Hillcrest Middle Hearing Over Autistic Student's Bomb Drawing - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC

Hearing Over Autistic Student's Bomb Drawing

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An autistic student has been suspended after he brought a drawing of a bomb to Hillcrest Middle School, telling his classmates he had a bomb. An autistic student has been suspended after he brought a drawing of a bomb to Hillcrest Middle School, telling his classmates he had a bomb.
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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. -

An autistic student has been suspended after he brought a drawing of a bomb to his Upstate middle school, telling his classmates he had a bomb.

The question is: Was it a harmless doodle or a potential threat?

Spend any time with 13-year-old Rhett Parham and he's bound to show you his artwork.

He draws what he sees in his favorite video games, including Bomberman 64. It’s a Nintendo game from the '90s Rhett likes to watch on YouTube.

Rhett, who has autism, got suspended from Hillcrest Middle School in Simpsonville on Monday for telling people he had a bomb and showing them a drawing based on the video game.

“I said, 'Are you kidding me?'" said his mother Amy Parham.

Parham said her son poses no threat and is not capable of actually making a bomb.

“I don't really think he understands the brevity of this whole situation because of his disability.”

Greenville County Schools denied 7 On Your Side’s request for an on-camera interview, but sent us a statement that reads in part: “This investigation began when threatening comments were made, resulting in the responsible removal of the student from the school to ensure everyone's safety while the incident and intent were assessed.”

"Principals are in a very difficult spot with this. They have a lot of interests that they're trying to juggle," said Janet Stein, Director of the South Carolina Education Association's member advocacy program.

Stein used to do crisis prevention training for North Carolina schools.

She said Hillcrest Middle's Principal did what he had to do in order to protect the school and its students.

“If he had not done what he did and had decided that student didn't mean it, it doesn't mean anything -- if something had happened, the district would have been accountable for that," said Stein.

Parham said she's looking into whether she should transfer her son to a different school, but Rhett said he wants to stay at Hillcrest Middle.

“I like the school and it's great," said Rhett. "And I like school at Hillcrest Middle."

The school will hold what's called a "manifestation hearing" Wednesday. It will determine if Rhett's behavior was caused by his disability. If the school decides it's not related to Rhett’s disability, Stein said he can be disciplined like any other student. If that's the case, Stein said there's a legitimate possibility he could be expelled.

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