Las Vegas is a mecca for gamblers. But these days, you’re a gambler in that town just for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Worried about Columbine-type shootings, many officials have lost all sense of proportion when it comes to matters of security. An example is the boy that reporter Joe Schoenmann identifies only as “Joseph K.”
Joseph had told a girl, who had left him on hold for 15 minutes, that it’s “people like you who get on the Columbine lists.” For that single impatient remark made during a conversation on the phone while at home, Joseph was summoned to the principal’s office the next day, handcuffed, and arrested. Then he had to cool his heels in jail for ten days while his family wondered what was happening. Then he was expelled from school. Now, if some incidental remark seems disturbing, that might be worth looking into in order to find out whether there’s cause for alarm. But that’s not what happened here. Nobody sat down with this eighth-grader to ask, what did you mean by such-and-such? Nobody took his typical behavior into account. Instead they just came down on him like a ton of bricks. The Nevada legislature deserves a lot of the blame here.
According to the police, Joseph was defined as a “habitual disciplinary problem” because two years ago, the legislature officially defined that term to include anyone who makes even a single apparent threat. So even a kid like Joseph K., who makes good grades and has not been in trouble before, can be condemned as a habitual problem child. That’s a lousy gamble.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.