• I was all in agreement with the first article about the stupidity of the school officials’ massive overreaction to this prank until racism was brought up as the reason for the charges brought against the student. No, this has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the inability of school officials and prosecutors to act rationally. Attributing the reaction of the school to racism makes as much sense as charging him with a crime that is punishable by up to 8 years in prison for a prank.

  • I think the proper response is the one we used to get for chewing gum in class. “Did you bring enough for everyone?”


  • It wasn’t what he brought, it’s that he brought it in a manner that screams “bomb threat” to anyone who’s been in a school since Columbine. I graduated before 9/11 and we had a bomb scare or two from abandoned backpacks, let alone strange boxes.

    The guy shouldn’t be going to graduation because he’s too stupid to graduate. On what planet is trying to hide your identity–including gloves! What on earth was the reasoning behind that?– sneaking into a school area and leaving a strange box a good idea? All he had to do was something that would make the prank funnier– inflate the doll.

  • “No, this has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the inability of school officials and prosecutors to act rationally.”

    Disagree. It has everything to do with having courts so involved with running our schools that school administrators and teachers have no discretion to use their judgment in how to respond (after all, someone, somewhere may, in sometime in the future, abuse that discretion). The result is zero tolerance policies that require the most extreme reaction because there is a possibility (perhaps so statistically small that it is immeasurable, but still theoretically possible) of a catastrophic outcome.

    Accordingly, every box placed by an unknown person is treated as a jihadist bombing attack, requiring calling the local EOD team (who are federal, and who charge the locals for responding to a call) to check out the box using robots and wearing a full Hurt Locker suit. Considering that, $8,000 is likely on the low end of the costs. If school officials and teachers have any discretion, then if they respond appropriately, they must defend against the complaint that they did not do that in every situation – and, if the person making the complaint is a “minority” (which, with all the grievance groups around, includes nearly everyone) then the complaint itself is a prima facie case of discrimination.

    If you expect school officials and teachers to act like adults, then treat them like adults, and allow them to make decisions. If not, then this is the expected result.

  • wfjag, I don’t believe we actually disagree as to the causes of the problem. The point I was making was that there was no racism involved in this instance in charging him with this crime. Any other student of any other race or ethnic background would also have been charged with the same crime. The problem is that we have come to this zero tolerance (or as I like to call it zero intelligence) solution on the part of school systems because they were being accused of racism anytime a minority was charged with a crime. To preclude this from happening (or at least to provide a defense against it) they devised a system in which there could be no discretion used by the school system and therefore no way for them to be racist because all students were being treated equally ridiculously.

  • wfjag:

    I do not see how zero tolerance policies have anything whatsoever to do with this prosecution. School policy did not make the county prosecutor bring felony charges. That decision is entirely on the prosecutor, who certainly had the discretion not to charge an 18-year-old with a felony over a dumb high school prank. While I’m not a fan of zero tolerance policies either, this story fairly illustrates that discretion in fact will not produce better results if the folks wielding it happen to be idiots.

  • “School policy did not make the county prosecutor bring felony charges. ”
    Are you so sure? The school responded by calling in an EOD team, and incurring $8,000 in costs. Generally, EOD teams are federal personnel (either US Marines or US Army), so the school system has a sizeable bill. Did the school have discretion in its reaction to the box with unidentified contents placed on school property by a hooded trespasser? Don’t know without looking over its contingency plans, but, quite likely the answer is “No” since zero tolerance policies end up requiring the extreme response in all cases.

    So, how is the prosecutor going to recover that $8,000? The easiest way is charge hi, pled low, provided the perp or his parents pay the costs incurred. If that surprises you, you need to spend some time prosecuting.

    And, I completely agree with Richard, racism had nothing to do with it. However, what does have everything to do with it is by denying school officials and teachers the discretion to respond, we are effectively criminalizing stupid behavior by teenagers. Since, nearly by definition, teenage behavior is stupid, but, by insisting on full due process rights in all instances and possible civil liability by the school and officials under 42 USC 1982, the result is that behavior which in a prior generation was handled by a phone call by the principal to Dad and Mom, is now handled by the courts. To protect the school from civil liability, a criminal conviction (even negotiated down to a nolo plea to a misdemeanor) is about the best protection the school can have from suit. You can see from the comments to the article why that no longer occurs. For a number, as Richard noted, the knee-jerk response is that “it’s racism.” That would also be the accusation made against any school official who attempted to discipline the kid. So, the disciplinary measure gets kicked up to the DA, who has more leverage when he’s charged a felony both to protect the school and to get the $8,000 paid by the perp’s parents. That this gives the kid a criminal record isn’t the DA’s concern, it’s the defense attorney’s. These are the factors from which a zero tolerance police ends up criminalizing stupid behavior and felony charges. The safest reaction by the school and the DA is the more extreme, and that is true at each level of consideration of the proper response.
    But, the kid is getting his Due Process rights, so where’s the complaint? What’s a rap sheet that follows him around for life compared to ensuring that every kid gets full Due Process rights in all instances? (OK, the last 2 sentences were sarcasm).

  • wfjag:

    To begin with, you are just making up facts that suit your preconceived notions about this case. No federal authorities were called in; per the linked story, the “Indiana State Police bomb squad was called in.”

    Whatever expense calling in the state bomb squad may have entailed:

    1. The bomb squad was not called in as a result of zero-tolerance school policies. “Zero tolerance” refers to school policies that call for non-discretionary, often disproportionate punishment for infractions. Such policies simply don’t have anything to do with the events under discussion.

    2. There is nothing in the linked story, or any other coverage of this incident as far as I can tell, that suggests any other sort of mandatory school or administrative policy required the school authorities to react in the fashion that they did. That’s just an unsubstantiated assumption on your part.

    3. Even if there was such a mandatory policy in effect, it is not hard to imagine the school authorties reacting in the same fashion out of simple prudence or concern for the safety of the students in the absence of a mandatory policy. After all, “surveillance cameras captured a picture of a man dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and wearing latex gloves, concealing a package and leaving without it.” Reasonable folks can disagree about what immediate response these circumstances warrant.

    4. What is unreasonable about this case is what has unfolded in the aftermath of the police investigation. After determining that it was just a juvenile prank that posed no threat whatsoever, the county attorney, in an exercise of his discretionary authority, chose to bring felony charges.

    5. As for how the prosecutor is going to recover the $8,000 in costs, it is not clear that the costs are even his motivating concern. He’s a county prosecutor; the state bomb squad was called in. Without knowing a fair amount about Indiana state finance, we have no idea who is going to pay the bill for this mess or how.

    6. Even if one assumes that cost recovery is the motivating factor behind this prosecution, that does not change the fact that the prosecutor has discretion to bring charges or not, and to decide which charges are appropriate. As a practical matter, the only check on that discretion is his ability to get re-elected. No school policy required this prosecution in any meaningful sense of the word.

  • The school violence that comes to mind is of the Columbine type, where one or two students walked in and started killing people. While I understand that the package COULD have been a bomb, is there in fact a history of bombings of schools in the US? I suspect that there is some over-generalizing going on here.

  • I wonder whether it is true that the authorities spent a lot of money on this. My guess is that they are pro-rating sunk costs. The bomb squad members are probably salaried like the local police. There may be costs associated with expendable materials, but I doubt that there was really an incremental cost of $8,000.

  • Bill-
    Columbine’s morons had bombs. They just didn’t work as planned.

    Also, in ’99, 11 kids were sent to the hospital by a bomb. Kansas City.

  • Foxfier@Interesting, thanks. I didn’t know about all those bomb cases.

  • Bill-
    There isn’t a drive to restrict bomb-rights, so it kinda got ignored. Rather worrying, since bombs are much more effective than guns when it comes to random violence.

    IIRC, there was a bomb threat at the mall near my place when I lived in Spokane, and it barely made the news. I only remember because my husband and I looked at the details and could think of a dozen ways that it could have been VERY successful, if they hadn’t been idiots. (Thank God! May all of our enemies have IQs below room temperature!)

  • Richard,
    It may not be that the decision was motivated by an overtly racist desire to stick it to a black kid. But reading recent internet commentary about a case involving an African American college student and an airline, I see a tendency for people to look at the actions of one young black man who did something that perhaps was not the smartest choice, and decide that it somehow reinforces all their negative beliefs about black people in general. From that, they then conclude that said young black man needs the harshest treatment possible for something that was really just a kind of poor choice. I worry that this tendency and zero tolerance policies are a truly terrible combination.

  • Everyone needs to look at the bright side. We have yet more proof that an unthinking teenager can grow up to be an unthinking adult and with a respectable job.