It just never seems to end: a student a H. L. Bourgeois High School has been accused of “using a mobile phone app to simulate shooting his classmates”. He was arrested, booked and jailed in Terrebonne Parish in Gray, LA last week. He’s now facing up to 20 years in prison for his.
The video the student made was with a perfectly legal app called “The Real Strike“. On the iTunes store description, it says: “Warning!!!: Do not use real guns in the real world!!! Let guns only exist in the apps!”
So what’s the problem? The 15-year-old who created the video with the app has been charged with “terrorism”.
Local WGNO reports that “it simulates a first person shooter game, except the battleground is real life.”
“You can’t ignore it. We don’t know at what time that game becomes reality,” Major Malcolm Wolfe said.
But the teen who made the video said that it was merely venting over being bullied and that he never had any intentions of hurting anybody.
Wolfe’s office says “We have to take all threats seriously and we have no way of knowing that without investigating and getting to the bottom of it.”
WGNO reports that “the student was arrested for terrorizing and interference of the operation of a school.”
“With all the school shooting we’ve had in the United States, it’s just not a very good game to be playing at this time,” Wolfe explained.
But the boy’s parents told investigators that their son took the video down when requested, and has never had any access to firearms.
Meanwhile, Terrorizing in Louisiana (RS 14:40.1) is an offense punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison, along with fines and hard labor, while the accompanying charge of Unlawful disruption of the operation of a school (RS 14:40.6) could result in up to five years in prison. Consecutive sentences would result in 20 years.
If the actions of this student are illegal then what’s next, banning music that describes similar things? What about listening to it?
Will a high school student with an Eminem album be charged with “terrorism” next? The artist does have violent themes, even those discussing shooting school bullies. But isn’t art protected speech? Perhaps not anymore; not if it involves guns and those school administrators and prosecutors perceive as “loners”.
While the implications of the game are potentially serious, it seems strange that such a video that did not directly harm anyone resulted in such swift and harsh action, while the constant bullying the boy faced – along with so many others – was apparently shrugged off by both the school system and the State.
Yes, there needs to be a solution and resolution when there are videos that make others feel unsafe, but there also must be space for free-expression and art, even art that makes us want to look away, or depicts things darker than sunshine and rainbows.
What is the answer? One thing is for sure, it is not locking up 15-year-olds and charging them with “terrorism” for expressing their frustration in YouTube videos from apps that are legal for sale and distribution.