Autistic Teen, Raided, Strip Searched, & Jailed for Drawing a Superhero with a Flaming Hand in Class
MANHATTAN (CN) — For more than two years, a New Jersey high school has tried to fend off allegations that it overreacted to the doodle drawn by an autistic student days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook.
A new ruling guarantees that federal litigation over the episode will continue into 2017.
The ordeal began, the Jones family says, at Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City, N.J., on Dec. 14, 2012 – three days after America suffered the second deadliest shooting in modern history at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
With tensions on high alert, Cedar Creek geometry teacher Megan Hallman sent Kevin Jones Jr. to the vice-principal’s office because out of concern over the “spaceman” she saw the 17-year-old drawing.
Jones’ parents say that their son filled his sketchbook with drawings like these to help him cope with the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Moreover the school noted this in its individual education plan for Jones as a disabled student.
After vice-principal Michael McGhee looked through Jones’ sketchbook, however, he called the police. The Jones say McGhee had been alarmed by a different doodle – this one depicting a superhero wearing a glove with a flame coming out of it.
Jones wound up doing a 17-day stint in juvenile detention that Christmas.
The family says a bomb squad that rummaged through their home mistook science-project materials for explosive-device components, and that the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office charged Jones with possession of a destruction device and attempting to possess a weapon.
On his way to the Harborfield Juvenile Detention Center, Jones was strip- and cavity-searched.
The family filed suit in 2014 after Jones was acquitted at a criminal trial.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler ruled on Dec. 30 to the school’s representatives and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
The 22-page unpublished decision does, however, dismiss the New Jersey Department of Education and individual prosecutors from the case.
Julie Warshaw, an attorney for the Jones family, declined to comment.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and a lawyer for the school did not immediately respond to requests for comment.