Have we lost all common sense? Are teachers and prosecutors really as out to lunch as their behavior here would indicate?
by J Turley
Shane Finn, 14, is an autistic eighth grader with the mental capacity of a third grader. He did something not unknown to kids around the world. He drew a stick figure of himself shooting his teacher. He is now an accused terrorist in Georgia.
The childish drawing included the helpful labels "me" for the figure pointing the gun at the other figure, labeled "Hartman." Hartman was not amused and, despite the fact that Finn has only 75 IQ, Finn was charged with a terrorism felony.
We seem to have become a society where any infraction must be expressed in criminal terms, even when committed by a child (here). Even sketching a gun can get you suspended, here. Once again, the question remains the judgment and professional responsibility of the prosecutors in advancing these charges. If a 14-year-old autistic boy is now considered a terrorist for a drawing, we have lost this fight.
A Fulton County mother was outraged Wednesday that her autistic son was suspended and charged with a felony over a picture he drew. The 14 year old is a student at Ridgeview Charter School in Atlanta.
Shane Finn's mother said he was in a special needs class when he drew a picture of two stick figures, and one had a gun.
The eighth grade boy's picture depicted a stick figure with a gun that was labeled "me." The figure was shooting another figure that had his teacher's name above it.
The picture led to Finn being suspended, and he is now facing criminal charges.
"They've pressed felony charges for terroristic threats," said the teen's mother, Karen Finn. "It's that sweeping zero tolerance and I think it's ridiculous."
Finn said her son drew the picture on the page of a school assignment where his teacher would easily see it. Finn says her son doesn't really understand why he's in trouble. Finn said her son is autistic and has the mental capacity of a third grader.
"It really breaks my heart because he's a really nice kid and this is obviously from his disability. He really doesn't have a good way of expressing anger, frustration," Finn said.
Finn said she wasn't proud of the picture her son drew, but she said the punishment was much too severe.
"I think there needs to be some sort of common sense used with the school system. That a 14-year-old autistic boy who does not understand what he's done or what he's drawn, has an IQ of 75 should not be charged with a felony. It's outrageous," Finn said.
School authorities could not say much about the student because of privacy laws, but they did confirm that Shane will face a tribunal and is being charged with making terroristic threats.