If Facebook’s “satire” tag is successful, there are hints that this kind of warning might merit wider application. South Carolina’s WCSC reported yesterday that Alex Stone, a 16-year-old student at Summerville High School, was arrested Tuesday morning for claiming in a class assignment that he had shot and killed his neighbor’s dinosaur.
The assignment, for which students were instructed to write a Facebook-style status about themselves, took a surprising turn when a teacher took exception to the use of the word “gun” and the phrase “take care of business” in the “post” Stone turned in. The student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, and was subsequently suspended by school officials for the remainder of the week. Searches of both Stone’s knapsack and locker failed to turn up the gun he said he used to kill the dinosaur.
Earlier this week, Facebook addressed displeasure and confusion by some of the social media site’s users in relation to satirical and parodic content produced by online publications such as “The Onion” by introducing a tag that would notify people that the content of these sites was not, in fact, “real.”
School officials and police have justified Stone’s arrest and suspension by stating that, due to the rash of school shootings and related violence, all references to gun play will be taken seriously in order to prevent future tragedies. No comment was made as to whether Stone was emulating famed film director Steven Spielberg, who was subjected to social media criticism earlier this year due to reports, ultimately proven false, that he, too, had killed a dinosaur.
When questioned, Stone told school authorities that his fulfillment of the assignment was meant as a joke. Stone’s mother, Karen Gray, acknowledged the school’s position in being proactive in the face of a perceived threat, but feels that suspension and arrest were perhaps an overreaction. “I mean first of all,” she said, “we don’t even have dinosaurs anymore.”
Early reports have not commented on what kind of dinosaur Stone claimed to have killed.