Outrage of the Week: Boy Scientist Sent for Counseling

Dear Readers:  OMG, as I rarely say, because I am over 22.  Here’s the latest crazy thing, according to the San Diego Union Tribune: An 11-year-old boy did a science project on his own (tsk tsk!) and brought the results to show his buddies at Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School.  Yes, a school DEVOTED to nurturing tech-loving kids. The project was a Gatorade bottle filled with wires and when the vice principal spied it, he immediately did what any sensible adult would do: He asked, “Son, what is that?”

Oh wait. No he didn’t. Or at least there’s no indication that he did. What he DID do was:  Call the  cops! So the school gets put in LOCKDOWN. Then the arson squad careens over, interviews the boy, all 400+ kids get evacuated, the squad X-rays the bottle — and guess what? Turns out the invention is some kind of motion detector.

Too bad it wasn’t a hysteria detector — could’ve saved everyone a lot of time. Afterward:

Both the student and his parents were “very cooperative” with authorities, [San Diego Fire Department Spokesman Maurice] Luque said. He said fire officials also went to the student’s home and checked the garage to make sure items there were neither harmful nor explosive.

“There was nothing hazardous at the house,”  Luque said.

The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said.

If there’s no criminal intent, why does the boy need counseling? To convince him never to do anything on his own? And do the parents need to be counseled on how to bring up a duller kid? Couldn’t we just take away the family soldering iron and give them a big flat screen TV?

I, for one, cannot wait to see how America turns out a generation from now when the kids graduating from our “tech” magnet schools don’t invent anything anymore — or the ones that do end up in straight jackets. — Lenore

126 Responses

  1. I can only muster one response….

    WHO IS JOHN GALT?!

  2. i think the counseling is to recover from the shock of having the cops called/their home invaded/etc. or maybe counseling to be able to move past the fact that the school is clearly run by a moron.

  3. That is beyond appalling! My boys are huge science fanatics and love inventing all sorts of crazy things. Guess I just need to make sure they don’t take any of it to school, just like their cub scout pocket knives.. =/

  4. Counseling for what? And what rule did he break?

    From what I’m reading above, it sounds like someone else needs counseling.

    And they might have a case based on the 4th Amendment. What the hell? What if they did find something in the garage that “could” have been used for something other than watering the lawn?

    In my family, we’ve had the schools react in a crazy way to things as benign as combing one’s hair in the restroom before school. I think we just have to teach our kids to think for themselves regardless of what the school says. Follow the rules and all that, but don’t let them turn your brain into mush. That was pretty much our philosophy.

  5. Pack of idiots, seriously. [sigh] The counseling thing was just adding insult to injury.

    Angie

  6. @samcaldwell, I liked the “Who is John Galt” comment

  7. PS — speaking of clearing away the nanny crap, is there any way to get your blog system/service/whatever to stop sending me an e-mail to ask me whether I reallyREALLYREALLY meant to subscribe to comments on a post? Every freaking time? Yes, I really did mean to, I knew what I was doing when I checked that box, and the other blogs I read which don’t double-check every freaking time I subscribe to comments work just fine and haven’t caused any worldwide catastrophes yet. [sigh]

    This is relatively recent, BTW. Maybe WordPress.com had an upgrade in the last few weeks? Something you as one of its users could complain about…?

    Angie

  8. @ samcaldwell- makes me want to crash a plane in Colorado.

    And SKL, I agree, my first thought was that the comment about having nothing explosive in the garage was stupid. What’s the fun of experimenting if you can’t blow a few things up?

  9. This drives me BATTY. Most electrical devices have *gasp* wires! Yet rather than asking the child “What is it?” the principal called the cops.

    The principal should be sent to counseling!

  10. BTW, at what age would this science experiment seem appropriate? High school? College?

    How can we raise inquisitive children who aren’t afraid to think out of the box when we beat them down for showing interest and ability? It’s SO sad to think of what any future science fairs at that school will be like.

    Next on the news, child arrested for building volcano that erupts from vinegar and baking soda. It could be dangerous!

  11. @CLT – that makes me wonder, just what is the definition of a bomb?

  12. Bloody ridiculous! It amazes me what some of these school administrators do to our children.

  13. Been there done that! I voluntarily built a timer for some in class debate when I was a freshman in high school. I have no clue how I managed to get the thing into the building (I just walked in…). It was about a 4 inch square cardboard box with lights, switches, and a plastic window on one side so you could see the circuitry,

    This was about 6 years ago. I’m in college for engineering now. Apathetic public high schools for the win?

  14. The story says:

    “he violated school policies.”

    I wonder what he violated?

    It also says:

    “A vice principal saw the student showing it to other students at school about 11:40 a.m. Friday and was concerned that it might be harmful, and San Diego police were notified.”

    So I guess the “knee-Jerk Reactionary” might be one of the 2 vice principals listed on the school website which I checked:

    It was either Mr. Willie Neil
    or Ms. Heather Potter

    But wouldn’t you think the final decision would have to be made by the principal? In that case it was:

    Principal – Helen V. Griffith

    But, hey, it might have been anybody. I’m only showing names listed on their school website. These people deserve to be famous.

    Oh, the story also said: “Luque said both the student and his parents were extremely upset.”

    Well, I GUESS! They’re the ones who SHOULD be upset.

  15. Not only do I want to know what rule he broke by bringing a homemade motion detector to school, but I want to know what right anyone had to search his garage? Violation of civil rights!

  16. I’d love to know what rules he violated and why they think he and his family need counseling. So far I can’t see that he did anything bad. The article never says that he claimed to have a dangerous device, which makes it sound like the vice principal overreacted.

    Maybe it was “thou shalt not do any unsupervised science, thou dolt!”

  17. We may have grown up in a more free-range era, butt school administrators had the capacity to be dufuses when we were children, too. Swelling with national pride after the astronauts returned from the moon and landed safely in the ocean, I made a papier mache model of the splashdown – a white cone for a spaceship; bright orange rafts; a bright blue sea; and uniformed heroes. The principal called my parents and accused them of having made it for me.

    Something similar happened in eighth grade when I took a lamp I had made in industrial arts class in to a department store to try to find a lampshade to go with it. Store security stopped me and accused me of stealing it.

  18. Perhaps counseling was suggested to help the boy and his family cope with their humiliation at the hands of this idiot of a vice principal.

  19. @pdw — but I want to know what right anyone had to search his garage?

    Since the student and his parents were “very cooperative,” I’m guessing they were asked permission to search their house and that they granted it.

    I’d have been strongly tempted to tell them where to go and what to do when they got there, or at the very least to get a damn warrant. At the time, though, considering all the fuss, I can see the draw of going along and getting things over with as quickly and peacefully as possible. Which, of course, is how we lose our rights — very slowly, a bit at a time, to smiling people who kindly explain how simple it’ll all be if we just cooperate. :/

    Angie

  20. Yeah, as his mother I would have said “He did not bring a bomb to school, and there are no explosives in the garage, either. I am the one responsible for ensuring his safety in the garage, thank you.”

  21. Richard Louv reported the complaint from some University environmental courses that students engaged mostly in the laboratory or book learning and very little in the field, giving concern that they have no context for understanding the ecology and environment which they will teach or even be involved in creating government policy. In middle age, most of us, I suspect, use our childhood experiences (good and bad) as fodder for our more mature filters, to create meaning how we want the world to be.
    On a more uplifting note. I just had the opportunity to visit the Queensland State Museum. As it is school holidays they have a strong children’s program running including an actor in a lifelike T-Rex costume, replete with growling and gnashing teeth. The toddlers cried, the girls shrieked, and the parents laughed – sometimes in that “this really brings out an old instinct to run, I’m about to die, but I know I won’t be killed” style. The next day I spent with my 21 year old son on roller coasters and other mechanical devices that turn your vestibular system on its head (pun meant) and makes you believe you won’t live. The park was full of kids who barely made the height restriction to 60 year old adults. We seem to have a need to go to the edge, even over the edge if we can get away with it.

  22. If the child was planning to blow-up the school, why would he be showing his project to EVERYBODY? Was he threatening anybody?

    As any person knows, whether it be adult OR child, if you’re going to set a bomb, you do it quietly, sneakily. Nothing quiet or sneaky about this budding scientist/inventor. He’ll probably do better in Europe, Japan, or China. Another brain drain –oh goody!

  23. He probably needs counselling due to the trauma they caused him by freaking out and having the cops search his house.

  24. I wonder why principals like this keep their jobs after fiascos like this. I’d send the kid and his family to counseling to recover from the shock of being treated like criminals. All the principal had to ask is “Hi kid, what have you got there?”.

  25. I remember when I was in high school they said I needed counseling. My illness? That I had an independent mind.

  26. Mozart composed and remembered entire musical compositions but disliked the tedious task and attention to detail necessary when transcribing to paper. Einstein would spend hours and even days sitting quietly in a chair doing “thought experiments,” including complex series of mathematical calculations and revisions. Ben Franklin failed in school due to his perfectionist and impulsive behaviors. He later mastered five languages (self-taught) and is highly respected as an author, scientist, inventor, and businessman (publisher).

    They all needed ‘counseling’……

    Who is John Galt? LOL.

  27. I think this is an example of where professionalizing communicating with kids can lead.

    Counselling begets counselling. So we now have a bunch of professionals attached to schools in most areas to help teachers to deal with things they aren’t up to dealing with.

    But wait! How many things are there, truly, that teachers wouldn’t be able to deal with? And in how many of those situations would a sensible teacher think, “hmm, I’m out of my depth, I’d better find this kid some help? ”

    But of course we now have this expectation that there are SO MANY things teachers can’t deal with that we need an infrastructure of counsellors on call all the time.

    In this place, at least, it’s become destiny. Instead of just doing the obvious the assistant principal (!!!) calls the cops. Instead of apologizing to the student, they send him to counselling.

    Communicate with children? Let’s call in the professionals – except surely that’s is the teacher’s or principal’s job description?

  28. This article seems like an excellent example of why some Free Range parents are choosing to homeschool.

  29. I think this is an outrage as well. Geez, that’s the whole point of learning, to be able to get to where you can infer things on your own!

    But I wonder how many Americans might have read this article differently if the boy’s name was revealed to be something like Mohammed Ali Khan.

  30. I knew someone was going to go there. So frustrating…

  31. I’m like a lot of the other commenters: what school policies could he have possibly violated?

  32. Because…you know….every box of wires is automatically an explosive…

    I wonder if that/those principal(s) ever cracked open a computer, radio, old TV, or any other electronic device… (probably not, or they’d be living in fear of their own appliances randomly exploding on them).

  33. At my school the boy would have been invited into the principal’s office –> to show off his invention. Then the principal would have invited him to come on the morning announcements to explain his invention. He would also be encouraged to to make a video explaining his invention for the school website.

    I’ve had a student accidentally bring a pocket knife to school. The school didn’t punish him – his Dad took away the knife for a month because he broke home rules.

    I’ve freed several snakes, lizards, and small rodents from pencil boxes. I admit I’ve given the kids what for and asked them how they would like having a plastic cube fastened around them.

    I’ve had kids bring empty already fired shot gun and rifle shells to school. I tell them to put them up. (I used to run around with these in my pocket to). Took up the live round and principal talked to parents (family didn’t have a gun he found it in a field).

    Taken up fire crackers – and called parents about child bringing them to school.

    Kid who pointed a BB gun at Coach, the ones that stole money from teachers, and the one that smeared peanut oil in my room (I’m deathly allergic) those are the ones we call the cops on. If we find out who stole 6 flat screen TV, 2 laptops, 2 projectors, Wii, and monitor – we are turning them over to the cops. (Break ins over holidays).

  34. I missed this as I recently suspended my subscription to the SDUT not long ago (more papers were going unread into the recycling bin than read ones – cost-cutting measures cut out all the features I liked, leaving little more than ads and wire service stories).

    A bit off-topic, but someone mentioned Richard Louv. His book, Last Child in the Woods is excellent and fits well with the Free-Range philosophy.

  35. January 17, 2010

    Helen V. Griffith, Principal
    Millennial Tech Middle School
    1110 Carolina Lane,
    San Diego, CA 92102

    RE: January 15 evacuation of your school

    Dear Ms. Griffith:

    Having read numerous news reports of the above-referenced incident, I would like to share my feedback with you. I would also appreciate it if you could forward a copy of this letter to the young man and his parents. They were not identified by the media, and so I am unable to cc them directly.

    As near as I can tell from the reports as issued, the young man is guilty of only one thing: not asking for permission before creating and showing an invention at school.

    I’ve got news for you: entrepreneurs NEVER, EVER, EVER ask for permission. By definition, the seeking of prerequisite external approval is simply not part of the entrepreneurial psyche – regardless of whatever “rule” may be stated, it simply never enters our heads that we need to even discuss our ideas with outside entities, let alone be sanctioned by them. If you’ve got a kid who is demonstrating creativity and inventing devices AFTER securing someone else’s approval, he may be gifted, he may be talented, but he is NOT an entrepreneur. He’s just a bright kid who toes an arbitrary societal line that will probably prevent his true potential from ever being realized.

    Your young student appears to have behaved entirely predictably like an entrepreneur and yet he has been demonized for it. You guys focused on his best feature and converted it into his worst nightmare. What might have happened a generation ago, and where would the United States be now, if Michael Dell and Bill Gates had been treated similarly in their formative years?

    I do realize that educators today face considerable challenges with respect to school security, and I do acknowledge that some unbelievably horrible acts of violence have been committed by students with untreated mental illnesses. But I urge you to remember that those acts of violence are extremely rare. The news media tends to flog the presentation of those events until the general public perceives them as commonplace but, in fact, they are not. There is a risk assessment here that you and the rest of American society has no choice but to face: are you going to kill all those one-in-one-thousand entrepreneurial spirits in order to be sure that you have mitigated that one-in-a-million possibility of violent intent? If so, where will that decision lead us as a society?

    To the young entrepreneur, I would like to say the following: This incident must have been absolutely horrible for you, and I am sorry for that, but please don’t let it discourage you from being who you are. We live in a challenging society and sometimes adults don’t always make the best decisions, because they are only human and humans are not perfect. We are in the middle of the school year, so I assume that your teachers must know something of who you are by this time, because I presume that they have seen you every weekday for months now. Why none of them stood up and said, “I know this kid and I really don’t think he would be violent”, I cannot say – I don’t know enough about your situation. But maybe if you guys get to know each other better from this point forward, things will be easier in the future. Have pity on your teachers and Principal – our society frightens them a whole lot. It’s up to people like us to make the world a better place so that the kind of stuff that happened to you on Friday does not happen to other kids.

    Thank you for hearing me out.

    Sincerely,

    Alison Steele Mandadi, P.G.

    Cc: Susan Shroder, Union-Tribune (via online interface at http://www.signonsandiego.com/staff/susan-shroder/)
    Lenore Skenazy (via http://www.freerangekids.com)

  36. There’s a problem in society, all right, but it’s not children, it’s hysterical hypersensitive ‘adults’ who take all of their fears of events beyond their control and burden the one group which they can control – children.

    It must suck so terribly much to be a kid today. I feel sorry for them.

  37. He probably needed counseling to be taught that you should never make anything that might possibly in someone’s imagination look like something that might possibly in someone’s imagination be dangerous. I
    confess I’m a bit surprised that there’s a branch of the mental health profession that deals in INDUCING paranoia and fear in children, but I suppose nothing should surprise me anymore.

  38. Sam Caldwell, that was just what I thought too!

    What are we going to do with all these fake educations?

  39. My 15 yr old daughter read this with me. She just said “You know who needs counseling here is the Principal’.

    Beyond appalling.

  40. Can we get that kid into Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School? The principal would probably get a heart attack from all the potential dangers it could cause, but I suspect the kid would love it.🙂

  41. In my career as a school counselor, I received my share of share of silly referrals. My favorite, though, was the teacher who referred a nine-year old because he prefered playing with girls (same as I did 40 years before!). When I asked him why he preferred hanging out with the girls, his answer was, “They are nicer to me.” When the teacher asked me about it later, my reply was simply, “No problem.” In hindsight, I wish I’d said, “He’s going to be a school counselor.”

  42. My brother got suspended in Jr. High for putting baking soda and vinegar in a bottle. They said it was a bomb.

  43. […] Outrage of the Week: Boy Scientist Sent for Counseling Dear Readers:  OMG, as I rarely say, because I am over 22.  Here’s the latest crazy thing, according to the San […] […]

  44. …shaking with anger… can’t manage coherent reply…

  45. @Sam Caldwell

    What is the meaning all about? It’s a cheat code I think.

  46. All I can say is “Tsk, Tsk, Tsk” and shame on the school.

  47. This make me wonder if my elementary school (I was there in the early 90’s) still does the electromagnet project (figure out how to build one) that sealed my decision to pursue science in 6th grade. We were given wires, batteries, a small motor, magnets, a week, and some measurement device to figure out how to build an electromagnet. As homework, because we were only gifted with 45 minutes 3x a week for science class. So. Much. Fun.

    There’s a very high likelihood I’ll be homeschooling, because I don’t want kids to learn unquestioning obedience at all, and especially not at the expense of creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.

  48. Day after day, incidents such as this show that the terrorists have indeed won.

  49. “I can only muster one response….

    WHO IS JOHN GALT?!”

    Some long-winded, self-absorbed twat who thought the whole world revolved around him and didn’t know when to shut up.

    But that’s not important right now.

  50. Yet another reason that validates my decision to homeschool.

  51. This reminds me of the time my brother got one of those chemistry playsets for Christmas. He was about 7 or 8, and was convinced he could mix some explosives or something. Anyway, he carried a glass phial to school labeled “nitroglycerine”. His teacher evacuated the classroom and even called our eldest sister to calm him down and get the truth out of him. Of course, it turned out to be distilled water or something like that. But they didn’t call the cops, or get us a counselor… That would have been cool.

  52. The kid’s motion detector failed to find any activity in the vice principal’s brain.

  53. That is just plain idiotic. I hope that if some of you live in the San Diego area that you will consider writing a letter to the editor of the Tribune expressing your views.

  54. …………………………………………….

    I am speechless, for once. Wow.

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  56. This has been all over the news since you posted this. We’re not alone in thinking that VP is off her rocker.

    Tangentially, I found this story quite relevant with regards to curiosity being the mother of all invention.

    It’s striking to me that the more we try to protect our progeny from the hardships we had to endure growing up, in the spirit of giving them more and better opportunities, the more we cripple their creativity.

  57. This is one time where I would favor the parents suing both the principal and the school. Absolutely ridiculous. If this is representative of education in America, we are in grave danger!

  58. Greg has a point

  59. “i remember when I was in high school they said I needed counseling. My illness? That I had an independent mind.”

    they are doing the same thing to kids in preschool! any range outside of the norm is automatically special ed

  60. Technically KSD is right – G&T is a division of SPED.

    I had to defend 2 kids rights to draw what they wanted this week. One was drawing religious drawings. Free drawing his choice, his right. The other was imitating a comic book where the character’s face was a bare skull. It was a series of studies from different angles. His notes were complete, when I asked him a question he could give a complete answer. I happen to know the listens better when he doodles.

  61. lol counselling is good for everything, even if you didn’t actually do anything

  62. About the counseling…

    @Sameer “…I remember when I was in high school they said I needed counseling. My illness? That I had an independent mind.”

    I read somewhere the schools really aren’t there to educate you as much as they are there to teach you conformity.

  63. I agree 100% with the sentiments expressed here and with the philosophy behind this blog. But this incident does show the difficulty that school administrators are in today. They are preconditioned by lawyers and child advocates to err on the side of caution. The administrator in question probably was thinking about his butt if he didn’t make a big deal out of it. Once the cops were called and the genie was out of the bottle everyone had to save face and counselling was viewed as the easy answer all the way around. A total absence of leadership as usual.

  64. I attended post graduate special school. Before that I attended undergraduate special school. I attended special high school. I attended special grade school. I learned foreign languages in special pre school.

    I am allowed to read in many languages. It took my family and me many years of counseling for me to learn not to be smart.

  65. Thanks to our hysterical society, our kids have another reason to squelch their creative spirits. Yes, we need to teach our kids to make sure that good things don’t look like bad things. As a former teacher at the time of the Columbine shootings, we had SWAT training in our high school in California. Those days were very touchy for everyone and the cumulative effects of 9/11, etc. have just made things worse for schools, for everyone.

    Administrators are under pressure to comfort jumpy parents by showing that they are in-fact doing something! I am almost positive that suggesting counseling was just an appeasement for those alarmist parents.

    All parents can help calm the waters in this country by having a talk with their kids about why people are so jumpy and then turn off the TV & the Radio to stop promoting this hysteria that also encourages the loonies to come out of the woodwork!

  66. That kind of story makes me embarrassed to be an American. Ewww…. I feel all stupid and gross for reading it. I CAN’T believe it.

    Here in Texas, a little 4 year old boy was recently suspended from school because his hair was sort of shaggy. What kind of lesson does that teach a preschooler?

    If little girls can have long hair dangling around all over the place, so can little boys. I thought we got past all that about 50 years ago in the 1960’s. Sheesh.

    Anyhoo, thanks for posting this ridiculousness. It needs to be highlighted so the rest of us can make a conscious effort to avoid being idiots.

    I agree with Granny Pants that we should turn off the media sources that promote this type of hysteria. It wouldn’t be as interesting if it weren’t always in the spotlight.

  67. This is so ridiculous. When did adults start acting so scared. This is what we are teaching our children to be like. So sad…

  68. Unbelievable … simply unbelievable!!!! Further words simply escape me!

  69. Id love to know what rules he violated and why they think he and his family need counseling. So far I cant see that he did anything bad. The article never says that he claimed to have a dangerous device, which makes it sound like the vice principal overreacted.Maybe it was thou shalt not do any unsupervised science, thou dolt!

  70. I second the inital John Gald comment.

    Why on Earth are they sending this poor kid to counseling? And what kind of “school policy” was violated? The one about not sticking wires in sports drinks? *palmface*

  71. This is like the phone call I got from the vice-principal of my son’s school yesterday. She said that he hasn’t been standing in line properly after recess, and she wanted to let me know, so that I could “nip this kind of behavior in the bud before it gets any worse”. I didn’t know what to say, I was so stunned!

  72. In 1980 a friend helped me make small explosives with the chemicals we found in his grandads shed, we would often blow things up, usually small, in the back garden. The only comment we ever had was, stop burning my lawn. Today, beware, big brother is watching.

  73. […] Lenore Skenazy posted this article on her blog on January 17th. Check out the whole post, or read the excerpt below; An […]

  74. Nice post. I share your outrage. In today’s world, though, maybe the boy and his parents shouldn’t have been too surprised. If the project had the remotest appearance to something that might look dangerous, bringing in the teacher ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings might have been wise. Of course, this thought probably never even remotely entered their heads. I’m sure they were stunned by the reaction. Personally I think the kid deserves an automatic A+ for the reaction his project provoked. It turned out to be awesome research in the field of sociology.🙂

  75. #1. Counseling is just a way for those authorities to not feel stupider than they already do… it gives the impression that their COULD be something that he needs counseling FOR… so that makes the authorities not appear all-that-crazy.

    #2. I’m glad I was homeschooled.🙂

  76. As someone who wants to be an administrator, I can’t help but sympathize with both sides. I believe that in any situation not involving God, all parties involved are at least partially responsible for the consequences.

    Safety first, true, but really, a bunch of wires isn’t threatening in itself. This is why any group needs a cool and collected administrator- someone who won’t be intimidated by a bottle and a bunch of wires. Someone not afraid to jump on the grenade. This mass hysteria was the administration’s fault.

    However, the boy is indeed at fault for not explaining what the nature of his project beforehand.

    What I don’t get is what policy has been violated.

  77. @ferxist

    Oh please, I don’t think the boy is at fault. Did anyone even give him a CHANCE to explain? And again–please–the kid is 11 years old.

  78. Wow.

    At the very least something must be done to aleviate the suffering the poor boy endured and to repair the damage that was done to his sense of justice and authorities role.

    I bet he never wants to see another wire again, much less be innovative again.

    The only way to repair the damage to the kid might be to make conselling for the principal to be mandatory, or at the very least take a common sense test.

    Failing the test would mean removal from position as obviously someone has there head up their azz.

    The boy AND his family was the victim of sheer stupidity. Why should they be the one to experience punishment?

    If the average adult could make a motion detector from a pop bottle and some wires, I’d be so impressed. Im surprised no lawyer is contacting the family and suing the school and police dept.

  79. I’m never surprised to hear about the latest “kid gets in trouble for nothing” story. The educational community is so paranoid about the “might happen” (aka rare as plutonium events) that they lose all sensibility.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad educators are cautious, but required counseling for a science project (or expelling a 5 year old for having nail clippers) is absolutely absurd.

  80. This is the result of our government’s social programming.

    Fear is used to keep people in line, and fear of “terrorism” is one of the key ingredients. When you factor in the decline in intellect of our populace what you get is society that is on edge, and unable to handle with common sense these types of ordeals.

    I urge folks to watch the movie, or in another perspective the documentary, “Idiocracy”. We are wading knee deep in a world mirroring this movie.

  81. This is why America is being dumbed down to the level of Third world countries all while Europe and Asia are pushing ahead of us. Makes you wonder why I think Public Education in America should be scraped, implode and start all over from scratch and use the European and Asian model of education.

  82. It’s so sad when we refuse to let people explore life on their own. We feel some strange desire to control everything around us, not realizing it’s hurting ourselves. Granted, I suppose the truly evil idea is that we do know it’s hurting people, but we simply don’t care. Either way, I feel bad for this kid. He’ll be promptly taught to do nothing that he isn’t told to do.

    Nice blog, by the way.

    -Irish

  83. Excellent reporting. Ninety percent of “counselling” is a cover for “we want to reshape the way you think.” How about counselling the principal to seek facts before jumping fo conclusions? And a friend of mine was told his son might be autistic because he reads three grades ahead of his age level! (Do these people get paid on commission for how many aberrations they identify in the kids?

  84. Either students have gotten a lot of scarier or Administrators have gotten so disconnected that they have forgotten how to actually communicate with students. If he was smart enough, or even brave enough now a days, he would have called the kids parents before the cops.

  85. Hi:
    Students are taking their first exam in English.won’t be happier if they don’t succeed..

    http://hellochichaoua.wordpress.com

    aziz

  86. This is a disgrace ! I thought that a good school would encourage the pupils to learn at all times and in all places, this tale suggests to me that the school system is happy as long as “you learn what we want you to learn nothing more nothing less”.

    Maybe I have got something very wrong.

    I could understand if the boy had made fireworks at home, a real life bomb, a zip gun, alcohol or an electric shock machine then may be counselling could be a good idea.

  87. In Australia it’s called Tall Poppy Syndrome. And we wonder why China leads the world in technological development?

  88. I agree- it IS kinda stupid.
    Very discouraging for a child.
    Has anyone looked into questioning the school as to why they were alarmed?
    Maybe they’ve heard other schools having had a similar scare?

  89. Sad times we live in… The vice principal probably has tenure…

  90. I have just read your story and, angry as I feel at what took place, I’m neverthless very happy to know I am not alone in my belief that the treatment young people and children receive in the United States is wrong.
    The nation has made enormous strides diminishing racial, religious and ethinc bigotry. (i.e., the election of Barack Obama as president) However, as the doctors put it, I don´t give the patient a clean bill of health.
    The terrible treatment Blacks, Latinos, Jews, Native Americans and Orientals no longer suffer is today borne by the nation’s youth.
    I was a victim of this during my childhood and teen years (the 40s and 50s) and from time to time, have exposed those wrongs I know of in the monthly column I write in Spanish for the newspaper Palestra. (San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico)
    If you can assist me with more related material, I would deeply appreciate it.

  91. This is stupid. Did he break a rule ? No he did not!

  92. […] aus: FreeRangeKids […]

  93. Clearly that young man was a dangerous malcontent in the making. His parents should sit him down and make him watch re-runs of “Two and a Half Men” until his brain is naught but gooey tapioca. Problem solved.
    Who needs kids with ideas of their own?

  94. I think the principal needs counselling. That kid is ingenious and now he’s traumatized for being gifted. What has this world come to? People are getting way too paranoid.

  95. Wow… I am in middle school and find this absolutely appalling. It was just wires in a Gatorade bottle! All the principal had to do was ask: “What have you got there, son?” or something to that effect, but noooOOOooo, he called the cops. If ignorance is bliss, the principal must be the happiest person alive.

    “I can only muster one response….
    WHO IS JOHN GALT?!”

    I had to look up who John Galt was, but I still don’t get it.

  96. The vice principal is definitely NOT smarter than a fifth grader.

  97. I can understand why the school might have jumped to a conclusion about the boy’s invention in this day and age of upper middle class white kids coming to school with guns and bombs . The issue I have is that suggesting the boy and his family might need counseling was just a way to try and make it seem like the school didn’t make a mistake, which I think is pathetic. I mean seriously, the school department shouldn’t be embarassed because they weren’t right. There are plenty of reasons the could have used to justify acting out of paranoia: all they’d need to do is list any of the cases where some intelligent rich kid comes to school with a gun or bomb and kills a bunch of innocent children because he has some issues. It happens, and these days it happens a lot.

  98. I don’t think anyone should watch the movie Idiocracy as suggested above. It is a waste of time, quite possibly the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen.

  99. I agree with you mae mae haha it is the dumbest movie ever.. in my opinion

  100. I just read your article and found myself shaking my head in disbelief, but with no real surprise.

    I’m not a parent, but here in the UK the kids are wrapped in cotton wool in similar fashion, though I haven’t yet heard any news of the emergency services being called for children conducting scientific experiments. Mind you, this may be because schools don’t have things like bunsen burners now, lest the poor defenceless darlings burn themselves. If they’re being steered towards being risk averse when as children they should have no fear, what the hell are they going to be like by the time they’re big people supposedly going out to work, paying rent or mortgages and hopefully creating families of their own.?I fear for the next generation.

  101. Kinda like the plane that was grounded when a 17 year old Jewish boy was doing his morning prayer with his Teffilin…

    People are so reactionary these days!

  102. “There are plenty of reasons the could have used to justify acting out of paranoia: all they’d need to do is list any of the cases where some intelligent rich kid comes to school with a gun or bomb and kills a bunch of innocent children because he has some issues. It happens, and these days it happens a lot.”

    A lot? Name me five cases from the past decade. Hell, name me one case where a kid brought an actual live bomb to school.

    Just one.

  103. I was suspended in grade 6 for sucking on a cough drop.
    Cough drops were a gateway to candy, which of course was a gateway to crack.

    I mean, if you can’t see how making a motion detector can lead to making pipebombs…well, how could you not.

  104. I gave up on public schools years ago. Home schooling seemed to be the only way to keep the mindless teacher’s fingers out of his life. Two or three hours a day schooling and then he’s free to be a kid.

  105. wow I wish I had THAT version of homeschooling!😀 Mine was SO disciplined… I mean we had our very interacting science experiments and field trips but I started school at 8:30 am SANS PAJAMAS, and went until 3pm, with the scheduled “recess” and lunch time! lol. We were very regimented and I guess it was good… definitely makes online college classes more bearable.

    But two or three hours a day? Wow.

  106. My kids generally finish their school work in 3 or so hours. Gabby is in 6th grade this year and hers is beginning to take a little longer but 8:30-3pm. No way! What’s the use of homeschooling then?

  107. Too many comments to check, but has anyone considered that we might not have the rest of the story? Some element left out that turns the outrage on it’s head?

    Okay, I admit I can’t think of anything that would make this anything less than stupid, but there could be one.

  108. Well done story. It really hits home.

  109. I teach my son science at home as the public school offering is thin. I justify this to my 8 year old by saying, “some families want you to play basketball and have you practice for hours a day but in our family, we value knowledge and we practice learning.” I have no desire to see my son play in the NFL or NBA, but if that were his interest, I would be hundred percent supportive, but I would also insist on that backbone of science. Knowledge is what gives a person and a nation an advantage -the Chinese understand it but I don’t think Americans do any more.

  110. Whats the use of homeschooling? Ouch, didn’t you read what the POST is about?

    Anyways, I get one-on-one attention, more in-depth applicable learning and education, I get to excel at my own level (I’m not held back just because the other kids are at a certain level), essentially, homeschoolers are at LEAST two years ahead the average.

  111. I notice you have several tabs across the top; however, when I try to create a new page, it doesn’t seem to create a tab – how did you get yours to create those tabs?

  112. Pixel – My point was that if your child was going to be seated at a table all day anyway then you might as well put them in school. Of course, one of the main reasons I homeschool is because I don’t think kids need to be locked up in school as long as they are. I didn’t mean to criticize someone else’s way of doing things. I homeschool so my children have time to do other things besides school, that’s all I meant.

  113. Hi, Mae Mae, I’m THRILLED that you homeschool! But to others that might NOT homeschool, and for those that would like some ideas if they DO homeschool… here’s a list of the things we did.

    And I’m sorry I didn’t mean to imply that we sit at a table all day (it still would be better than the typical school system, though!).

    See, that’s the awesome thing about homeschooling. Yes, I may be LEARNING for 8.30 until 3pm. We were very regimented, as I said, but that is in reference to the time we started/ended. But as for sitting down, and learning with glasses on and my nose in a book for that long? You know what we did in between that time?

    Our time consisted of:

    Visiting the DTE Energy headquarters and visiting the head meterologist
    Going on a tour through the Detroit FBI Headquarters (THAT is a must!!)
    Visiting Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum
    Touring the Thomas Edison Museum in Port Huron
    A self-guided tour through the Supreme Court Building (LOVED that!)
    A legislative briefing at the Capital
    SSI (student statesmanship inst.) where I learned to campaign and lobby
    Made a “Travois” (a traveling home that Voyageurs used)
    awesome science experiments (google J. Wile, I used his curriculum)
    outdoor adventures where we learned about historic events
    animal tracks and identification
    field trips to Whole Foods, Morley Candy
    Ann Arbor Hands on Museum
    Cosi Science Museum
    a report about Beethoven which sparked my initial interest in music
    a German class
    Piano and Violin
    Visiting and talking with the Amish people (i did a report on that, too!)
    Making a volcano in our backyard (a modest one, don’t worry)
    recreational activities about archery and gun and knife SAFETY
    free musical concerts at the nearby community college where afterwards I would write up a mini-report
    editing a bi-monthly newsletter for girls our age with about 11 contributors
    a photography class
    a bike maintainance class
    a class on entrepreneurship
    very interactive grammar and English studies (I LOVED these)
    a book called “Editor In Chief” where I applied my grammatical skills and acted as if I was editing documents
    cooking classes
    science seminars
    collecting rain and learning about it
    scrapbooking (which got me interested in graphic design)
    watercolor
    oil painting
    a sewing class where I made my own outfits
    and numerous homeschool summer camps where I learned more about science (classes to teach about the CLEP exams)
    I learned how to build a boat (and came in 4th with my team in the race)
    built a catapult and learned about that time period (the girl’s catapult won first place for furthest distance)
    learning how lungs worked
    experimenting with harmless gasses
    hiking
    discovering red newts and learning about them after the hike
    seeing how wine is made in New York
    going to Niagara Falls, and making it a WHOLE learning vacation
    Visiting the local nature center
    Softball, skiing, mountain biking for PE
    Learned about Wind (thank you to the Stony Creek Nature Center!!)
    Visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit..

    I DID ALL THIS WHILE BEING HOMESCHOOLED FROM 5th GRADE through HIGHSCHOOL, AMONG regulars like “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”!

    Please, homeschooling, though we DO have bookwork, is NOT a secretarial job, nor a free-for-all. It’s schooling, but at home, and much much more beneficial!

    I hope you see now, that homeschooling is much much different than a schooling form that simply prepares yet another person for a desk job. You learn at a desk, you eventually work at a desk.

    I think I can say I was a free range kid–but disciplined (and I’m in my second year of college, carrying a 3.8 GPA)

  114. I’m totally baffled at how teachers, principals, and superintendents can think (think???) like someone who has never had a life.

    What is it that goes through a human mind when they can’t show any common sense in a simple situation like this?

    I get the impression that our “educational system” is purposely trying to stifle all real learning and creativity, so they can form some sort of socialistic or communistic government.

  115. “A lot? Name me five cases from the past decade. Hell, name me one case where a kid brought an actual live bomb to school.

    Just one.”

    Are you kidding? You really should do your research.

    I work in the Cupertino Union School District, and if you’re from that area then you’re aware of the fact that these schools are pretty much college bound power schools. They top nationwide charts in AP tests and SAT scores and have some of the brightest students, especially in the area of science and mathematics. Last year alone we had at least 17 cases of children bringing homeade explosives to school ranging in severity from firecracker bombs that could cause damage to a locker, to something that could seriously injure many people.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that on top of actual explosives being brought to school, we’ve had to establish evacuation procedures solely based off of the fact that we get several bomb threats each year.

    Here are some additional articles concerning homeade explosives and bomb threats. It’s a much larger problem than you think, and this is coming from someone who works in a fairly academic school district with a huge focus on math and science. So like the previous poster, I don’t think the fault is with the school’s reaction to the boy’s “invention” but rather the fact that they said he needed counseling in order to cover up for their mistake. They should have just come right out and stated their policy on possible bomb threats and explained the security problems schools (even magnet and power schools) deal with nowadays… perhaps they should also establish a policy concerning checking in materials that could be confused with explosives at the front desk.

    12 year old student brings bomb to school:
    http://blog.al.com/breaking/2009/10/12-year-old_falkville_student.html

    Teen brings pipe bomb to school:
    http://www.kron.com/News/ArticleView/tabid/298/smid/1126/ArticleID/2767/reftab/36/t/Former%20Hillsdale%20High%20Student%20in%20Police%20Custody%20Following%20Pipe%20Bomb%20Explosion%20at%20School/Default.aspx

    17 year old brings pipe bomb to school in Northern California:
    http://buzz.yahoo.com/article/1:y_news:8138e5cd02b0102976a2df3f6a05a4a6/Ex-student-arrested-in-California-school-explosion-AP

    Teens arrested in bomb threat.
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705358760/2-teens-arrested-Friday-in-Lehi-High-bomb-threat.html

  116. Homeschool woohoo!!!!!

  117. […] Die Hysterie, die euch verblödet: aus: FreeRangeKids […]

  118. Hm. Seems to me that the principal should seek councelling seeing he’s the weird one. The kid did not build a b*** , he is not a problem. I think they just encouraged kids to get attention by overreacting this way. Way to go.

    ***(I don’t know if “they” really monitor blogs hehe I’m Canadian)

  119. […] 26, 2010 A blogger (commenting on this news story) calls our attention to a schoolboy who, for the offense of having […]

  120. they wouldn’t recognize a genius even if a giant sign was pointing at him. i wouldn’t be surprised if the kid turns out to be a great scientist. it’s sad though how school authorities expect the worst from the kids, instead of hoping for the best in them. after all, the children ARE the future, and apart from some unfortunate exceptions, i believe the future they bring is wonderful!

  121. why should we not be surprised when the next generation arent encouraged to think for themselves , if at all

  122. Thank you for that information, T. Chang. I wasn’t aware that there was, in fact, such a problem with kids bringing actual explosives to school.

  123. My heart goes out to this family and child. PARENTS: BE CAREFUL! SHARE THIS STORY AND MINE WITH YOUR CURIOUS CHILDREN! I have “been there, done that” two years ago with my now- successful college-age son, who is a sophomore in engineering school! At the time, he was an avid science student and 4-year member of his school’s top-ranked Science Olympiad Club. He, too, did an experiment at home with some other (very smart) friends, in MY kitchen with MY permission (though I did tell them if they did it again, they needed to buy goggles and wear protective aprons). Although I had counseled him to ASK HIS TEACHER FIRST, he did as many 16-year old boys would have done: he took it to school anyway without first talking to his teacher. HIs intention was to show his Science Olympiad coordinator/AP Physics teacher during their first period class. The “it” in question was a firecracker of sorts — sort of like a Roman candle. — unfortunately referred to as a “smoke bomb.” He had no intentions of lighting it off in school. He was trying to get extra points, and he had some very legitimate questions related to something they had studied previously in class. Instead of acting like a “reasonable adult” and confiscating the item (to be disposed of properly), then cautioning him that such items may not be welcome at school in today’s day and age so he should ask first… NO! It was indeed confiscated, he was sent to the principal, and he would have been expelled from school for the rest of the year (this was the second week of April). We were VERY fortunate that he had a loophole that he could eventually jump through (an Individual Education Plan). But this was just a lucky break on our part– the rest of you out there will probably not have this kind of luck! After our “hearing” at the HS level (which could have gone on to the Principal, the Asst. Superintendent and finally the Superintendent) where everything had been predetermined anyway… the teachers, counselors, etc. involved agreed that there was no malicious intentions involved on my son’s part… but because of provisions in Indiana state law, without the loophole of his IEP, he would have been expelled for possessing “a weapon, or bomb”. NO EXCEPTIONS! The crazy thing here is that NOT A SINGLE SCIENCE TEACHER WAS PULLED OUT TO TALK TO HIM AND EXAMINE THE ITEM — INCLUDING THE ONE WHO SEIZED IT. Our school also recommended counseling… and I agree totally with one of the comments: WE needed counseling from the results of the stresses, strains, and anguish of sitting in limbo for 10 days before knowing w hether he would be expelled — and the subsequent stresses of having a HS junior, who was scheduled to take 6 AP tests in May, along with his SATs, be exiled from school (and all the reviewing that occurs during this time in preparation for the AP tests!) and do all of this on his own. Under Indiana law, my son was due a tutor under the circumstances. We were told that alasno one in the tutor pool was available and even if one were, no one was available to tutor physics… Fortunately, it all turned out okay in the end. He got 5’s on all of his AP exams (oh, did I mention he was also taking a Differential Equations (yes, what IS that?!) at the state university?!), scored excellently in his SATs and passed his college math class. I do not say this to toot my son’s horn — rather, that to show that we were LUCKY that we have such a self-starter for a child, one who was able to handle this pressure and somehow, someway, come out of it academically and emotionally still intact. NOT EVERYONE WILL BE SO LUCKY!!!
    Because my son has a great support system beyond family and friends, including teachers, principals, counselors, and others who were willing to take time out of their very busy and already over-burdened schedules to come to bats for him… he made it through this okay. Did he learn valuable lessons? No doubt! He wrote many thank-you letters that May! He learned about the inanities of our society today, and how “common sense” no longer prevails. NO ONE wants a Columbine… But this is a kid who is known for his keen intellect, had competed very successfully for his Science Olympiad teams since 7th grade, was a chess player, a wrestler, an editor for the yearbook and had just secured an internship with a biology professor at the local university. There was no reason to think that this might be someone mentally unhinged… If the VP for Discipline had known my son (doesn’t it say something that he didn’t?!) the way others did, maybe things would have been handled differently. If the teacher involved had exercised a bit more “common-sense,” it certainly would not have escalated to the extent that it did…
    Valuable lessons learned… indeed!
    Words of warning: MAKE SURE YOU CONSULT AN ATTORNEY to see what your rights are. It is not always clear… and trust me when I say that folks involved in the education system don’t always know either! Again, we were lucky… we had a legitimate loophole through which he could jump. NOT EVERYONE WILL — SO BEWARE! In actuality, the school system violated several laws (e.g. not providing my son with a tutor, among several). We could have sued them — and won. To what purpose? Our son would have been publicly vindicated… and perhaps someone else might benefit from this in the long run… But fortunately, it wasn’t necessary. We were VERY, VERY LUCKY! We also have two other children in the school system…
    My son was very fortunate to have a good, clean record, to be academically strong, and to have many friends, family, and teachers/counselors/principals who stood up for him. He was luckiest to have a loophole to jump through — which saved him from having an expulsion on his record. An expulsion is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO OVERCOME on a child’s HS record. If this had gone on his record, it is quite doubtful that he would have been admitted to the schools he had nor have received the scholarships he did… So good luck! If this ever happens to anyone out there, I would be happy to help in anyway possile…

  124. The authorities didn’t recommend that the school administrators get counseling?

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