A Louisiana high school student was banned from school and had his home searched by deputies entirely because he made a joke out loud in a math class that the square root symbol looks like a gun.
That's it, folks. A kid at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Louisiana, observed that if you kind of squinted, the square root symbol looks like a weapon. Then the social media rumor mill went to work and eventually this whole silly thing morphed into allegations that he was going to shoot up the school. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert has acknowledged in an interview with KATC that the student "did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm."
That should have been where the entire embarrassing incident ended, with a sheepish observation that the current climate of fear caused an overreaction that was understandable but still nevertheless an overreaction. And of course, the teen deserves an apology for being subjected to such an overwhelming response that assumes the worst of him with absolutely no evidence at all.
But that's not what is happening. Instead, KATC reports that the kid faces an expulsion hearing. Furthermore, not a single authority figure in their reporting, nor KATC's reporter, wants to even acknowledge that this was an overreaction. In fact, the school district is putting into place policies that are going to guarantee future overreactions.
Imagine not realizing (or not caring) how this system is going to result in manipulation and abuse:
Any student accused of talking about guns or school shootings will be investigated by three entities: the school board, the sheriff's department, and the district attorney's office.
If an incident like this occurs again, [Superintendent Michael] Doucet explained the protocol.
"The first thing we're going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we're going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff's department, and if no charges are filed, we're going to conduct a threat assessment on the student," Doucet said.
Gee, I hope those kids in Allen Parish don't have any enemies.
At the end of the piece, Doucet admits what's really happening here. It's administrative ass-covering. If something bad happened because they didn't treat this incident seriously, he says, then parents would get angry with him.
It's reminiscent of how the Transportation Security Administration will freak out at any jokes about bombs or guns, yet has a terrible record for assessing risk at airports. Any suggestion that schools should adopt airport-like security absurd and self-defeating.
Security theater isn't just bad because it treats everybody like criminals or threats. It's also bad because when you spread resources thin attempting to investigate inconsequential things, sometimes you miss the big things. The young man accused of the school shooting in Florida did more than just make a quip. He had a lengthy, documented history of troubling behavior.
Chasing down every single kid muttering the word "gun" is a terrible response designed for school administrators to declare that they're "doing something," even if what they're doing is screwing over their own students, censoring speech, and not actually making schools safer in any way.
Watch KATC's report below: