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Student's Anti-Bush Sketches Eyed

The Secret Service questioned a 15-year-old boy last week and confiscated drawings he made depicting President Bush as the devil, and with his head on a stick.

The Prosser, Wash. boy's high school art teacher alerted school officials about the drawings. The student was nor arrested but was subjected to disciplinary action by the school, but the nature of that action — as well as the boy's name — were not disclosed.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, the student drew sketches of the president's head on a stake, and another in which Mr. Bush is dressed as the devil and fires missiles. Other drawings depicted the Bill of Rights and Constitution burning.

A friend of the family tells the Post-Intelligencer that agents have not returned the student's original drawings to him.

Secret Service agents investigate threats against the president, which are illegal, under Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 41, Section 871 of the United States code imposes a fine and/or up to five years in prison for "knowingly and willfully" making "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect."

In the wake of the 1999 Columbine attacks, the Secret Service also has taken a role trying to prevent school violence. A Secret Service study has found that many school shootings were perpetrated by students who had hinted that they planned to kill.

Prosser police Chief Win Taylor told the Post-Intelligencer that says that the post-Columbine atmosphere contributed to his decision to contact the Secret Service.

But mainly, Taylor told the newspaper, the sketches were seen as "a threat against the president of the United States. And we notified the Secret Service because that's their bailiwick."

Civil libertarians said that while Secret Service questioning did not necessarily violate the student's rights, controversial drawings are protected speech.

ACLU spokesman Doug Honig told the newspaper: "Simply expressing controversial viewpoints in writing or in art shouldn't be enough for the student to face disciplinary action … unless there's actual disruption in the educational process."

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, there has been a series of incidents where anti-war opinions stirred controversies in schools.

Last February, Maine's top education official warned teachers to be careful of what they say in class about a possible invasion of Iraq, after complaints that the children of soldiers were upset by anti-war comments at school.

A Dearborn, Mich. high school told a junior to either remove a T-shirt depicting Mr. Bush as an "international terrorist," or go home.