Creative Writing Fallout: Free Speech and the Law
While the Virginia Tech misdeeds of the infamous Cho have made disturbing student fantasies hot news right now, the case this post starts with dates back to 2003. That's when a teacher confiscated the student's notebook on account of the fact that it included a story about shooting her math teacher.
She got suspended for ten days, and now she's back in court in an effort to get that suspension wiped off her record.
The news is from THE TELEGRAPH which you can find at www.macon.com. Macon seems to be a place in the deep South of the United States.
The news from THE TRIBUNE as of Friday 27 April 2007 lets us know that the student's name is Rachel Boim, that the high school which she used to attend is Roswell High (now she goes to a private school), and her lawyer is Allan Galbraith.
He's quoted as saying this:
"Can an uncommunicated work of fiction serve as the basis of punishment by the government?"
Judge Stephen Limbaugh, on of three judges sitting on the case in a federal appeals court, doesn't buy the "only fiction" line. Quote from the font of his judicial wisdom:
"This writing is targeting a particular person and talked about a gun. I thought it was a very scary fiction, if that's what you say it is. If it was fiction in a story, she should have kept it at home."
Quote from the story, the bit where the math teacher gets his:
"I lothe him with every bone in my body. Why? I don't know. This is it. I stand up and pull the gun from my pocket. BANG the force blows him back and every one in the class sit there in shock. BANG he falls to the floor and some one lets out an ear piercing scream. Shaking I put the gun in my pocket and run from the room."
Okay, to be honest, if I was the math teacher I'd find it scary.
The First Amendment to the American Constitution gives you the right to free speech. The issue at stake is whether the school, by suspending Boim, violated her First Amendment right to free speech.
One of the judges is Joel F. Dubina, whose thinking is influenced by the behavior of the infamous Cho:
"What do you think would have happened if ... this young woman ended up shooting and killing the math teacher, what situation would we have then? With what happened at Virginia Tech, you think those writings [of shooter Seung-Hui Cho] would be a work of fiction?"
The judges heard argument but issued no ruling. Their decision, it seems, will not be forthcoming for weeks.
The article wraps up with news of the kid arrested in Illinois, Allen Lee, aged 18, saying this:
" [Lee] was arrested this week after writing that "it would be funny" to dream about opening fire in a building and having sex with the dead victims, authorities said.
"Another passage in the essay advised his teacher at Cary-Grove High School: "don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting," according to a criminal complaint filed this week."
Be careful what you imagine dreaming about seems to be the message here.
Meantime, from http://www.belleville.com, news of Allen's case. It seems his Marine Corps career, the dream job for which he just recently signed enlistment papers, has been trashed by his legal entanglements.
The Marine Corps has discharged him from his contract. Don't want him any more. That dream you had, kid? It's over.
He's been charged, now, with two counts of disorderly conduct, which I don't understand because, after all, he only wrote the one piece of creative writing.
The www.belleville.com article is by Megan Reichgott, an
Associated Press writer, and includes the following:
""The charges are a product of paranoia, born in the aftermath of the massacre of 32 students at Virginia Tech by a social outcast who then killed himself, said one of Lee's attorneys, Thomas Loizzo.
"" "Once the dust settles, once they look at this through clearer glasses, we think that the state will do the right thing and dismiss the charges," Loizzo said.""
If so, then Lee will re-inlist with the Marine Corps.
If not, well, it's not exactly going to be a plus for the future of creative writing in the United States of America.
Meantime, the Daily Herald, online at www.dailyherald.com, reports that one of Lee's lawyers has released the text of the essay for "context."
The site provides a version of the essay, but it's an expurgated version, "ith language not normally allowed in the Daily Herald removed and noted."
Reminds me of Dick Nixon's tapes, the ones which surfaced after Watergate, the transcripts of which were always peppered with "expletive deleted."
For what it's worth, here is the censored version. Everything below this point is Allen's text plus his "author's notes." Because my text ends at this point, I haven't inserted quote marks in the following.
My only off-the-cuff comment, as a professional English teacher, and one who spent quite a bit of time teaching business writing by e-mail, is that the student writer should learn how to paragraph. Short paragraphs, please. Makes the stuff easier to read.
Okay, I'm done, so here's Allen, speaking to the world in his own voice:
Blood sex and Booze. Drugs Drugs Drugs are fun. Stab, Stab, Stab, S…t…a…b…, poke. "So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone…, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did." Umm, yeah, what to wright about…… I'm leaving to join the Marines and I really don't give a [expletive] about my academics, so why does the only class that's complete [expletive], happen to be the only required class…enough said. The model citizen would stay around to vote in new board member to change the 4 years of English policy, but no one really stays around to vote for that kind of local crap, so whoever gets there name on the Ballet with a pretty face gets to do what the [expletive] ever they want with local ordinance. A person is smart, but people are dumb selfish animals. We can't make rules for ourselves so we vote others to do it for us, but we can't even do that right, I meen seriously, Bush for President? And our other option was John Kerry who claimed to parktake in Vietnam Special Forces missions that haven't been declassified…. [expletive]. So Power Flower Super Mario. Pudge, hook, rot, dismember "Fresh Meat." Most new/young teachers are laid back, and cooperative with students as feedback and input into the curriculum and atmosphere. My current English teacher is a control freak intent on setting a gap between herself and her students like a 63 year old white male fortune 500 company CEO, and a illegal immigrant. If CG was a private catholic school, I could understand, but wtf is her problem. And baking brownies and rice crispies does not make up for it, way to try and justify yourself as a good teacher while underhandidly looking for complements on your cooking. No quarrel on you qualifications as a writer, but as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first cg shooting.
This production of the writing is done in the most accurate manner I can depict of the original writing.
Grammar and spelling mistakes are included at the best accuracy possible.
The first phrase in questions is in fact a Green Day song. The second reference to drugs is in relation to the schools history of drug problems.
I am personally clean of all controlled substances. The statement in quotes is done so as a non personal statement as I would have done in reference to a character for a story.
The reference to the gun P90 is from a video game, combined with a reference to necrophilia as a comment regarding a seriously messed up situation. A situation such as the rape of villagers during a raid by U.S. troops in Vietnam.
I really do not care too much about by continuing academia as in relation to grades. I do however believe on continuing my personal education, and I am actually still working for my classes.
My views on the graduation requirements explain themselves.
The reference to Mario and Pudge (a DOTA character) are completely random as is this essay.
The reference to a person being smart and people being dumb is based on a quote from "Men in Black."
I generally do believe the public opinion is best.
The rest of the essay is rather self explanatory, the main statement in question I have already released a comment online about.
I request that all information I have released is read together, and nothing is given separately or as an excerpt as the administration has seen fit to do.
On an additional note, I have completed the MEPS (Military Entry Processing Station) examinations, and yes a psychiatric evaluation is included in the process. If I'm qualified to defend the country, I believe I'm qualified to attend school.