Saturday, April 28, 2007
This is not the right response
I had hoped we were smarter than this. I had hoped that Americans would take to heart all that had been said these past few weeks about the importance of getting mentally disturbed people help, rather than ostracizing them further. But no, instead when another young man turns in a writing assignment that was violent and disturbing in a way similar to the writings of the Virginia Tech shooter, we just arrest him.

This past week Allen Lee, a straight-A senior at Cary-Grove High School here in the Chicago area turned in a "stream-of-consciousness" writing assignment that so disturbed his English teacher that she and the school administration called the cops and had him arrested. He now faces the possibility of 30 days in jail and $1500 in fines - all for doing what the teacher told him to do, which was to exaggerate his feelings and "write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing."

You can read Lee's essay here. What he writes about (violence, drugs, necrophilia, school shootings, etc.) is definitely disturbing, but is the best response to treat this kid like a criminal simply for expressing himself? Clearly this kid has some emotional issues. Did they not even try getting him to talk to a counselor first? Seeing if he needed some psychiatric help? Do we care more about simply protecting ourselves from potentially dangerous people, than getting those people the help and healing they need? As I've said before, I think in most cases "justice" ought to be restorative, not retributive. But if we're not even trying to restore and help a kid like Allen Lee before we punish him, then where is the justice?

And what about the first amendment? Is the fall-out from the Virginia Tech shootings going to be that all of a sudden we will be less concerned about protecting our freedom of speech and free expression? That's what really frightens me. We already live in this post-9/11 world where we seem more than willing to trade essential freedoms for a little security and don't bat an eye at the totalitarian measures of the Patriot Act. Will we now say it's okay to punish and persecute people who say things we don't like? We've been sliding down this slippery slope of giving up our civil liberties for a while now, and this is just one more instance that is speeding up our descent.


posted by Mike Clawson at 4:34 PM | Permalink |


At 4/29/2007 12:09:00 AM, Blogger Robin

No its not the right response. As I said about the Virginia Tech tragedy.
No one wants to address the real issue. Mental Illness.

It would appear that common sense has left us in this great nation of ours, but part of the problem is because we have become lawsuit happy. All of these institutions pretty much just want to cover their asses and the quickest way possible to avoid it (lawsuit) would be to call in the law. Then its out of their hands.

I will leave you with other example. Here in my state, two little boys in I believe 1st grade were *expelled* from school because they made paper guns and were going bang bang, pow pow to each other. (you know, cowboys and indians)Oh, I almost forgot, the police were called, before the parents were.


At 4/30/2007 06:51:00 AM, Blogger kent

over reaction likethis is another sign that we might be older as society but we have also become less mature


At 4/30/2007 09:41:00 AM, Blogger Richard Wade

If this is the whole story then it amounts to a dirty trick by the teacher. “Here, say whatever comes to mind, let yourself go. Don’t worry, heh heh heh.” The boy’s essay does not read like a genuine “lunatic’s letter.” It has the contrived quality of someone trying to go over the top on purpose. He was offering a grotesque version of the assignment. If he is going to be prosecuted then the teacher, who gave written instructions saying, “"write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing," should also be prosecuted for inciting “criminal” behavior in the students. The boy handed it in to the teacher; he didn’t publish it to terrorize the school. If the judge doesn’t drop the charges then he’s as big an idiot as the teacher.


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