During a math discussion, a student being helped by another student with a math problem was told the square root symbol he’d drawn looked like a sketch of a pistol. (NARRATOR: But it was not a pistol). It was a principal square root symbol.

One of the students then popped off with something along the lines of, “well, let’s get to work before I shoot you with a pistol!” A horrible game of telephone later and the cops were called, the student was removed from campus and his home investigated.

That joke quickly morphed into a rumor about a possible school shooting.

From a local ABC affiliate:

On Wednesday night, KATC reported that The Allen Parish Sheriff’s Department responded to a comment that an Oberlin High School student made about the square root symbol looking like a gun.

Deputies say they searched the teenager’s home after a tip came in that he was planning to bring a gun to school on Wednesday spread through social media.

“He committed no crime. He was the victim of the ole morphing of information [phenomenon],” explained Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert.

Sheriff Hebert explained that the online gossip about the Oberlin High student spread so far that the rumor did not accurately depict the truth at all.

Allen Parish School District Superintendent Michael Doucet explained that it was a poorly judged quip between one student to another in a math class.

“The students were working together, and a student made a math symbol of a square root sign, which kind of looks like a pistol. And he was helping a weaker student, and the student says, ‘Well, that looks like a pistol!’ And he just made a comment [like] ‘let’s just get to work before I shoot you with a pistol,” said Superintendent Doucet.

Gossip turned it into a rumor about the student plotting to carry out a mass shooting at Oberlin High School. The rumor warranted a search of the student’s home for guns.

“He did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm,” said Hebert.

The student who made the comment is still banned from school, even after the investigation found he had done nothing wrong. Worse still? The student cannot return, assuming he’s allowed to return to school, while he awaits an expulsion hearing.

In response to the recent Florida school shooting boondoggle, it’s understandable that school systems want to ensure any and all threats are taken seriously. But in a case like this, it seems pretty clear there was absolutely no reason to believe this student is a threat to himself or others.

The school board created a new policy to deal with talk of guns and shootings. If a student is even accused of talking about either, they’ll be investigated by the sheriff’s department, the school board, and the DA. Thorough, but leaves the door wide open for weaponization of the policy. Just look at how far fetched this story became.

ABC ctd:

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 an incident like this occurs again, Doucet explained the protocol.

“The first thing we’re going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we’re going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff’s department, and if no charges are filed, we’re going to conduct a threat assessment on the student,” Doucet said.

Right now, the school district is not allowing the student on school property, and he’s awaiting an expulsion hearing to determine if he can continue attending the school system.

Superintendent Doucet says he is concerned by the new stricter guidelines, but he says he’s doing what it takes to get the best results.

“Does it concern me sometimes? Sure it does! But if you lost a child and didn’t take an incident seriously because you thought it was minor and something did happen, that parent that lost that child would be hard to explain.”

Le sigh.

Relatedly, you have to wonder what the heck they’re teaching if high school students don’t recognize a square root symbol.