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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Pushed out for being ‘weird’

Sanders plays video games in his room. Photo: Beth Nakamura/Oregonian

The teenage boy, who’s on the autism spectrum, wore a black trench coat every day as a comfort garment. He talked obsessively about video games and guns and carried a left-handed scissors to cut fabric in theater-tech class. Classmates at his Portland, Oregon high school considered him weird. A librarian overheard a student call him “Shooter.” A parent thought he might be dangerous.

The “threat assessment” process, including a police search of his home and random searches at school, was so distressing the 16-year-old stopped attending school, writes Bethany Barnes in The Oregonian.

School officials saw Sanders’ left-handed scissors as a possible weapon.

Threat-assessment protocols aim to prevent school shootings by identifying troubled students before they do any harm, writes Barnes.

But “Sanders” never threatened anyone. He was socially inept, like most teens on the autism spectrum. He was obsessed with video games.

“The behavior that was concerning to people was that he would tell teachers to get off his back and leave him alone, that he would call students and staff ‘dumb as rocks’ to their faces,” Michelle Markle, the student services director, told Sanders’ parents in a meeting.

He wore a trenchcoat, just like the Columbine killers, Parkrose Superintendent Karen Gray told the parents.

I think identifying and helping potentially violent students makes more sense than trying to “harden” a school with extra security measures. But this boy wasn’t helped. He was driven out of school.

Read the story and see what you think. What can schools do about kids who might be a threat but probably aren’t?

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