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The Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ “Code of Student Conduct” prohibits weapons in school. It specifically addresses pointers: “When a laser pen is used to threaten, intimidate or injure, it is considered a weapon.”
The boy’s father, Paul Mulcahy, told LaserPointerSafety.com that his son only aimed a legal, low-powered laser pointer at lockers and the wall in Landstown Middle School. He said it was never used in an aggressive or potentially harmful manner. Mulcahy's account was not disputed by the school.
Mulcahy wrote “no kid should be suspended or expelled for having a cat toy at school…. A ‘spork’ from the cafeteria if used to threaten, intimidate or injure would be a more likely weapon than a 2 mW laser pointer.”
During an initial meeting on May 30, principal John Parkman told Mulcahy he was instructed to use a “Discipline Guidelines” document not available to parents, students or the public. The principal did email the father a page from the Discipline Guidelines about laser pointers which seemed to restate the Code of Conduct language. (The VBCPS Office of Student Leadership confirmed on June 11 that the Discipline Guidelines are "administration-only.")
At a second meeting on June 2, the principal said the VBCPS Office of Student Leadership decided the infraction was “Inappropriate Property” and there would be no further punishment or action beyond the two-week suspension that had already occurred.
The Code of Student Conduct defines inappropriate property as follows: “The unauthorized possession of use of any type of personal property, which disrupts the educational process, is prohibited. Specifically prohibited are electronic devices when they are not authorized or being used for academic purposes (including cell phones), lighters and other items deemed inappropriate….”
In the Discipline Guidelines, the recommended penalty for Inappropriate Property depends on the property. One option is a verbal warning or reprimand called “Level 1.” The penalty for the boy turned out to be Level 6, suspension 6-10 days. As stated above, Mulcahy had been told that expulsion was also possible. Expulsion is "Level 8," the highest punishment level.
On June 9, the school returned the laser pointer to Mulcahy.
Mulcahy says he has retained a lawyer and may take action against the principal and/or school board.
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The boy was playing with a classmate, trying to dodge the beam. At some point it hit the boy’s left eye. He felt a stinging sensation and became light sensitive.
During a routine eye exam two weeks later, a retinal burn was seen. The boy underwent photocoagulation treatment and will need regular follow-up exams to monitor the eye’s healing, but he did not suffer any vision loss, said Wu Pei-chang, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung (third-largest city in Taiwan).
From the Taipei Times
On September 12 2017, a boy turned around and aimed the laser at the girl’s face. She covered her face but he deliberately aimed at her eyes. When she arrived at school, the girl told her teacher that her eye was sore and blurry. It remained that way throughout the day.
She went to an emergency center that night, and an ophthalmologist the next day. The prognosis was that there was no physical damage and her vision should improve.
About a week later, a local optician examined her and said there was damage to her peripheral vision on the left side, and it was likely to be permanent.
The girl’s father told The Press and Journal, “I was angry. I was shocked on Saturday, I was hoping it would get better. My daughter was upset. It has knocked her confidence. What I’m really bothered about is the availability of these pens. These laser pens are a danger and people should be aware. I’m intending to write to local MSPs and the MP about it. I don’t think any children should be able to buy them. You can buy them in supermarkets and on Amazon – I don’t think that’s right. I think the legislation has to be changed.”
A survey of UK ophthalmologists reported more than 150 incidents of eye injuries involving laser pointers since 2013, the vast majority of these involving children.
From an October 12 2017 article in The Press and Journal
US: Calif. teacher loses credentials for, among other things, shining laser pointer in students' eyes
Carlos Cameron Duncan was said to have been aggressive to his students at Euclid Elementary School, to have verbally abused them, and to have used physical force, among other charges. He resigned March 8 2016. His credential revocation was reconsidered and sustained in April 2017.
There was no indication of any claim of injury from the laser pointer shining.
From a September 30 2017 article in the Daily Bulletin
Lynsey McClure had imported the lasers from a Chinese supplier who said they complied with U.K. regulations limiting laser pens to 1 milliwatt of power. Her brother, who was not charged, sold them in a stall during a school fair in December 2015. The headmaster asked her brother to stop selling the laser, but he continued.
Jonathan Marshall, 7, purchased one of the lasers. It was later found to have an output of 127 milliwatts.
His mother said Jonathan was playing with it at home when the beam went into his eye for “a fraction of a second.” He has a retinal burn which interferes with his vision.
McClure pleaded guilty to nine product safety and consumer protection violations, including selling an unsafe product and failing to disclose the power of the laser.
The case appears to be the first where a person has been prosecuted for an illegal laser sale that led to an injury.
From the Sunday Times (subscription required to read the entire article) and the JC.com
An example of a gun-shaped laser pointer. This particular unit emits a 100 mW beam and costs USD $68. An Internet search turns up a wide variety of gun-shaped novelty and toy laser pointers, including some that also have a lighter built in, and a gag pointer that shocks the user when they pull the trigger.
Laser pointers are forbidden in schools under California Penal Code section 417.27(b): “No student shall possess a laser pointer on any elementary or secondary school premises unless possession of a laser pointer on the elementary or secondary school premises is for a valid instructional or other school-related purpose, including employment.”
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A police spokesman said that laser pointers “are very dangerous in and of themselves, but anytime you have anything that looks like a firearm it’s obviously a danger and would be considered a credible threat.”
The boy obtained the laser pointer from a classmate, who was given a three day suspension.
A news story noted that it is illegal in Indiana to point a laser at a police officer, and recounted a previous incident when a student was arrested for shining a laser in the face of a school liaison officer.
From the Kansas City Star
A December 2006 incident has come to our attention. A 15-year-old Japanese boy suffered a retinal injury and visual loss after deliberately looking into a 5 mW violet (410 nm) light emitting diode for a total of about 40 seconds. The LED was in a pen was sold as a toy called “Secret Pen”. The toy appears to consist of an LED light which can excite ink that is invisible under ordinary light but which fluoresces under ultraviolet and near-UV light. The 410 nm wavelength caused photochemical damage to the retina.
According to a 2011 paper in Retinal Cases & Brief Reports, the LED was aimed into the teen’s eye from a distance of about 1 cm. It was held there for about 20 seconds as he deliberately stared into the light. This exposure was repeated the next day. About two weeks later, decreased vision (20/50 on the Snellen scale) was noted in the right eye.
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The laser pointer had no markings so the power is unknown. This also will be studied so the strength of the beam is known.
According to police, the laser pointer attack was a dangerous assault. If there is also significant permanent damage to eyesight, a charge of aggravated assault may be considered.
From Schwarzwaelder-bote.de (original German version and Google machine translation into English)
From the Brookfield Patch
Afterwards, the boy could not see clearly and had a black spot in his visual field. He kept this from his parents for about three weeks, after which the boy was seen by Professor Stefan Dithmar and Dr. Stefanie Pollithy at the University of Heidelberg Department of Ophthalmology. Their diagnosis was “acute bilateral impaired vision and central scotoma.”
A journal article in Der Ophthalmologe has more information, but the full article requires a subscription. Jochen Pernstainer, who told LaserPointerSafety.com about the case, kindly provided several details from the article:
- The schoolyard exposure lasted several seconds
- The laser pointer was measured at 55 milliwatts
- The boy had impaired vision and a black spot on both eyes
- Nine weeks after the exposure his vision got a bit better
Fundoscopic photos of the 11-year-old boy’s left and right eyes. Larger versions can be seen here.
Dithmar told a local newspaper that the German Product Safety Act prohibits the sale of products that might cause harm to health, but “there is little that you cannot get on the Internet.”
Press report from die Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung (in German; an English Google-translated version is here). Journal article in Der Ophthalmologe, Vol. 109, No. 9 (2012), 907-910, entitled “Akute bilateral Visusminderung kit Zentralskotom bei einem 11-jährigen Jungen.” Thanks to Jochen Pernsteiner for bringing this to our attention.
In early February 2012, a male student was flashing a number of students with a laser pointer. Noelle-Marie Harrington, 16, was flashed in the eye. She went to an emergency room and to an ophthalmologist for evaluation. As of early March 2012, her vision is back to normal.
The boy was suspended for two days. However, the boy’s friends bullied Harrington. She had previously been bullied in middle school, as well as in high school. Harrington’s mother said the school was unable to stop the bullying, and in early March she withdrew her daughter from Attleboro High School.
From the Sun Chronicle
The girl did not immediately report the October 5 2011 incident, but waited until after she had pain in her eye and blurred vision. Her parents took her to the hospital and then to an eye specialist. They reported the incident to police on October 11. As of October 12, she still had blurred vision; the status of her eye is unknown.
The officer had been speaking at Union High School in Union, S.C. on the topic of negative classroom behavior.
From WYFF4.com and GoUpstate.com
The school board president says that the laser could only have come from apartments overlooking the school, but “we do not know if it is the act of a madman or a child struggling with a dangerous toy.” Police are searching for the perpetrator.
After the second incident, teachers lowered the blinds in the classroom. The report also notes other “increasing” incidents where laser pointers are used against pilots and football (soccer) goalies.
From Corriere Della Sera, “Laser negli occhi dei bimbi”. Thanks to Alberto Kellner Ongaro for bringing this to our attention.