Community Outraged As Boy With Autism, 12, Faces Felony Charges For 'Scripting' 'Red Dead Redemption'

Photo: (Photo : KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images))

A 12-year-old boy with autism faces two felony charges in Georgia after he repeatedly threatened to burn down his school. His mother said that the threats he heard from the video game "Red Dead Redemption," are part of her son's symptoms called "scripting" or echolalia.

Jadon Ringland, the boy with autism who attends the Hightower Trail Middle School, has allegedly yelled his intention to burn teachers, students, and school property. He described using bottles with fire for his attack, similar to the video game.

The boy was taken to the school's sensory room, where he allegedly told a special education teacher that he wants to cause trouble so he could be sent home on the computer. Before the yelling, he had been on administrative suspension for a similar infraction.

His mother, Tovah Ringland, said that they learned of the felony charges after receiving a call from an official of the courts in February. However, she explained that Jadon's threats were a repetition of what he heard and saw from his favorite video game.

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School Was Aware of Jadon's "Scripting"

Tovah said that the school was aware of Jadon's symptoms because they were presented with a behavior intervention plan that detailed how he could be verbally disruptive and issue threats to kill or harm. The mother said that the school has a list of what they must do if Jadon exhibits these symptoms, but they didn't follow the plan and instead reported her son to the police.

Since the incident, the Ringland family has been in series of meetings with the Cobb County Board of Education. In a meeting in mid-July, Tovah told the school board that measures have to be set in place to ensure that the school and the teachers follow the behavior intervention plan. She was aware that other families face similar problems with how their kids are treated in class. The family is due to be in a court hearing this August.

Tovah has spoken in public about Jadon's case because she wants to raise awareness on how people with intellectual disabilities are being criminalized for their diagnosed disorders. In an interview with CBS, the mother said that her son is not a "bad child" and echolalia is a coping mechanism.

Deva Carrion of the Marcus Autism Center's Psychologist and Behavioral Health Specialist center in Georgia said that scripting behaviors appear when a child with autism is under or overstimulated. However, disparities in the child's discipline may be due to the teacher's lack of understanding of the situation.

Concerns of Aggression, Prison Time

Tovah admitted that she has concerns about her son's physical aggression, but before the incident, Jadon's behavioral and conduct grades in school indicated that he's been coping well. The mother even showed documents from the school that described her son as friendly and inquisitive, per the Cobb County Courier.

Despite the positive reports, the mother said that she's always worried if the school would be able to keep Jadon's behavior under control. She was assured that they would be on top of the situation.

After the family's unproductive meetings with the school, alongside a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jadon was back at his previous school, the HAVEN Academy at Sky View, where his behavior has improved coupled with private therapies. His mother has also prohibited him from playing "Red Dead Redemption."

However, Jadon's court case will still determine the outcome of his felony charges. Tovah expressed fears that a court system may not understand a boy with autism disorders and symptoms and send him to prison.

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