Parents claim “zero tolerance policy” has gone too far
More than 650 adults and students were evacuated from the Upson-Lee North Elementary School after a student reported the graffiti to a member of the faculty.
According to Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore, who began interviewing students after police carried out an initial sweep of the building, the young boy who reported the writing was also the person who wrote it – 9-year-old Jake Edwards.
“He understood what a bomb was. Matter of fact he described it in detail and then apologized for making the threat,” Kilgore told Fox 5.
Kilgore, acting in accordance with the school’s “zero tolerance policy,” says he then charged the boy with “terroristic threats and acts,” a felony under Georgia state law.
While some may view the felony charge as reasonable given the nature of Edward’s crime, the 9-year-old’s parents say no one is taking their son’s autism into account.
“At the time he didn’t understand what he was doing,” Kelly Edwards, the boy’s mother, said.
Kelly says Jake got the idea into his head the prior week when the pair went to pick up a family member at a nearby middle school. Upon arriving at the school, Jake and his mother witnessed children evacuating after a bomb threat was discovered on a bathroom wall.
Witnessing older students laughing and having fun as they sat outside the school, Jake reportedly wanted his classmates to have a similar experience as well.
“It looked fun, yes,” Kelly said. “There was lot of them laughing. They were waving as they were walking out of the school. It just looked like something fun.”
Kelly feels the sheriff did not take her son’s condition into account like his school did, which only suspended Jake for three days before allowing him to return.
“He’s autistic, he’s in special education, he’s special needs…” Kelly said. “I think that’s a little severe for his situation.”
Sheriff Kilgore says the felony charge will help Jake get the help he needs.
“We don’t want to see harm come to this boy,” Kilgore said. “What we want to see happen is that he gets the treatment or services that he needs and that he not do this again.”
Jake’s parents, who are unable to afford a lawyer, are set to meet with the juvenile court within a matter of days.
The “no tolerance policy” adhered to by schools across the country has resulted in dozens of terrorism charges against children just like Jake.
Just last week, a fourth grade student in Texas was suspended and accused of making a “terroristic threat” after telling students he could make them disappear with his pretend One Ring from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy’s father said. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”
Other famous cases include the 2013 Hello Kitty bubble gun incident,where a five-year-old girl was accused of terrorism for “threatening” a bubble onslaught against fellow students.