Every once in a while there's a story that leaves you scratching your head -- and this promises to be one of them. A St. Mary's, Ohio-based teenager who has a form of Autism was purportedly arrested after he attempted to sell a sugar mixture to students at his high school. Now, the boy's parents are stepping forward to speak out against the disciplinary steps taken by both St. Mary's Memorial High School officials and authorities, alike.
Rob and Heidi Pence believe that the actions taken against their 16-year-old son went too far. While the school has a zero-tolerance substance abuse policy, critics are dumbfounded over why the child was apprehended over what appears, on the surface, to be a minor offense. After all, the boy had poured sugar -- not drugs -- into a candy wrapper, something his father claims he then tried to sell as a "secret sugar rush concoction."
"My son totally uprooted and slammed into jail over a sugar packet is completely unacceptable to me," Rob explained.
The parent also explained that his son's actions were meant to be a joke and that his Autism has created a barrier that prevents him from understanding the serious nature of his situation at hand.
"His maturity and emotional development is somewhere around the level of a 10 year old or 11," Rob told WRGT-TV.
It should be noted that the teenager was taken into custody on a probation violation and that this isn't the first time that police have been called to the school due to his actions. The sugar packets that were used have been sent to a lab for analysis.
The school's zero tolerance policy reads, "In conjunction with the board policy, the St. Marys City Schools are a drug free zone and the Board of Education has zero tolerance for substance abuse or possession on school property. The school will cooperate fully with police investigation including but not limited to the use of canine patrol programs subject to the Board of Education policy."
So far, there has been no comment from district officials -- and there's no telling whether other, currently unreported offenses were involved in the decision to detain the boy.
Photo Credit: Domino Sugar/Sam's Club
A Facebook page called "Free Michael Pence" (purportedly the teen in question) offers some more details (it appears as though the page is maintained by the teen's mother, Heidi, who linked to it from her personal account):
I must make a correction about a material fact in this matter. It really doesn't change much in the overall dynamics of the situation. The sugar packet in question did not originate at the school. It came from a restaurant - but was still the same white paper with blue lettering packet we are all familiar with.
The other item was part of a candy cane wrapper that had been filled with a mix of cane and powdered sugar that had been crushed together. I now learn that Michael has taken this mixture to school before to sweeten up the cafeteria brand of chocolate milk. Yeh, I know the stuff. It is a kinda bland flavor especially compared to what we make at home.
In consideration of this I retract my earlier remarks concerning school food staff being complicit as mid level distributors (that was a joke, boy).
The family is now considering sending the teen to a different school.