Student questioned by Secret Service, punished by school over Bush drawings

WASHINGTON — Secret Service agents interviewed a15-year-old high school student on April 23 about his drawings depicting adecapitated President Bush, and school officials have punished the student forhis artwork. The unidentified Prosser High School freshman turned in anart assignment consisting of several anti-war drawings, including one depictinga Middle Eastern man holding a stick with Bush’s head on it. Other drawingspromoted presidential candidate Ralph Nader and showed Bush dressed as the devilwith the caption “End the war — on terrorism.” An art teacher reported thedrawings to the school administration, who alerted the police. “Weinvolve the police anytime we have a concern,” Prosser Superintendent RayTolcacher told the Tri-City Herald. “From our perspective it was anincident that needed to be reported to the police on campus,” adding that it wasnot a free speech matter.Tolcacher did not return requests forcomment.After questioning the student because of the “violent nature” ofthe sketches, the school resource officer, who is employed by the Prosser PoliceDepartment, contacted the country prosecutor to determine if the student hadcommitted criminal conduct.”Any child who is manifesting violentbehavior or indicators of violent behavior is of concern to the overall safetyof the school,” Prosser Police Chief Win Taylor said. “Are you familiar withColumbine?” he asked, referring to the 1999 high school shootings. Whenprosecutors determined that the student’s artwork did not violate any laws,police contacted the Secret Service.Wallace Shields, the special agentin charge of the Seattle field office, would not comment on the Prosser HighSchool student, but said there is no standard for determining what constitutes athreat to the president.”If we get a report that someone perceivessomething to be a threat, we investigate,” Shields said. “Once we investigate,we make a determination whether the intent is viable or not. If it’s viable, ourgoal is to make sure no one gets hurt. If it’s determined the person may bedangerous to themselves or [our protectees], we turn it over to the properauthorities.”Shields would not say whether the Prosser student’s artworkwas considered a threat.Shields said the Secret Service does notrecommend whether school administrators should punish a student who is perceivedas a threat.