Friday, February 23, 2018

The True Root of the Square-Root Debacle (UPDATED)

Prehistoric woman draws inscrutable glyphs on ancient monitor.
The events outlined in this story indicate more than mere blithering idiocy.
A discussion among students at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, La., about a mathematical symbol led to a police investigation and a search of one of the student’s homes, according to the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office.

On the afternoon of Feb. 20, detectives investigated a report of terroristic threats at the school, where they learned that a student had been completing a math problem that required drawing the square-root sign.
Students in the group began commenting that the symbol, which represents a number that when multiplied by itself equals another number, looked like a gun.
The county sheriff's office didn't search the home of the student who knew the purpose of the symbol, but that of another student.
After several students made comments along those lines, another student said something the sheriff’s office said could have sounded like a threat out of context. Police searched the student’s home, where they found no guns or any evidence that he had any access to guns. Authorities also wrote there was no evidence the student had any intent to commit harm.
The most frightening part about this story isn't that the kids failed to recognize the symbol. It's that the authorities acted based upon that ignorance.
“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,” the department wrote, adding that the school board had been contacted to determine any disciplinary action for the student.
All emphasis mine.

Why couldn't the circumstances have been determined before a search warrant was issued?

And who issues search warrants? Judges and magistrates. Adults. Arbiters of law who cannot even recognize a symbol from seventh-grade level math and make reasonable decisions therefrom. Simply put, too many of them are ready, willing and able to sign a warrant allowing Law Enforcement to invade your home regardless of context.

I can't get mad at the group of students who didn't recognize the square-root symbol, because it isn't their responsibility to teach themselves. I can't even get mad at the sheriffs.

Ignorance breeds fear and it is the credentialed -- the ones who sit in classrooms and courtrooms and shape/misshape the lives and the thinking of the rest of us while being paid by us -- who seeded this crop. And they've been at it a long time.

It can be stopped. But we have to want it bad enough.

(Thanks to Joe Hale)

UPDATE: What really happened ... so far.
"The whole notion that there was a SWAT raid over a math symbol is absurd," Hebert told PJM. "I got a call from a KPLC that they had a serious threat of a shooting at the school, so we went to the house to verify. There was no search warrant, we just sent two [deputies] to knock on the door," chuckled Hebert. "This is a small parish and everybody knows everybody and we found out very quickly there was no crime and no threat."

In spite of that declaration, the student is facing expulsion. In the wake of the shooting in Florida the school board set a new policy. According to KATC, "Any student accused of talking about guns or school shootings will be investigated by three entities: the school board, the sheriff's department, and the district attorney's office."
If I had kids, I'd homeschool them. And I'd teach them about guns, not to mention math.

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