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Writing Dangerously?

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The revelation that Seung Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, had composed a number of dark writings for his classes has clearly heightened awareness among English teachers. A case in point: Allen Lee, a straight-A Chinese American student at Cary-Grove High School outside Chicago, was arrested this week on charges of disorderly conduct after he submitted violence-laced essay in his creative-writing class. Though Lee’s essay did not contain specific threats, his teacher was concerned enough about the content to notify her department chair, which in turn led to a call to the police. School and law-enforcement officials say the arrest was a necessary precaution within proper legal grounds. (“The teacher was alarmed and disturbed by the content,” the chief of police emphasized.) Others, however, believe the school overreacted—especially since the teacher’s assignment asked students to express their emotions through writing. “[Students] should be able to show their feelings or thoughts without fearing they will be arrested because of them,” said Simmie Baer, an attorney with the Children and Family Justice Center.

4 Comments

We're lucky Thomas Paine lived a long time ago ... wouldn't have a chance today ...

The problem is in schools there tends to be an over-reaction or under-reaction. If we actually got school psychologists in the schools that had time to evaluate kids that need help these things can be avoided - whether its the crime or the arrest of an innocent kid.

The school may have thought that the threat of arrest will discourage other students - however truly violent individuals don't think they'll be "caught" or punished. All this does it raise in arms the "good" kids and detracts from the issue of violence in schools - which I feel needs to be addressed before the test scores.

Writing is an excellent theraputic tool. I wish that having written this violence-laced writing, this student could have had someone start sitting with him and talking to him about why he feels the way he does. He doesn't need police at this stage; he needs a therapist. This was a cry for help, whether the student readily understood it was or not.
We send mixed messages--talk about your feelings, but only if they're the nice kind, or the kind we can deal readily with. Otherwise, repress them because they look ugly. Too bad more attention wasn't paid to the Virginia boy.

By involving the police at this stage in my opinion was premature. But that is my opinion. Maybe this teacher thought she could not handle it.

Sometimes teachers do feel overwhelmed by something this sensitive, especially in light of what happened at Virginia Tech. I hope it did not transpire simply because of the ethnicity of the student. If it the case then that would be out of line and unprofessional.

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