Family says Lee County sixth-grader traumatized after spending night in jail

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Jack Lowenstein

A family is outraged after they say their child with autism was traumatized after spending a night in jail.

No charges will be filed against a 12-year-old who attends Three Oaks Middle School after he was accused of making a school threat.

Attorney Malcam Godwin says the student isn’t the one who sent out the message in the first place. In an email sent to a teacher, it said, “I’m taking a gun to school on Friday; I’m going to kill ever one.” A comparison between the student’s normal emails and the one sent to the teacher likely changed the case. His family’s attorney says he doesn’t use spaces when typing.

“So when they heard what had occurred and saw the message, they knew that this definitely couldn’t have been from their son,” Attorney Malcam Godwin explained.

The student wasn’t at school the day the message was reported, so the school resource officer went to his home and interviewed him without his mother there.

“Interviewing an autistic 12-year-old without his mother present is almost never OK,” Godwin said. “But the statement itself — interviewing an autistic 12-year-old without his parents, I think anyone, even if you’ve never went to law school, would find that unsettling.”

A relative of the student said what happened to him last week was unacceptable.

“And the thing about it is, if you was to take a look at him, he has the body of a 12-year-old. He’s the height of a 12-year-old, but his mentality level is at five years old,” relative Kimberly Green said.

A student with special needs like this 12-year-old would have an individual education plan. That means school teachers and administrators should have known about his autism. We asked Godwin if there could be a lawsuit, and he said that has not been decided.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office has delayed the case against the student. It admits it has identified another suspect.

“I don’t know how anyone did not see that he may have been delayed,” Godwin said. “It would be very hard not to see that. Yes, he’s a very nice and quiet kid, very angelic. But I believe it’s very hard not to see that. There could have been a rush with the officers, anything like that, but it’s very hard not to see that.”

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