Teen Arrested for iPhone School Shooting Simulation

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on September 20, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Louisiana teen who used an iPhone app to simulate a school shooting faces criminal charges after posting his virtual-reality video online.

From biting Pop-Tarts into gun shapes to clasping hands into gun shapes, it's become commonplace for school zero-tolerance policies to treat every flight of gun fancy into a tangible threat.

In this case, the 15-year-old student learned his lesson the hard way. The YouTube video he allegedly posted showed himself "shooting" his classmates at his high school in Gray, Louisiana. He created the video using an "augmented reality" iPhone app called Real Strike.

Terrorizing Students... With an iPhone Video?

The student told sheriff's deputies in Terrebonne Parish, southwest of New Orleans, that the video was "a result of him being frustrated and tired of being bullied" and that "he had no intentions of hurting anybody," reports New Orleans' WGNO-TV.

But authorities said they must take all threats seriously, and arrested the boy for terrorizing and interfering with the operation of a school.

Unfortunately for authorities, a plain reading of Louisiana's "terrorizing" statute doesn't seem to fit the iPhone school shooting simulation.

To commit the crime, a person must intentionally communicate to others that a violent crime or situation is happening or about to happen. The purpose must be to make those people fear for their safety and/or cause them to evacuate.

Under Louisiana law, a person convicted of a terrorizing offense can face a fine of up to $15,000 and a prison term of up to 15 years -- otherwise known as the number of years this teen has been on Earth.

Inappropriate Punishment?

Detention, suspension or maybe expulsion may be warranted for using a virtual shoot-'em-up game on school grounds during school hours.

But arresting a misguided 15-year-old bullying victim for a felony terrorizing offense? That's a bit much. According to WGNO-TV, his parents said he didn't have access to any firearms, so make that a lot much.

Blowing instances like this out of proportion has the opposite effect of destabilizing school safety by trivializing lockdown procedures and protocol for handling genuine, non-idle threats.

The lesson for kids in the digital age: Use common sense. When your friends are getting hauled off in handcuffs for making sarcastic Facebook threats, you should know better.

Unclasp those hands, put the Pop-Tart "gun" down, and for goodness sake, delete that first-person shooter app because law-enforcement officers are coming for you -- even during recess.

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