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Police Called Over 11-Year-Old's Science Project 687

Posted by samzenpus
from the duck-and-cover dept.
garg0yle writes "Police in San Diego were called to investigate an 11-year-old's science project, consisting of 'a motion detector made out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some electronics,' after the vice-principal came to the conclusion that it was a bomb. Charges aren't being laid against the youth, but it's being recommended that he and his family 'get counseling.' Apparently, the student violated school policies — I'm assuming these are policies against having any kind of independent thought?"

*

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Police Called Over 11-Year-Old's Science Project

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  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:40PM (#30793318)

    That everyone should stick some coloured wires into cardboard tubes, then leave them lying about all over the place. The more the merrier.

     

    • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:44PM (#30793364)
      It really comes down to how inept the school officials have shown themselves to be. I'm an optimistic person but stories like this make me worry.

      Just take a look at United Nuclear [unitednuclear.com] or this book [amazon.com] to see some serious science fair projects, and imagine how some of those would of went down for the poor kid!
      • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by increment1 (1722312) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:13PM (#30793620)

        It isn't necessarily ineptitude that causes school officials to make decisions like this. The basic reasoning boils down to the fact that the school officials will take little if any flack for over reacting in the name of safety, but they will lose their jobs and be raked through the mud if they fail to react to an "obvious" threat.

        Part of the problem is that no one ever gets rewarded for the issues they chose to ignore. So there is no benefit to the principal to ignore what they think is a possible threat even if the probability of it being a threat is vanishingly small.

        The end result is that school officials with a high self interest will put their self interest in front of everyone else (the authorities who are wasting their time, the students out of class, the student directly involved, the parents who have to come pick up all the students early, etc), since they are more worried about the ramifications to themselves than the trouble they may cause for others.

        • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cool_arrow (881921) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:27PM (#30793748)
          it is stupidity. An intelligent principal could have ascertained the necessary information by sitting down with the student and asking questions calmly thereby by avoiding all the resulting mess.
          • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by increment1 (1722312) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:02PM (#30794098)

            I agree, there is seemingly a large amount of stupidity involved in the situation.

            The principal not only could have, but SHOULD have interviewed the student to ascertain the risk. However, say the principal is sitting there with the student with a device with wires sticking out of it all over the place. The principal doesn't know enough about electronics to to be sure whether it is a safe device, or is indeed a bomb. Additionally, the principal doesn't trust the student since if it is a bomb the student probably wouldn't admit to it.

            So, given this situation, the principal, as a self optimizing and very self interested individual, decides that there is no advantage or reason for them to take the risk of trusting the student. They error way over on the side of caution since there is no compelling reason for them not to.

            Until there are actual ramifications for raising a false alarm, issues like this are not only likely to continue, but inevitable. If the school or principal was billed for the cost of a false alarm (or just a token percentage of it) then I would be will to bet that you would see the cases of false alarms drop dramatically.

            • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:48PM (#30794476)

              This article didn't make sense. It says the student broken no laws, but he was in violatino of school policy? What kind of policy prevents them from bringing in harmless science projects?

              "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."

              Why the hell would they recommend counseling for a non-violent and non-criminal act?

              Is there a better link regarding this article?

              • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by coolgeek (140561) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:53PM (#30794526) Homepage

                The school's statement makes no sense either. The school's policies are published here [mtechmiddle.org] I don't see where he ran afoul of them.

                • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:58PM (#30794952) Journal
                  In most cases, "Don't make Admin look stupid, especially if they are." is implied policy #0.

                  This is in no way confined to schools, of course.
                • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @08:33PM (#30795136)

                  The school's statement does make sense, I'm sure it was to calm parents.

                  "Don't worry, we have rules and guidelines, and a system in place that would have caught this had it been real. We're like all over that. He broke the rules, had it been a real thing we would have stopped him before he did anything"

                  It's lies obviously, since the kid did nothing wrong, but that's what the purpose of that was, to cover their own asses and make sure at the next PTA they don't get "They're NOT THINKING OF THE CHILDREN! This could have been a terrorist attack! This shouldn't happen!"

                  • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Informative)

                    by mwvdlee (775178) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:50AM (#30797202) Homepage

                    Funny thing is; had it indeed been a bomb, they would have been too late as it was already inside the building.

                  • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:02AM (#30797960) Journal

                    The sad truth is nobody is thinking of the children. They are our future and it looks like a pretty bleak one right now. Where every kid who displays an ounce ingenuity, exceptional achievement, or even exceptional interest in a particular topic of field is labeled as a potential threat.

                    How likely is this kid after this experience to want to participate in a science fair again? How likely is he to share is projects with teachers who might be able to mentor him? Now even if teachers would be willing to put the extra time in the kid is going to be afraid to ask.

                    We are looking at a system that is effectively geared to NOT develop the talents of our best and brightest!

                • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by kandela (835710) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @08:36PM (#30795150)
                  Maybe it was this bit, "The Millennial Tech experience will enhance educational opportunities, prepare students for the workplace and allow all individuals to feel comfortable and secure." Clearly he should have anticipated the paranoia of his vice principal and refrained from making anything he could mistake for something else and thus feel unsafe. *shakes head*
                • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by sharkey (16670) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @09:50PM (#30795550)
                  It sounds like a Simpson's chalkboard gag: "I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty"
              • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by LWATCDR (28044) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @10:02PM (#30795616) Homepage Journal

                Maybe some instruction would be in order.
                Rule one. Don't scare the sheep.
                Rule two. Don't scare the sheep that thinks they are in charge.

                I think that making this guy look like a fool might be a good thing. I would have been all with letting him keep his dignity up till the CYA part at the end.

              • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by haruharaharu (443975) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @11:05PM (#30795916) Homepage
                Counseling from the trauma of having the bomb squad called over your science project?
              • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:55AM (#30796838)
                Well it's quite obvious. They couldn't find anything illegal or wrong whatsoever. So of course they're going to make up bullshit "the student needs counseling" and "he violated school policies" to make it sound like they aren't a bunch of incompetent shitheads.

                This happens all the time with terror suspects, like that guy who was puking in the bathroom on the plane a few weeks ago. He was labeled a "terrorist" because of the color of his skin and yet the government and the racist airline employee managed to come out looking like heroes. How? They spew this bullshit about "have to be cautious" and "he was suspicious" and they imply there was actually danger "we were lucky it was a false alarm".
              • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Dr Damage I (692789) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:51AM (#30797426) Journal

                Why the hell would they recommend counseling for a non-violent and non-criminal act?

                By recommending something vaguely punitive (and "magnanimously" forgoing billing the childs family for the expense), the authorities are attempting to prevent blame from shifting from the child and his family to the place that it actually belongs: the authorities

                recommending counseling is an attempt to maintain the appearance that the child actually did something wrong.

            • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by smokin_juan (469699) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:00PM (#30794596) Homepage Journal
              "The principal doesn't know enough about electronics..." How could he not know? He's overseeing a *technical* school. Does he ever venture out into the halls or talk to the kids? He's a fucking absentee landlord and deserves to lose his job two weeks ago. And shame on the parents for letting the gestapo inspect their house and suggest counseling after "da bomb" was determined to be harmless.
            • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:22PM (#30794748)

              However, say the principal is sitting there with the student with a device with wires sticking out of it all over the place. The principal doesn't know enough about electronics to to be sure whether it is a safe device, or is indeed a bomb. Additionally, the principal doesn't trust the student since if it is a bomb the student probably wouldn't admit to it.

              Someone who personally knows the student and could accurately assess the situation should have been there. The principle, and assistant principle or just a teacher. Was there no-one around who actually knew the kid ? Seems like a pretty bad school to me.

          • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Informative)

            by kormoc (122955) <`kormoc' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:35PM (#30794374) Homepage

            From the story:
            After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined.

            So he talked to the student and was told it was a motion detector or whatever. He then decided to evacuate the school. Talking to the student didn't help at all in this case. He's just a dumbass.

        • by Narpak (961733) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:34PM (#30793828)

          The end result is that school officials with a high self interest will put their self interest in front of everyone else (the authorities who are wasting their time, the students out of class, the student directly involved, the parents who have to come pick up all the students early, etc), since they are more worried about the ramifications to themselves than the trouble they may cause for others.

          That's why I have always been in favour of school consisting of a transport vehicle going around picking up each kid individually and placing each into their own stasispod. Then said stasispod is driven to a building were they will be stacked up for 10 hours and all interaction will be committed virtually with the kids never leaving their respective pods. If any student violates policy or acts in a threatening manner the pod can be disconnected from the hub and driven directly to the nearest correctional facility. Safety first!

        • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by damburger (981828) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:11PM (#30794168)

          I don't think you can frame this as game theory; the staff of the school are not reacting in this way in order to maximize their personal benefit (or minimize their personal loss). Whilst I concede that some people do think in this way, teaching selects out that characteristic by being an underpaid and overworked profession for the level of education and aptitude they have.

          The problem is that the staff are not permitted to make any kind of decision themselves; they are completely servile to the institution and the institution cannot be expected to exhibit human rationality.

        • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:23PM (#30794278)

          School administrators are often failed teachers or P.E. instructors with a career in the classroom that can be measured in 5 years or less. They are truly inept and feel that a tasted of the education system of any kind makes them qualified to then lead entire schools in turn.

          The man in this story is simply a moron who did not rationally discuss anything about the construction of the device with the child to draw intelligent conclusions. He had a knee-jerk reaction because that's what stupid people do when presented with things they don't - or refuse to - understand.

          Sadly this is absolutely the norm in school districts all across America, and has been for a few decades. The education system isn't flawed, just that the standards for these types of positions are _incredibly_ low.

    • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:07PM (#30794126)

      When I was about 15 (20 years ago), we used to make little (~1m x 1m x 1m) hot air balloons out of tissue paper and use methylated spirits as the fuel. On one occasion our bottle of fuel was leaking - the lid had cracked or something and didn't fit tightly - so we chucked a cloth under the lid to stop it spilling. We were just about to head out the door when my dad pointed out that the fuel bottle (which I was carrying in my hand) looked uncannily like a molotov cocktail, and that we might want to reconsider how we carried it. Back then, had someone noticed, we might have been confronted by a policeman wanting to make sure we weren't up to too much mischief... I wouldn't like to think about what would have happened if we tried the same sort of thing today.

      It must suck a bit to be a kid in these times. There's no way I'm going to take my kids on an airplane... not because I fear for their safety, but because I just know that one of them will think it hilarious to make a joke about a bomb, and nobody else is going to find it funny.

      • Re:I recommend ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kramulous (977841) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @08:43PM (#30795192)

        I live in an Australia city now, but when my kids get to the inquisitive age, I'll have to pack up and move back to the bush - I like north queensland ... barrier reef.

        We used to combine all sorts of nasty chemicals together as kids to see what would give a good bang. After many experiments we worked out which ones generally reacted together. Dad made sure there were textbooks lying around so we could work out what the reactions were and why (we were left to do this on our own - not forced to do so). We also built lots of electronics and mechanical contraptions from supplies we found and collected from the farm dumps. All kinds of shit really; No such thing as boredom.

        I now have three science degrees; Mathematics, Computer and Organic Chemistry. Brother is an orthopaedic surgeon.

        There is no way we could do that in the current environment where we live now. Too many nannies would get their panties in a twist. I do feel sorry for kids today. Kids will be kids.

    • Re:I recommend ... (Score:4, Informative)

      by xtracto (837672) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:58PM (#30794574) Journal

      I am sorry to tell you this guys but, you (USA) have lost the war against terrorism.

      The Terrorists have won and brought your society to their knees.

      Sorry.

  • We're on our way! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:40PM (#30793320)

    To an Idiocracy!

    Public school administrators are leading the way!

    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#30793474) Homepage Journal

      And the politicians wonder why it is that America has trouble getting kids interested in the sciences.

      I can understand that an assistant principle might not have any idea how bombs are made. There's no shame in that. However, he probably should have talked to the child's teacher before he called the fire department. My guess is that the kid had to tell his teacher ahead of time what he was making. I have never heard of a science fair where you weren't required to pre-register your experiment. How hard would it have been to talk the the science teacher before calling the bomb squad?

      Now, if the teacher thought that the device was a bomb (especially if he knew before hand that the kid was working on a proximity detector) then shame on him. I mean seriously, how hard would it have been to do a little research beforehand.

      • Re:We're on our way! (Score:5, Informative)

        by stiggle (649614) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:40PM (#30793890)

        Reading the article (I know, but someone has to :-) ) it seems that it wasn't a Science Fair project, it was just something the kid had been playing around with at home and then brought it in to show his friends. The kid violated school policies and that is why they said he should get counselling.

        So the school has a policy banning kids from being inventive and wanting to show that inventiveness off. Anyway - thats one kid the school system has scared off technology - well done San Diego Unified School District.

        • by Lorens (597774) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:17PM (#30794226) Journal

          Reading the article (I know, but someone has to :-) ) it seems that it wasn't a Science Fair project, it was just something the kid had been playing around with at home and then brought it in to show his friends. The kid violated school policies

          No he didn't... the school policies are here:

          http://www.mtechmiddle.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=58810&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=87933&hideMenu=1&rn=8708720 [mtechmiddle.org]

          After looking twice I can't even find the part where it says "may not bring guns or knives or other weapons", let alone "may not bring anything that could possibly at a distance be mistaken for something dangerous".

          and that is why they said he should get counselling.

          Personally I think the school should pay for counseling, since the only reason he would need it is for the trauma of being treated like a terrorist :-)

          So the school has a policy banning kids from being inventive and wanting to show that inventiveness off. Anyway - thats one kid the school system has scared off technology - well done San Diego Unified School District.

          The ironic thing is that this is supposed to be a "Tech Magnet" school. Quoting from their mission statement:

          All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their technology skills to enhance their motivation and curiosity to excel academically in order to become productive citizens that will drastically impact the developing information age.

          All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills to enhance their motivation to excel academically in order to become global leaders and productive citizens in their chosen career path.

          That sounds like the kids might be expected to construct fun things related to science.

          Granted, it also sounds like you should expect your kid to be traumatized by the teachers. Not by the police, though.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:41PM (#30793326)
    I told ye it was forged by Lucifer himself!
  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:41PM (#30793332) Journal

    What's the student supposed to get counseling for? The trauma the school put him through for no reason? More likely, so the school authorities can point to the fact that the kid got counseling to show something is wrong with him (and not them)

    I'd like to recommend the authorities get some counseling. Either that, or a clue, but counseling is easier to come by.

    • by motek (179836) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:48PM (#30793380) Homepage

      Perhaps they meant the vice principal was to seek counseling? Otherwise his fears may simply stop his poor heart one day.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#30793450) Homepage

      What's the student supposed to get counseling for?

      Counsel, as in legal counsel perhaps. That's who I would talk to first.

      Instead of an abject apology, the school has the gall to toss the blame on the parents and student? Good thing the school emphasizes technology, I can't imagine what sort of idiot is the vice principal for a 'normal' school.

    • by Main Gauche (881147) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:16PM (#30793642)

      If you RTFA, it looks like the cops are saying that they should get counseling because the kid and parents were upset by the incident.

      Regardless of whether the search was reasonable, do you realize how misled you (and many others, including those who've responded to you) have been by the summary's "scare quotes"? The summary makes it sounds like the kid is being sent in for "reprogramming".

      I'm probably wasting my time typing this, because it won't change anything anyway. Slashdotters will primarily continue to curse the way the government misleads the citizens, then turn around and fall for this kind of crap.

      • by letsief (1053922) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:24PM (#30793728)

        I agree it's sort of hard to know one way or the other, but I think the author of the article is implying the student and parents need counseling so this sort of thing doesn't happen again. The article's statement about counseling was stated right after it discussed the fire officials searching the home for explosives. And, it was in the same paragraph that said the student wasn't going to be prosecuted, but violated school policies. The article does talk about the student and parents being upset, but that's a little later in the article.

        Maybe the author of the article is misleading us, but (somewhat uncharacteristically) Slashdot's summary seems to be pretty accurate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "What's the student supposed to get counseling for?"

      It's quick, cheap, and simple. The kid needs to be counseled that some people are easily frightened. Some people are ignorant. Some people aren't the least bit intellectually curious. Some people are idiots. Most importantly, people who have all of these characteristics, plus psychopathic behavior, are elevated to positions of power and authority. Just like his associate principal. Of course, the kid's probably already figured that out.
  • by johngaunt (414543) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:44PM (#30793362)

    This is what happens when the students are smarter than the teachers.

    • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:56PM (#30793458)

      s/teachers/administrators/

      Sounds like the kid was showing it off at lunch and the vice principal freaked.

      Reminds me of one time in high school when we were given an assignment by our English teacher. I don't entirely remember the specifics, but we were supposed to take pictures of stuff and make a slideshow that somehow related to the book we were reading.

      So we go over to the theatre department and grab a wooden rifle prop (as in, something made out of a black broomstick with a wooden handle) and end up in an area with half the windows in the school facing us. So the school security guard comes and tells us he could have justified shooting us, and tells us to get back inside.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @08:01PM (#30794976)

        So the school security guard comes and tells us he could have justified shooting us, and tells us to get back inside.

        They armed the school security guard? That's fucked up right there all by itself. The chance of a school guard actually needing to use a weapon is going to be vanishingly small - certainly much smaller than the chance of accidentally shooting someone.

  • Lesson Learned (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:45PM (#30793366)

    Don't do anything to attract attention to yourself ever.

  • by studog-slashdot (771604) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:48PM (#30793378)

    The school, which has about 440 students in grades 6 to 8 and emphasizes technology skills, was initially put on lockdown while authorities responded.

    ...Stu

    • by studog-slashdot (771604) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:54PM (#30793440)

      The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said.

      The policies emphasizing technology? Or the policies forbidding technology?

      The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said.

      It is clear it is not the student that requires counselling.

      ...Stu

  • by nil_orally (1574491) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:48PM (#30793382)
    The real question is why are we letting people this stupid in charge of educating our children?
    • by 15Bit (940730) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:25PM (#30793736)
      Because the better ones cost more than you are willing to pay.
    • by v1 (525388) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:26PM (#30793742) Homepage Journal

      The more an expert you are in one area, the lower the odds that you are an expert in an unrelated area.

      School superintendents are (for the most part) some of the most technologically inept people in the building. They're schooled to manage budgets, staff, student problems, parents, PTAs, school boards, etc, not be geeks. In high school in speech class we were broken into groups to compose and film skits. We had to submit our story before we started recording. The finale' of our skit was a bomb failing to be diffused and blowing up something.

      Me being the geek in the group, I was propmaster for the bomb. And I did a pretty good job I think. Looked like a substantial brick of C4 with attached detonator and timer. The wire was the stereotypical brightly colored curly wires, and the timer was displaying like a clock. The skit went off very well, but the prop was misplaced after the skit, though we found it shortly later and thought nothing of it. I only found out some years later where it spent those 10 minutes.

      Attached to a locker beside the main office. A certain student "planted" it, and just as he was walking away, the vice principal walked out of the office. To save from being caught, he shouted "omg a bomb!" and ran. I guess the VP's face turned stone white and he sprinted back into the office. Thinking smartly, the kid spun around and grabbed the prop and returned it to our class room. I'm assuming the VP came back out of the office with the rest of the staff (evacuating?) and found no bomb and was left with some egg on his face, but it could have EASILY gotten the school evacuated now that we look back on it. And this was 19 yrs ago. Just try to imagine the insanity that would have ensued today? I'm sure it would have involved the bomb squad and a small detonation in the parking lot. But I can't blame the VP for not realizing it was a joke, for him everything was stacked pretty well against him. But a gatorade bottle with a photosensor? really?

      Part of the problem here is that an IED can be extremely difficult to identify. Odds are if it looks like a bomb to the layman, it's probably a prop.

      That being said, the last school I worked at, the principal was one of the most tech savvy people in the building short of me, so you can't take anything for granted.

      • by Locke2005 (849178) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @11:55PM (#30796110)
        Odds are if it looks like a bomb to the layman, it's probably a prop. Note to laymen: if it's got a huge red digital display counting down the seconds until it goes "boom", just like every bomb you ever seen in a move or television show, then it almost certainly IS NOT a bomb. Seriously -- what terrorist that actually wanted to blow shit up would bother to wire up a huge, conspicuous countdown timer?

        My daughter's school has a policy against bringing toys to school; that is probably the policy this kid violated. He almost certainly is not the one that needs counseling.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:48PM (#30793384) Journal
    I mean, did anyone, for example, ask the kid what the device was and perhaps he said "It's a bomb! I'm going to blow myself and all of you up as a sacrifice for the great god Satan!" because had he said that, I'd suggest most of the rest of the article makes sense.
  • by shinehead (603005) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:50PM (#30793398)
    "I don't blame the school...it's the continued pussification of America that is the real problem at hand". Wish I had said that. WTF is going on with these school admin? Dude is staff a magnet school, got to expect to come across situations like this and be able to deal with it. I think the school staff needs counseling not the kid and his family. Pussies.....
  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:50PM (#30793402) Journal

    This is part of the "nervous Nellie" reactions that have developed over the past few years. We should be encouraging inquisitiveness, exploration and learning in our children or we will just produce more mediocre administrators. Kids do things at home, bring them to school and show their friends. As long as it was not clearly a weapon or some other prohibited device there should not be a problem with it.

    We are applying the same "sterile area" rules that supposedly exist in our airports to our schools. Will TSA be staffing the schools to keep out prohibited items?

    Unless the child lied about what the device was it appears that the principal overreacted and did not apply too much common sense. It sounds like a pretty cool idea to use a Gatoraide bottle as a focusing point for a sonic device. Smart kid to think that through and to try something with it.

    How many people who read /. have tried out other things like this in their childhood? Most of us have.

  • by Upaut (670171) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:52PM (#30793426) Homepage Journal
    Tend to show the deranged thoughts of the teachers more than anything else... I remember my project netted me a month of drug counseling, because the application "could" of been used to grow cannabis.... The project was just a kid showing how plants grew differently in different media, hydroponically, with soil, with microorganisms that were advertised to help bind nitrogen in roots and increase growth, and with plant hormones. (All save hydroponically done in the same bag soil, just with the different additives...)

    So my project was removed, and I was instructed not to build any more hydroponic settups in my spare time... Which my parents told me to ignore in my own home, but still.....
  • Fucked up paranoia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luc1fel (1469805) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:56PM (#30793460)
    So, it wasn't enough that the device from the poor kid (who showed some practical skills) was perfectly harmless, his home also had to be checked just in case he was a terrorist?

    That's fucked up beyond 1984.
    • Cooperative (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dereference (875531) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:20PM (#30793680)

      ...his home also had to be checked...

      Yes, that's the most shocking part of the story to me as well. I'm not sure I'd be very cooperative with the authorities if I were the parents. I think I'd turn it into yet another learning moment, showing the kid how not to bow unquestioningly to authority. I'd have called an attorney, and politely declined the search until a proper warrant was served.

      I'm guessing the parents were horrified to learn of the inconvenience imposed by the morons in charge, and wanted to get it over quickly and prove that their kid was good, so I don't fault them at all for cooperating. But they weren't responsible for the hysteria, and they shouldn't have been pressured to comply. It's as if the authorities allowed the administration to hold the entire school hostage, until this unfortunate family was forced to prove its own innocence. It's quite insane.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @04:58PM (#30793476) Journal
    Here is a posting by a soldier in http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/musings/2009/apr/19/airport-security/ [ljworld.com]

    vertigo (Jesse Crittenden) says

    Ironically while flying out of KMCI on my way to Iraq for the Air Force I had to go through the extra security screening. Mind you I'm in full military uniform, desert BDUs, boots, boonie hat, M4 in tow sure enough though I had to take off my boots and all metal objects and get the wand ran over me and extra check through my carry on. Let's ignore the fact that I'm carrying a rifle onboard!

    Common sense sometimes does not apply.

    In the case of the elderly lady I see nothing whatsoever wrong with her getting the same screening as everyone else. Terrorists will use whatever they can to exploit a weakness; that could be a handicapped person, the elderly and children.

    Stop the world, it has gone mad, I want to get off.

  • by greg_barton (5551) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [notrab_gerg]> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:07PM (#30793558) Homepage Journal

    I thought I couldn't be more surprised by crazy school administrator and police stupidity, but I was wrong.

    Everyone really should read TFA this time.

    From TFA:

    Students were evacuated from Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School...

    ...and...

    Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside.

    When police and the Metro Arson Strike Team responded, they also found electrical components in the student's backpack, Luque said. After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined.

    So, having electronics in your backpack is grounds for evacuating a TECH MAGNET?

    Seriously?

    What happened to the country that put the first man on the moon? We have gone completely insane.

    • Litigation happened. On the day you can be absolutely right, but any parent can still sue you for endangering their child and get a nice retirement payout from the schools insurance policy.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:07PM (#30793560) Homepage Journal

    Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside.

    This kid is clearly a genius. He has created the worlds first 100% hard vacuum, in a soft drink bottle no less. He has even eliminated zero point energy.

  • by chrysrobyn (106763) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:08PM (#30793564)

    When I was in college, I would periodically bring my electronics homework home from Albany to Phoenix. I would usually work on it the entire time tray tables were allowed. Often I didn't need a textbook, only my engineering paper (overpriced graph paper) and my calculator. I would often make those next to me nervous, but obviously I couldn't harm anyone with paper and a pencil. Well, significantly anyway.

    As I got to the intermediate classes, I would often find myself with schematics, a bag of chips and wires, and a breadboard. Again, plenty of time to just sit there, I would wire up my breadboard with the chips, wires, and my Leatherman. I had more than a few flight attendants strike up a conversation with me long enough to find out that I was going home / to school, was an engineering student, and was working on a finite state machine / simple computer / complicated blinky light thing. "Wanna see? This is so cool! Watch these eight lights blink! I can program it with these switches!" The only time the conversation lasted even a sentence longer was when I was building laser tag. "No, it doesn't actually have any lasers, they just use that name because it sounds cool. It actually works like your remote control to your TV."

    Even at the time, I was fully aware that any technical work done in a public place would draw the skepticism, imagination, and periodically, fear of those around me. Of course, this was in the mid 90's. Times and personal liberties on airplanes in particular are very different. Now, they'd throw a fit if I tried to take my Leatherman near the plane, let alone the chips and bundle of wires running off a 9 volt. I'm much more mature now, and now I see no reason to make people uncomfortable on an airplane in order to stretch their preconceptions.

    The kid and his parents now learned a valuable lesson. Work transparently. Don't hide it in a bottle. When it's complete, more times than not, it shouldn't have a top case. If it needs a case, no external wires should be visible.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:11PM (#30793596) Journal

    He bolted out of bed and carefully defused the alarm clock before it went off, after concluding that... it was a bomb.

    He went to shave, but before turning it on decided to throw the razor out the window after concluding that... it was a bomb.

    He decided not to make toast after concluding that the toaster was...

    Better not drive, he thought...

    Got on a bus. There was a guy with a radio. He called 911. Got off the bus before the police arrived though.

    Arrived at school. Reported science fair project as possible bomb.

    Police showed up at school. Hey? Are you the guy who called 911?

  • School policy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:29PM (#30793764) Homepage
    There you have it: using wires in a science project violates school policy.

    There's a new DVD out called The War on Kids [thewaronkids.com]. The thesis is that schools are prisons and are about surveillance, metal detectors, and control. One of the best parts is where they are receiving a tour through a school, and they ask to see the library, which has a high-security metal door with metal grate over the glass. The principal can't find the key and asks, "did you really need to get in here?"

    Learning is against school policy.

  • by Chas (5144) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:36PM (#30793848) Homepage Journal

    Here's the Contact Us page for Millennial Tech Middle School.

    http://www.mtechmiddle.org/apps/contact/?rn=8783875 [mtechmiddle.org]

    Maybe if enough people ask, they'll actually tell someone why they have a complete fucking moron in a position of scholastic authority over their kids.

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:42PM (#30793908)
    I actually read TFA, and it states, as the summary quotes, "Apparently, the student violated school policies", but the article doesn't state the policy in question. It is hard to know if this is a case of stupid overreaction or a real violation of the rules. Does anyone know the exact wording of this "policy"?
  • Well in my book, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Saturday January 16, 2010 @05:43PM (#30793926)

    that vice-principal is a terrorist.
    It’s exactly what the dictionary says. (I don’t mean the 11th edition of the newspeak one, that you may think of. ;)
    He terrorizes an 11 year old child. (Think of the children!) He terrorizes the whole family. He causes fear, terror that requires police intervention.

    I say, make an example and ship him to Gitmo, in exchange for a honest American who sits down there just because his parents immigrated from the wrong country.
    I’d call that the American spirit! ;)

  • by jlb.think (1719718) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:13PM (#30794186)
    What we should all do is send letters of protest to the school. I have just written them asking them to apologize to the student and his family. I have suggested that the vice principal in question should be counseled on the proper way to react in such a situation. I know the chances of the school issuing an apology is low, but enough of public pressure will eventually force them to. And anyone who lives near this school should be their for the next board meeting to protest what has been done. You can contact them here: http://www.mtechmiddle.org/apps/contact/ [mtechmiddle.org]
  • by haruchai (17472) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:14PM (#30794198)

      Kid, keep up the good work, and move to a school with smarter officials.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:20PM (#30794242)

    Someone set us up the bomb!!!

    We get signal!!!

    How are you idiots??? All your sense are belong to us!!!

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:36PM (#30794380) Homepage

    An excerpt from "The Underground History of American Education":
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/16a.htm [johntaylorgatto.com]
    """
    Solve this problem and school will heal itself: children know that schooling is not fair, not honest, not driven by integrity. They know they are devalued in classes and grades, that the institution is indifferent to them as individuals. The rhetoric of caring contradicts what school procedure and content say, that many children have no tolerable future and most have a sharply proscribed one. The problem is structural. School has been built to serve a society of associations: corporations, institutions, and agencies. Kids know this instinctively. How should they feel about it? How should we?

    As soon as you break free of the orbit of received wisdom you have little trouble figuring out why, in the nature of things, government schools and those private schools which imitate the government model have to make most children dumb, allowing only a few to escape the trap. The problem stems from the structure of our economy and social organization. When you start with such pyramid-shaped givens and then ask yourself what kind of schooling they would require to maintain themselves, any mystery dissipates--these things are inhuman conspiracies all right, but not conspiracies of people against people, although circumstances make them appear so. School is a conflict pitting the needs of social machinery against the needs of the human spirit. It is a war of mechanism against flesh and blood, self-maintaining social mechanisms that only require human architects to get launched.

    I'll bring this down to earth. Try to see that an intricately subordinated industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. In an egalitarian, entrepreneurially based economy of confederated families like the one the Amish have or the Mondragon folk in the Basque region of Spain, any number of self-reliant people can be accommodated usefully, but not in a concentrated command-type economy like our own. Where on earth would they fit? In a great fanfare of moral fervor some years back, the Ford Motor Company opened the world's most productive auto engine plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. It insisted on hiring employees with 50 percent more school training than the Mexican norm of six years, but as time passed Ford removed its requirements and began to hire school dropouts, training them quite well in four to twelve weeks. The hype that education is essential to robot-like work was quietly abandoned. Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human enterprises--no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the periphery of things. Unless you do "creative" work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system.

    Before you can reach a point of effectiveness in defending your own children or your principles against the assault of blind social machinery, you have to stop conspiring against yourself by attempting to negotiate with a set of abstract principles and rules which, by its nature, cannot respond. Under all its disguises, that is what institutional schooling is, an abstraction which has escaped its handlers. Nobody can reform it. First you have to realize that human values are the stuff of madness to a system; in systems-logic the schools we have are already the schools the system needs; the only way they could be much improved is to have kids eat, sleep, live, and die there.

    Schools got the way they were at the start of the twentieth century as part of a vast, intensely engineered social revolution in which all major institutions were overhauled to wo

  • Now I understand! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @06:38PM (#30794402)
    Now I understand! This is the 'socialization' that the home schooled kids are missing!
  • Recovering costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmv (93421) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:06PM (#30794638) Homepage

    Police and fire officials also will not seek to recover costs associated with responding to the incident, the spokesman said.

    Translation: We realize we screwed up and don't want to be laughed at in court.

  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @07:35PM (#30794838)

    If they treated kids like this in the 70's, I would have been declared a threat to the free world. I taught myself how to solder when I was 10, and I was into building all kinds of electronics kits and projects. I was also into model rocketry and built multi-stage rockets capable of reaching altitudes of 2500 ft. I brought crap to school to show my class all the time. Luckily, I didn't grow up to be an international terrorist - I became an engineer. We are in deep trouble when our education system treats the kids that should be leading us to the next technology leap forward as criminals.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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