It makes sense that teachers, students and parents would all be on high alert following the school shooting tragedy of Newtown, CT, but what is the best way to be aware and prepared without being paranoid or further ostracizing at-risk or troubled kids? Well, here's how you shouldn't do it: A 16-year-old boy from Egg Harbor, New Jersey was arrested at his high school early last week after a teacher spotted one of his notebook doodles that supposedly looked vaguely like a gun. Following his removal from school, police searched his home and discovered disassembled electronic parts and chemicals that, when put together, could possibly make a bomb. The student was then taken to a juvenile detention facility despite the fact that he had never issued any threats and, in the words of the police chief, "there was no indication he was making a bomb, or using a bomb or detonating a bomb."
Dr. Steven Ciccariello, superintendent of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, said this in a statement to Eye Witness News:
"This is a perfect example of a teacher implementing her training. She saw drawings that appeared disturbing to her and alerted school officials."
Yes, the teacher was doing her job. She saw something that concerned her — she thought it was a drawing of a gun, the boy's mother is claiming that it was a superhero-esque flaming glove — and alerted the higher-ups. But this is where things really fall apart. Rather than talk to the student or have him speak to a school counselor to find out if he was indeed troubled and in need of help or intervention, the school officials had him publicly arrested for something that no one knows he intended to do. If the kid wasn't isolated or ostracized by his classmates before, he certainly will be now.
The actions of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, coupled with the "guns don't kill people, people kill people mentality," sets a dangerous precedent for how we deal with youth we perceive as troubled. According to the his mother, the student who was arrested likes to rebuild electronics as a fun hobby, not because he's interested in bombs. Maybe that's true or maybe that's just the excuses of a parent who doesn't want to admit that her child could be dangerous. Either way, turning this into a witch hunt won't help anyone. It's always been the American way to avoid endemic problems by sweeping them under the rug (the rug often being the prison system) as opposed to confronting them at the roots (gun control, mental healthcare, mental healthcare in schools and the support provided to parents), but, unfortunately, that mode of prevention isn't working. Instead, it just leads to reactionary incidences like this one. I'm not entirely sure what the best response in this particular situation would be, but I'm fairly certain that this wasn't it.
Superintendent: Drawings Of Weapons Led To New Jersey Student's Arrest [CBS Philly]
Police Arrest Teenager for Doodling [HyperAllergic]
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