This week, police launched an investigation into a terrorist threat allegation at a Louisiana high school after a student drew a square root symbol on a math problem that another student claimed looked like a gun.
According to the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office, detectives began investigating terrorism threats at Oberlin High School after a student completed a math problem that required the square root sign to be drawn. When other students began commenting that the math symbol looked like a gun and a poorly judged quip was made between students, an investigation was quickly launched. A rumor that the student was planning to carry out a mass shooting at the school also surfaced.
Deputies also said they searched the teenager's home after hearing that the unidentified teenager was planning to bring in a gun to school. The detectives found no evidence that the student owned or had any access to a firearm, KATC reported. In addition, there was no evidence that the student had any intentions of harming anyone.
"He committed no crime. He was the victim of the ol' morphing of information [phenomenon]," explained Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert.
"He did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm," Hebert reiterated.
According to Allen Parish School District Superintendent Michael Doucet, the incident was caused by a misunderstood wisecrack between students.
"The students were working together, and a student made a math symbol of a square root sign, which kind of looks like a pistol. And he was helping a weaker student, and the student says, 'Well, that looks like a pistol!' And he just made a comment [like] 'let's just get to work before I shoot you with a pistol," said Superintendent Doucet.
Following the incident, the school policy set new, stricter guidelines: Any student that is accused of discussing guns or school shootings will be investigated by three separate groups: the school board, the sheriff's department and the district attorney's office.
"The first thing we're going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we're going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff's department, and if no charges are filed, we're going to conduct a threat assessment on the student," Doucet said, explaining the new protocol.
Although the student is not facing any criminal charges, he is not allowed on school property and will undergo an expulsion hearing.
Though Doucet is concerned about the stricter guidelines, he thinks it's better to be safe than sorry.
"Does it concern me sometimes? Sure it does! But if you lost a child and didn't take an incident seriously because you thought it was minor and something did happen," that would be hard to explain to parents, Doucet said.