Teen Who Brought Guns to School Deserves a Second Chance

Parents in the tight-knit rural community of Twin Bridges, Montana, are livid after learning a 16-year-old boy who recently enrolled at their high school has a dangerous past: he was banned from a different Montana school in 2013 for bringing two guns to campus and allegedly making threats. Thirty-one parents and grandparents at Twin Bridges reportedly sued to block the student from attending their school, which has forced his own parents to fight for their son's right to get a second chance at leading a normal life.

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Spencer Ore did the time for his crime. After he was found carrying a loaded .357 Magnum and unloaded .22 handgun to Harrison High School two years ago, he was sentenced to a juvenile detention hall. While he was locked up, his parents, Margaret and Stephen, reportedly made sure they got him treatment to deal with his underlying behavioral issues. They visited him every weekend and they sought the advice of professionals, who were eventually able to diagnose Spencer with bipolar disorder.

At the time of the incident, the then-14-year-old was reportedly taking antidepressants and medication to treat an attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatrists are saying the combination of drugs he was on, in addition to his undiagnosed bipolar disorder, could have made him unstable enough to carry the weapons to school and allegedly make threats.

It's only fair to mention that, during the time he spent in detention centers and in therapy, Spencer faced a few challenges. His lawyers say that, at one point, he tried to impress a girl he met over Facebook by telling her he planned to "blow up the whole (expletive) school," according to the girl. Spencer claims he also wrote that he doesn't want to hurt anyone and won't.

After he was deemed fit to return to a public school, Spencer's parents moved him across the state to Twin Bridges so they would have a chance to start over. Private schools rejected him. And when parents at the public high school found out about Spencer's past, they weren't having any of it so close to home.

As a parent, I empathize with these parents, whose main priority is their children's safety and not Spencer's rehabilitation. I would be extremely worried knowing my children were attending class with a student who had exhibited violent thoughts and threatening behavior. I'm not going to lie. I would obviously prefer that my child were in a school with peers who have never so much as thought of hurting a fly.

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But when I detach myself from my emotions as a parent, I feel nothing but compassion for Spencer. What is the point of setting up a system that imposes consequences, isolation, and therapy on a person who has done something wrong if we never intend on letting that person prove he or she can reintegrate into society?

I'm not suggesting every person who makes threats and acts in a manner that is dangerous to others can be rehabilitated. But I feel it's up to a professional to make that call. Spencer is still too young to be thrown away and not given another chance at life. And if he continues to be ostracized, I fear he's going to wind up transforming into the monster everyone expects him to be—and I certainly hope I am wrong about that.

Do you think this teen should be allowed to attend school, or do parents have the right to sue to keep him out?

 

Image via Robert Nelson/Flickr

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