Last updated: August 25. 2013 5:00AM - 873 Views

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ST. MARYS — The father of a St. Marys Memorial High School student arrested after trying to sell a wrapper stuffed with sugar says the incident is a continuation of other problems the family has had with the school.

“This is straight retaliation for me having everyone’s feet held to the fire over this IEP (Individualized Education Plan),” Rob Pence said.

School officials called police Monday after 16-year-old Michael, who has a form of autism, stuffed sugar he had gotten from school into a wrapper. Pence said his son thought it was a joke and was calling the packet his “special sugar rush concoction.”

“They told me he had offered to sell a counterfeit controlled substance to another student,” Rob Pence said. “Then they pulled out a sugar packet and piece of candy cane wrapper about an inch long filled with sugar. I thought, ‘You are going to take him to jail for this.’”

Michael was taken into custody on a probation violation and held at a juvenile detention center in Troy until Wednesday morning. Pence said he is not being charged with anything related to the incident. St. Mary’s Police Chief Gregory Foxhoven could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Principal Shawn Brown said he could not comment on the incident because it involves a student. In general, police are called to the school anytime an incident involves a weapon or suspicion of drugs. Brown said he is comfortable with how school staff handled the incident.

Pence said his son never told another student the sugar was a controlled substance and never tried to pass it off as anything other than sugar. Michael didn’t understand his actions could get him in trouble, Rob Pence said, saying his maturity and emotional development is around the level of a 10- or 11-year-old.

“His decision-making skills and ability to understand and recognize how others will interpret his actions is pretty bad,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the school called the police on Pence’s son. Michael became agitated in November during a meeting with school officials and his parents, and he shoved his father’s hand away from him. Pence said his son’s hand brushed his mouth and school officials believed his son punched him. The boy was arrested and incarcerated for nine days; the charges were dismissed.

Pence said he has been having problems with the school in regards to his IEP. Pence has not seen expected progress reports, and he has been to the school multiple times with issues. He believes the recent arrest was a form of retaliation.

Pence is considering looking for another school for his son. This was his first year at St. Marys. Michael previously had been at Spencerville High School.

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