Student With Autism Played With an ‘Imaginary Rifle’ at School — And Ended Up in Handcuffs

A fifth-grade Texas student with autism was handcuffed and hauled away by police this week after playing with an “imaginary rifle” at school. Twelve-year-old David Sims brandished his “weapon” at his art teacher, who felt threatened.

“She [CISD police officer] just put handcuffs on me and told me I need to go with her,” the boy, David, said after the ordeal.

“They just said, ‘We don’t tolerate that. We take it as a threat,'” his mother, Amy, said. “A threat? He didn’t threaten anyone. He didn’t do anything but play.”


According to the concerned mother, the school didn’t notify her of the incident until after her son was in police custody. She insisted that her son didn’t understand that “make believe” gunplay was considered inappropriate behavior.

“Being put in handcuffs, not knowing what he did wrong, I could have had a talk with him and told him, ‘Look, I know you like to play guns, but you can’t do it in school,'” she said.

David spent over two hours at the juvenile detention center, but Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright indicated that charges would likely not come given the boy’s age and disability, saying, “We want to get them turned around and on the right path.”

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According to him, David brandished the imaginary weapon before a verbal threat. In at least one previous occasion, David brandished an imaginary gun in class. Lambright also said David wasn’t the only one to draw police attention, as other students in the area reportedly had troubling outbursts after the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“Right after the Florida incident, we were getting two a day, three a day and it wasn’t isolated to any particular school,” Lambright said. “We have six school districts in Montgomery County and they were coming in across the County.”

David has since been ordered to attend an alternative disciplinary school for the rest of his spring semester. His mother believes he’s being discriminated against.

“Because he’s disabled, they automatically think he’s got something mental, so he might go shoot up a school,” she said.

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