffed and arrested when he did not handle the interrogation calmly.
The boy is 16, so not quite as young as that sentence makes it sound. He also suffers from a unspecified learning disorder and the "story" was written in a resource class that was supposed to aid him with that problem. Here's a few more details about the creative writing project gone stupidly wrong.
Alex Stone, 16, said he was assigned to come up with a fictional story for a creative writing assignment at Summerville High School on August 19, 2014. The brief assignment involved writing a few lines that were supposed to mimic a social media post; a “status update” drafted on paper.
Stone’s submission discussed himself and a fictitious dinosaur that lived next door to him. He wrote that he used a gun to kill the dinosaur.
“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business,” Stone said to NBC 12.
As is the case with most stories involving non-threats
being portrayed as threats, those reading Stone's words as a threat removed the context around them. This was quite a feat, considering the teacher who expressed concern to administrators had all the context right in front of her. It's just that she stripped it away when emailing school officials
According to an incident report, a resource teacher identified as Jessica Lewis emailed Assistant Principal Preston Giet on Monday evening to tell him she discovered a reference to a gun while going over students' assignments.
"The email stated that the suspect had written in a classroom assignment that he had 'bought a gun to take care of business,'" the report said.
A "school resource officer" was summoned (which basically means a moonlighting/specially-assigned police officer was summoned). School officials then passed on the information to the rest of the police department, which arrived to question Stone, search his locker, his book bag and his person. His mother wasn't informed of this until after it happened. In addition, Stone, despite proving to be no threat, was arrested and suspended for the rest of the week.
like the police arrested Stone for his supposed gun threat, but the Summerville PD claims that isn't true
"The information that is being reported is grossly incorrect in reference to what led to the juvenile being charged," said Capt. Jon Rogers in a Summerville police statement released on Thursday."The charges do not stem from anything involving a dinosaur or writing assignment, but the student's conduct."
OK, then. Here's the extent of Stone's "conduct," according to the police themselves.
According to police, when Stone was asked by school officials about the comment written on the assignment, he became "very irate" and said it was a joke.
A Summerville Police Department report states that Stone continued to be disruptive and was placed in handcuffs, and was told that he was being detained for disturbing schools.
It would appear that Stone was only "disturbing" school officials who seemed intent on finding some evidence of his desire to shoot people and was understandably frustrated that they wouldn't believe it wasn't some sort of threat. Whatever disturbance Stone caused was limited to a single office. There was no reason for anyone to claim
, much less believe
, that his written assignment, or his behavior inside that office, was "disturbing" his classmates, other classes or anyone else not directly involved.
This is the totality of the school's response to the situation.
Pat Raynor, spokeswoman for Dorchester District 2, said on Thursday she could not comment on the circumstances surrounding the incident on the advice of the school district's attorney.
Good advice, considering the situation has now expanded to include the media and Stone's lawyer, who plans to challenge both the suspension and the legality of the school and police department's actions.
More commentary was provided by Ken Trump
, president of National School Safety and Security Services, who trains school administrators in emergency preparedness.
"There is a point for discretion in the consequences for what you find in your investigation," Trump said. "That's when you have to factor in age and developmental issues and the context in which the comment or threat was made."
Discretion is the better part of
emergency preparedness, but Trump doesn't actually mean what he says here. What he actually means is discretion is the better part of having your school shot up because you failed to overreact properly.
"Comments that were made by children a couple decades ago pre-Columbine, pre 9/11, pre-Sandy Hook would never rise to a suspension expulsion or prosecution," he said. "Parents see this as criminalizing the behavior but the other side of it is security and school officials can't afford to make one mistake and have a credible plot slip through the cracks that leave people killed."
Better safe than sorry, no matter how many non-threatening students you have to suspend and/or arrest. And if these students aren't thrilled with being searched and interrogated over written words deliberately robbed of context, you can just toss them to local law enforcement and let them flip through the law books until they find a charge that can be beaten to fit and painted to match.
Once again, I'm not saying even questionable incidents like these shouldn't be investigated. But the end result of the investigation shouldn't be a suspension or an arrest when nothing incriminating turns up. And there's certainly no excuse for not contacting parents when something like this happens. Deliberately excluding them is not only dishonest, but it's cowardly. It gives the appearance that the school would rather steamroll students than allow another possibly adversarial viewpoint into the "discussion."