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The Miami Herald reports:

Students in Louisiana thought this math symbol looked like a gun. Police were called.

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.

This sounds just a little bit too much like the classic Weapons of Mass Instruction / Al-Gebra joke. Has this event in Lousiana actually happened, or is this satire that got picked up and spread as if it had really happened?

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It's not quite as simple as your article suggests. A student made a comment that, out of context, could be construed as a threat and a news station called the sheriff's office. Two deputies were sent to the kid's house to investigate, which they did, with permission.

Looking at the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office Facebook page, I see that they shared the following article, which says:

"The whole notion that there was a SWAT raid over a math symbol is absurd," [Allen Parish Sheriff Doug] 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."

Hebert's office is under major fire nationally and his phones are ringing off the hook. "It's crazy," he continued. "I've had to take down a Facebook posting I made informing the public what happened because my page will never become a place for political debate. That would impede my ability to inform my citizens." Hebert is concerned that this story has been blown way out of proportion, mostly by media spreading unverified information.

Student Faces Expulsion After Saying a Math Symbol Looks Like a Gun

According to a comment on the Facebook page made by the sheriff's department:

This is an excerpt of the actual tip that was forwarded to me by a news reporter: I would like to report that a student (name of student redacted) at Oberlin High School allegedly made threats to several high school students about shooting them at school tomorrow

It's also relevant to note that the removed Facebook page is probably this page: https://www.facebook.com/allenparishso/posts/1801435039878169, which is also linked to by your article. Although it's deleted, you can read the full post here. (We can confirm that's what the page said by quickly performing Google searches before Google updates its results, and seeing that page pop up as a result, like this.)

Lastly, I'll also note that the KATC article reports:

"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.

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    Please add the full comment the student made: "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'" katc.com/story/37572205/… – Avery Feb 24 '18 at 18:09
  • @Avery Well, that's actually what the superintendent said. I have added the quote. – Laurel Feb 24 '18 at 18:16
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    Is there any independent confirmation that that was actually what was said (and not what an authority figure trying to make themselves look better claims)? – user5341 Feb 28 '18 at 15:29
  • @user5341 KATC says that the school board investigated the incident, so I assume that's the source of the info. The article also says this: 'Gossip turned it into a rumor about the student plotting to carry out a mass shooting at Oberlin High School. [...] "He did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm,” said [the sheriff].' (not sure if that counts as independent verification, but it's what we have.) – Laurel Feb 28 '18 at 15:46

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