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The old exploding pen trick. It's been around for ages. It sounds like something that my parents' generation would have done for a few good laughs in the '60s or '70s. But some things never die--like teenage boys having an interest in things that explode. The difference is that in the age of the war on terrorism, sensitivities and punishments are heightened. What was once considered a prank can now be considered terrorism.
In North Carolina, 16 year-old Jessie Bauguess is in jail and facing felony charges, including malicious use of an explosive, possession of a weapon on school grounds, arson and unlawful burning resulting in serious injury to a firefighter, after he detonated a homemade exploding pen at his school. The pen burned the hand of another student and left the student with fragments of the device in their arm. The teen had to be taken to the hospital. Three firefighters later suffered burns as they investigated and tested substances found in the teenager's home. The pen was apparently made from explosive chemicals available at pharmacies and hardware stores.
In July of this year, I wrote about another similar trend at high schools, that of "bottle bombs." In the article, I warned "if caught making or using a bomb, you could be charged with a felony, or possibly even a terrorism related crime. Worse, if someone is injured or dies, you could find yourself with an attempted murder or murder charge." And here we are.
Interestingly, a former teacher of Bauguess said that the teen was kicked out of a previous school after causing a bomb scare. The teen allegedly drew a map of the school in his notebook that included explosive devices throughout the building.
According to Bauguess' grandmother, Elaine Cochran, the incident was blown "totally out of proportion ... The way I understand it, he was trying to scare someone as a prank." Naturally the prosecution is going to have a different characterization of the matter. In the meantime, a public defender has been appointed to Bauguess until he has his own attorney.
So parents and teenagers, please remember this event. Explosive devices are no longer characterized as harmless pranks. Even if no one is injured, the student is going to be suspended, if not expelled. Teenagers looking to get their kicks from explosions will have to find it vicariously, because the real thing comes with serious consequences.