Mistaken for Gun, Math Symbol Has Students Calling Police


Amid increased concern over school safety and guns in the wake of last week’s deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, one student at Oberlin High School in Louisiana was reportedly subjected to an intrusive encounter with police over a comment about his math assignment.

As the Miami Herald reported, Allen Parish authorities received a complaint about the student on Feb. 20, just days after 17 students and staff were killed when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

According to the complainant, the student allegedly made a terroristic threat related to the appearance of the square-root symbol.

Several students were reportedly involved in a conversation about its perceived resemblance to a firearm when one of them made a comment that apparently made someone feel uncomfortable.

When detectives were advised of the complaint, they reportedly searched the student’s home before soon determining that he posed no danger.

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The Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office released a statement asserting that the student “used extremely poor judgment in making the comment, but in light of the actual circumstances, there was clearly no evidence to support criminal charges.”

Authorities concluded the student did not have any intent to act violently, nor did he have access to guns.

It was unclear from initial reports whether the student would face any formal disciplinary action, though police confirmed they had forwarded the complaint to the school board.

Multiple students allegedly said the math symbol looked like a gun, but reports did not reveal the precise comment responsible for the complaint.

Was this an overreaction by local police?

Authorities confirmed the remark “could” have been interpreted out of context as a threat, according to KATC.

While the proactive move by the agencies involved elicited praise from some on social media, many others thought it represented an example of overreaction by police.

Reports did not specify whether the search was in accordance with a warrant or by permission of the homeowners, which several commenters saw as a central piece of the story.
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Though some argue police went too far in searching the student’s home, the news came as suspicion rose in Florida that authorities dropped the ball in response to complaints about Nikolas Cruz, the suspected gunman behind last week’s massacre.

The FBI was reportedly also alerted to concerns about the suspect, including violent comments posted online by an account with a handle identical to his name.

As a result of the criticism, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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