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

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the duck-and-cover dept.

Education 687

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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I recommend ... (5, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 ... (4, Informative)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 ... (5, Insightful)

increment1 (1722312) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 ... (5, Insightful)

cool_arrow (881921) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 ... (4, Funny)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793644)

...would have went down for...

Are you a school official?

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793320)

To an Idiocracy!

Public school administrators are leading the way!

Re:We're on our way! (5, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793474)

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! (0, Troll)

vurian (645456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793676)

Not "principle" -- "principal". Get some vocabulary!

Remove the colored chalk . . . (4, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793326)

I told ye it was forged by Lucifer himself!

Re:Remove the colored chalk . . . (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793566)

It's a gateway substance to LSD, for sure.

Re:Remove the colored chalk . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793686)

At least it isn't as dangerous as a #3 pencil. [xkcd.com]

Counseling gets the school off the hook (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793332)

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.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (3, Funny)

motek (179836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793380)

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

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (1)

brunokummel (664267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793746)

nah , I think the kid was up to something! I mean it is a kid, after all .. Maybe he switched his project to a motion detector because he couldn't find all the plutoniun he needed...
1. Motion detector
2. ??
3. Boom!

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793386)

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

Ya, counseled not to take a job at "Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School" if they are scared shitless of technology!

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (-1, Troll)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793438)

Or maybe the kid was trying to impress his friends by acting like the thing was a bomb. While I'm sure the school/police/fire dept overreacted, kids do strange stuff and often don't realize the consequences of their actions.

It doesn't sound like we have the whole story.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793464)

It doesn't sound like we have the whole story.

OK, I'll play. I bet the rest of the story is the kid made his eyes glow and exposed his erectile fangs! Now there's the rest of the story, Mr. Harvey.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (3, Insightful)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793758)

Or maybe the kid was trying to impress his friends by acting like the thing was a bomb. While I'm sure the school/police/fire dept overreacted, kids do strange stuff and often don't realize the consequences of their actions.

All that is mentioned in the article is:

Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the student had been making the device in his home garage. 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.

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

Both the student and his parents were "very cooperative" with authorities, 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.

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.

Now I can't say what policies he might have violated; though from what little is said in the article one is left with the impression that the vice principal in question overacted (or erred on the side of caution). I can understand that after going through such an event that the kid in question might need a bit of counselling to deal with the fact that he got hanged out in-front of the whole school as a possible terrorist. So I hope that is what they are talking about, and not that he "needs counselling" because he inadvertently scared a frightened adult administrator.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793802)

I would really like to know what policies these are, specifically. I'm too tired of hearing about people being raked through the mud for violating so-called policies.

Once, when I was a student, I tried to get a copy of the school's policy manual. I was politely but firmly told to sit down and shut up. To be honest, I don't believe that such things even exist, or if they are they are so broadly defined as to be useless for informing behaviour.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793450)

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.

Re:WTF? (1)

miknix (1047580) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793454)

And this is how to terminate a possible promising career in electronics. Seriously, the kid will never be the same. He either won't touch on electronics anymore OR next time the project won't just look like a bomb.

Re:WTF? (1, Offtopic)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793656)

next time the project won't just look like a bomb

Even if it is one...

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (2, Insightful)

Ilkhan28 (1711948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793602)

^^^ This (agree with russotto) Ok, you're 11 years old and your teachers and principal call the local authorities on you because of a project they assigned you to do, but thought the project looked like a suspicious "device"? Can you imagine how scary that would be for a kid that old? Yeah I would say he will need counseling, but for what the school principal put him through. If it were me, I would be trying to tell them what my project was over and over. And maybe this kid was doing that too, but of course, no one was listening to an 11 year old kid. Also I remember enough about science projects in school that in most cases all of them had to be approved by the teachers, initially to make sure it fits in with what lessons are being taught. At least I can't see how a teaching system would get away with just assigning students to go and work on projects, but not really making sure the student is on the right track. This whole event could now make the kid a social pariah, most of us here probably know how cruel some kids that age range can be to others. I'm not a parent but I would almost guess thats something worth taking legal actions against the school.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (4, Informative)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793740)

Looking at the article, it sounds as if he brought his own personal project in, not something for a science class. It sounds like he's a bit of an electronics nut, and brought something in to show his friends which the teachers then found suspicious. I can kind-of see both sides, but I don't think the boy has any blame. I used to do this all the time when I was at school, in fact I'm pretty sure the things we used to do during lunch break in the science and computer labs would get us suspended or arrested these days.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (2, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793824)

Alternatively, he might be the school hero for getting everyone sent home early for the day!

another misleading summary (5, Informative)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:another misleading summary (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793696)

I think the issue is why were authorities called at all? I had lots of electronics at school. Radios I built myself. Projects I had to do for classes. It was never an issue. A few of our teachers knew a lot more about that stuff than I did. Several had done electronic work in industry before they became teachers.

Re:another misleading summary (5, Informative)

letsief (1053922) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Counseling gets the school off the hook (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793652)

"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.

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793846)

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.

Let's stick a few colored wires up the principal's ass and call the bomb squad on him.

If he doesn't blow up, send him for "counseling".

Re:Counseling gets the school off the hook (0, Troll)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793854)

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

To cover the principal's arse, again.

Retarded "Educators" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793336)

And we wonder why US is behind all other nations in educating our young.

Re:Retarded "Educators" (3, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793468)

>And we wonder why US is behind all other nations in educating our young.

The rest of the world knows though.

Administratium is dense (4, Insightful)

johngaunt (414543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793362)

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

Re:Administratium is dense (4, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Lesson Learned (5, Insightful)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793366)

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

Re:Lesson Learned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793430)

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

Like posting on slashdot

Re:Lesson Learned (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793856)

Your comment has been noted and filed, citizen.

Re:Lesson Learned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793442)

If he can maintain the reputation, the kid's going to get all the girls. Who can get the whole school evacuated and get away with it?

Re:Lesson Learned (5, Funny)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793780)

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

Anyone actively trying not to attract attention must be a terrorist!

Apparently, not so much (5, Insightful)

studog-slashdot (771604) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:Apparently, not so much (5, Insightful)

studog-slashdot (771604) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:Apparently, not so much (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793532)

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

Apparently they don't emphasise soldering skills. Thats the kind of thing which will be done in China in the future.

Call themselves teachers? (5, Insightful)

nil_orally (1574491) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793382)

The real question is why are we letting people this stupid in charge of educating our children?

Re:Call themselves teachers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793628)

Cause the general population is just as stupid, perhaps?

Re:Call themselves teachers? (5, Insightful)

15Bit (940730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793736)

Because the better ones cost more than you are willing to pay.

Re:Call themselves teachers? (3, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793742)

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.

Re:Call themselves teachers? (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793762)

I would have modded you up, but since the post already is at 5 insightful and I in fact don't have any modding points, you will have to do with this virtual pat on the shoulder. *pats*

Are we getting the whole story here? (4, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793384)

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.

Re:Are we getting the whole story here? (1)

Arccot (1115809) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793768)

I have to agree. At this age, the teacher helps or at the very least knows about a project before it shows up at any science fair. If that was the case this time, the evacuation probably would not have occurred.

School policies generally are reasonable, despite what most of the people here seem to believe. If the student did violate school policies, there's probably something he did that really wasn't a smart idea.

And to all the Slashdotters with the knee-jerk reactions against the school administrator in this case: When a story sounds ridiculous or even just unreasonable, perhaps you should question the story you're hearing? Before calliing others morons or claiming they're fearful sheep. What does that say about your independent thinking?

What if it was really a bomb? (1, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793392)

Let us say it was really bomb. Then the very same media would be all over the school officials, "What? There was this bottle! with wires inside! And electronics! And the clueless vice principal dismissed it as harmless. When is he going to learn that Al Queda is constantly probing our defenses. The terrorists know every trick in the book and know that the best way to smuggle a bomb into a school is to disguise it as a science project. Now the bomb has killed 200 school children. Some heads better roll, or else!". And there is always a steady supply of talking head Monday-morning-quarterbacking security experts lecturing us on how to handle it and how everything is serious and there is a terrorist hiding behind every tree and every garbage can has a bomb in it.

Yes, in a saner world, where most parties are responsible this would not have been been blown this big. But with the vitiated atmosphere and media constantly looking for flames to fan, the school officials decided, "OK either way they are going to get me. At least let me take the path where I look ridiculous but keep my job."

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793472)

Bomb and NotBomb are not equally likely possibilities.

So you propose that NoReaction is inferior because you're screwed if it was a bomb, while Reaction is inferior because its safe either way. I think you're wrong, NoReaction+Bomb is the worst outcome, yes, but its astonishingly unlikely. Getting hit by lightning in your office likely. OTOH, Reaction+NotBomb is still somewhat harmful to you (if nothing else the kids family and their friends think you are a monster) and NotBomb is very very likely.

On average having a the more tempered reaction is the best outcome. Sadly, people are stupid.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793570)

Yes, you are correct in saying that noreaction+bomb is exceedingly unlikely. But the 24hour news channels run such exceedingly unlikely events repeatedly on a loop and make us see it again and again and again. Our human brain has not evolved to handle such exposure to repeated graphic imagery of mayhem. The way brain evolved to remember collective traumatic events are by listening to the old sage, the memory keeper of the tribe reciting it over camp fire. Suddenly we are overloading the brains with stunningly graphic visual imagery of mayhem and destruction by terrorists in saturation coverage. Each exposure to the graphic image strengthens to memory of that connection and eventually people think it is more probable than it really is.

What kind of people end up as school vice principals? People who are extremely risk averse who choose career path where safety and job security is preferred. These are not the kind of people who would make a risky move in their life. This is the best you can expect from people who make such career choice.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793496)

You're a school administrator, aren't you.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793516)

this is an 11 year old at a Tech Magnet Middle School in SD. the SD located in the same state as silicon valley. surely the staff at such a school can recognize a fucking IED when they see it. the best way to smuggle a fucking bomb into a school is using the janitor, not a kid on a science fair project which is shown to every fucking person at the school.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (-1, Flamebait)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793588)

Since when has South Dakota been part of California?

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793688)

san diego you fuckwit.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (0, Troll)

Icarium (1109647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793722)

Where does South Dakota come into this story? San Diego on the other hand...

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793572)

"OK either way they are going to get me. At least let me take the path where I look ridiculous but keep my job."

That is the problem.... that is why this school VP should be fired.

There has to be consequences... Persons such as this school vice principle should be technically literate enough to look at such a thing and evaluate the danger.... The Bar MUST be raised.... how long before it is illegal to open electronic devices ( they are filled with electronic components and wires). How long before possessing such things is considered on par with shouting fire in a theatre?

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793654)

Everything you said makes sense ... if the moron did not suggest the kid seek counseling. Once you realize that YOU over-reacted, the correct action is to accept the fact that YOU acted like a fool. It is not to shift blame to the kid.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (2, Insightful)

letsief (1053922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793766)

That's why I think people shouldn't criticize the vice principal too much for calling authorities to look into this. He wouldn't have done so unless he thought there was a reasonable chance that this thing was a bomb. Maybe he should have known better, but he didn't, and I'm not going to fault him for erring on the side of caution. But, I am troubled that the school and authorities seem to be blaming the kid and parents for this, like they should have known better than to bring a geeky home project to a *technology magnet school*. I would consider this a non-story if the school, vice principal, and authorities showed a little embarrassment over this situation, but they really seem to think this family did something horribly wrong.

Re:What if it was really a bomb? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793804)

I must agree with you. It's unfortunate that the kid had to go through this, but the reality is that like you said, had it ACTUALLY have been a bomb, Slashdot as a collective whole would have been roasting this guy for how incompetent he was for seeing a bottle with wires and just dismissing it as normal business.

Reality is - if you're going to bring something like that to school - tell your teacher first. It's all about context. If his science fair project (same one) would have showed up on the day of the Science fair when people were expecting it, I'd wager nobody would have cared.

That's the problem with a precautionary measure though. The scenarios are: the principal does nothing and it isn't a bomb. The principal calls in the police and it is a bomb. The principal calls in the police and it isn't, and the principal does nothing and it is a bomb. Half of the those actions are going to result in criticism, and that half are linked to opposite choices for the principal. It's a no-win situation for him.

I will admit though, things have definitely changed since I was a kid. I remember kids bringing guns to school (real, actual guns) at least twice. The gun was confiscated (returned to the parents) and the kid was suspended for 10 days. That's it. No media attention, and overall nobody really reacted much. Heck in high school it wasn't uncommon at all to go out and see a student's pickup with a gun rack + a gun or two hanging on his back window. Nobody cared - and nobody ever got shot.

I love one of the comments... (3, Insightful)

shinehead (603005) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.....

Talk about overreacting (4, Insightful)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793402)

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.

Re:Talk about overreacting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793672)

In my childhood I didn't have "Gatoraide" drinks, you insensitive clod!

Re:Talk about overreacting (3, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793750)

As a kid I played killing people. It was either cowboys and indians or police and robbers. But now apparently kids need to be cocooned till they are 18 and then must know everything at once. No time to learn what is right and wrong.

They do need counselling (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793414)

Clearly parents that expect their child to be educated by morons who think anything with wires and a clear container must be a bomb, and don't take enough interest in the child to ask him what he's building, need counseling about their choice of schools. If the kid managed to build a motion detector at 11, that doesn't make him a genius, but they should be looking at advanced classes taught by competent and sane people.

I think the entire faculty and investigating police should get counseling over this drama too, preferably at the local unemployment office.

Re:They do need counselling (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793480)

Clearly parents that expect their child to be educated by morons who think anything with wires and a clear container must be a bomb...

Don't be too hard on the vice-principal. The red and blue wires always cause some confusion and there were probably some blinking lights too. On the other hand, he could be a moron.

Science fairs before High School.... (5, Interesting)

Upaut (670171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793426)

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.....

Re:Science fairs before High School.... (3, Interesting)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793538)

Hey counseling not bad! I got full on expulsion for making a VB program to switch screen resolutions... in a VB class. Sadly I'd do it again, I just don't roll with 640x480x8 !

Re:Science fairs before High School.... (0, Troll)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793836)

I rooted the school server and regularly let the admin know about exploits that could compromize security when in high school :-p

He didnt care that I had access as I was not in any way malicious in what I did...

I've brought electronics projects to school all through my school years and never had an issue with it... Glad I dont live in the US..

Re:Science fairs before High School.... (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793582)

So they told you that you had a great way to grow marijuana? Thats nice of them. I wonder what experience led them to that idea.

Re:Science fairs before High School.... (3, Interesting)

future assassin (639396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793812)

At one of the local schools when the police came to do anti drug speech and the police officer was talking about cannabis he asked the students (grade 3/4) if any of their parents had an indoor garden inside the house. This was quite the set up.

Fucked up paranoia (5, Insightful)

Luc1fel (1469805) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

dereference (875531) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cooperative (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793774)

I am sure they found many potential bombs around that house. How about the can of fuel for the mower? I wonder if they did anything about that?

I have written previously here about the misadventures my father and I had with accidental explosives. The classic was the electrolysis setup inside a sealed sewer pipe. These days I would look at laser printer toner and flower. Nasty, explosive stuff in the right concentrations. How about staging it? Liquid petrol, petrol vapour and toner? And a spark plug, obviously. Or a 1/4 watt resistor.

Nothing like 1984 (2, Informative)

Velodra (1443121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793832)

That's fucked up beyond 1984.

This is nothing like 1984. 1984 was about censorship and oppression, this is just paranoia. It probably happened due to a combination of the fear of terrorism and people's fear of technology they can't understand. Not they I don't think this both sad and slightly scary, but there are other things that can be wrong with society than trying to imitate 1984

Insane times we live in. (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793476)

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.

Poor kid (1)

whoisisis (1225718) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793486)

I hope he doesn't let this episode interfere with his cool hobby. If he keeps on toying with electronics, he could end up with a really cool and useful job. An 11 year old making a motion detector -- how cool is that?

Counseling? (1)

BigDXLT (1218924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793500)

The kid is not the one who needs counseling.

Re:Counseling? (1)

MooUK (905450) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793810)

The kid *shouldn't* need counselling. However, after all the chaos and shouting and blaming involved in something like this, he could probably do with some.

Profiling much? (1)

Taur0 (1634625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793544)

How much do you want to bet that the student is a Muslim or looked like one?

Give the schools more money (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793550)

They're doing such a great job. They deserve a reward.

The tech teachers at this magnet school... (1)

PottedMeat (1158195) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793552)

couldn't figure out if this was hazardous? Clear container, no solid or liquid substance to be seen. Doesn't speak much for the teachers imo Maybe they thought it was a remote det. Who knows what kind of bs comes to people's frightened minds nowadays.

This really takes the cake (4, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793558)

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.

Re:This really takes the cake (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793646)

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.

No substance? (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793560)

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.

Electronics are scary (5, Interesting)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Electronics are scary (1)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793718)

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.

The personal anecdotes were cool and all, but I'm not sure how you can work any more transparently than a gatorade bottle. The things are clear plastic. If there was a quantity of explosive in it, it'd be visible. So, the only "valuable lesson" the kid and his parents learned is that the populace doesn't have a damn clue what explosives look like, or how much of them it takes to do damage (ie, enough to be easily visible).

Re:Electronics are scary (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793788)

We're talking about work done by an 11 year old kid here on a very simple implementation of a motion detector.

Not some final-year electrical engineering student wiring up a blinknenlights redux.

Re:Electronics are scary (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793794)

obviously I couldn't harm anyone with paper and a pencil

No wonder you ended up posting on /. If you were a Ninja, you could have demolished two blocks quite easily without even sharpening the pencil!

Fuckwhit (2, Insightful)

Gogogoch (663730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793576)

What a fuckwhit - the school principal should be fired.

A day with the vice principal (4, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793596)

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?

Get Counsel rather than Counseling. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30793714)

In order to sue the fuck out of those idiots, I mean.

TFA sucks (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793734)

TFA leaves me with a ton of questions. Wouldn't his teacher have known of this project (assuming that science projects are for school)? I don't recall getting the assignment, "Make a science project", in school. My teachers always checked in every step of the way.
Why did they think it was a bomb? Did the kid deny it was a bomb? I usually don't think of 11 year olds as making explosives with complicated electronic detonators. Did the kid claim it was a bomb jokingly or just to be difficult?
What is the counseling recommended for? Is it because the kid and family are upset that all this happened (understandable) or because he's a troublemaker/prankster kid who's causing problems?

meanwhile... (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793752)

The kid who made the explosive with baking soda and vinegar (or water and dry ice) is getting an A+.

School policy (5, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793764)

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.

If you REALLY want to let them know what you think (5, Informative)

Chas (5144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30793848)

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.

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