In 2001 (pre-9/11) a gifted (non-muslim) 9 year old student by the name of Jason Anagnos was arrested, charged and convicted for having brought a fake bomb along on his gifted-and-talented class field trip.
The so-called bomb consisted of duck and soy sauce leftover from his family’s Chinese dinner which he wrapped in tissue paper.
What triggered the bomb alert was not the contents of the ‘fake bomb’, it was what Jason had written on the outside of the tiny package of Chinese sauces; “Danger Warning Swanton Bomb”. For those who do not follow wrestling, the Swanton Bomb is a WWF move. Young Jason was a WWF fan.
Jason’s parents were warned by the prosecutor that if Jason was convicted in a trial, he may end up facing a more severe penalty. Not having the stomach to put their 9 year old son through a trial his parents decided that their son should plead guilty. As a result Jason was sentenced to a year’s probation and 10 hours of community service, but not before he was suspended for a week and ordered by the principal to undergo a psych eval –which he passed.
Via James Taranto:
EAST HANOVER, N.J. — The police complaint reads like something out of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”: The defendant “did within the jurisdiction of this court knowingly construct a fake bomb . . . specifically by wrapping up several packages of duck sauce and soy sauce inside tissue paper, taping it up with clear tape and writing on it Danger Warning Swanton Bomb, therefore in violation of NJS 2C:33-3.”
Wait, it gets even more surreal. The perpetrator, Jason Anagnos, was all of nine years old when he committed this “crime.” Jason, now 10 and on probation, is a bright, somewhat shy young man who plays Little League and is a fan of the World Wrestling Federation. The “Swanton Bomb,” he explains to me on a sweltering summer afternoon in his family’s backyard, is a WWF move…..
Jason’s trouble with the law began on March 29 , when his gifted-and-talented class at East Hanover Central School took a field trip to a museum. He had assembled the “Swanton bomb” — it was, in his description, roughly three inches square — as a gag the previous night, using leftovers from the family’s Chinese dinner. During the trip he showed it to his friend Lucas.
Jason’s teacher was not amused. She took him aside and scolded him, saying he might scare somebody. She confiscated the “bomb,” and that was that — or so it seemed. Jason had no idea he was in any trouble. Until the next morning, that is, when Jason was called out of music class and summoned to Principal Lawrence Mendelowitz’s office. Waiting for him were not only his parents and Mr. Mendelowitz, but a policeman, who interrogated the boy about the Swanton bomb.
Yet his ordeal was not over. On April 3, Detective Thomas Fahy had filed a delinquency complaint with the New Jersey Superior Court. Jason’s parents didn’t want to put their son through a trial, and they couldn’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer. Jason’s father, Gene Anagnos, says a prosecutor told him the penalty would be more severe if Jason were convicted in a trial than if he pleaded guilty. So in late April he did, and was sentenced to a year’s probation and 10 hours of community service.
……And even Principal Mendelowitz, the man who decided this was a matter worthy of police attention, acknowledged in a letter to Jason’s parents that “I do not believe Jason intended to cause harm.”
I guess a kid has to actually write the word ‘bomb’ on a hoax bomb before it is considered a threat. 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed’s hoax digital clock briefcase bomb, which, unlike Jason’s resembled an actual bomb was merely a clever non-school sanctioned project that the nerdy prideful muslim teen pranced around school with in his backpack.
And then it beeped.
Upon closer inspection of their individual ‘fake bombs’ which boy would be/should be detained and interrogated if either of them had been caught with their ‘fake bombs’ during a school field trip tour of the White House?
If in the pre-9/11 spring of 2001 Ahmed had printed ‘warning bomb’ on his project as an ill advised joke as Jason had, would he still have gotten off (aside from the 3 day suspension that is) scot-free?
If Jason committed his crime as a muslim boy would he had been patted on the head and forgiven for his careless indiscretion?
If Jason committed his crime as a muslim boy in post-9/11 2015 would he had been patted on the head and forgiven for his careless indiscretion?
If non-muslim Jason had brought an exact replica of Ahmed’s digital briefcase clock to school in 2015 would he have suffered the same legal consequences as he did with his Chinese sauce tissue paper encased fake bomb? Or would he have walked?
If Ahmed was not a muslim but a white Christian teen would…never mind…that one is just to damn obvious.
In 14 year old Ahmed’s case, the islamophobia card was thrown down so fast that his ordeal was over nearly as soon as it had begun.
Yet 9 year old Jason was convicted.
Generally speaking, while I believe that school administrators should always err on the side of caution, a through investigation should be standard operating procedure as opposed to knee-jerk reactionaries turning a child into a criminal overnight due to their broad interpretation of zero tolerance policies.