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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Student Charged with Disorderly Conduct for Writing Class Essay

How can they criminalize a Straight-A student?

The Chicago Tribune reports “High school senior charged after writing 'disturbing' essay”. Since the shooting at Virginia Tech, pseudo-psychoanalyses have gone into overdrive trying to figure out what make people like Seung-Hui Cho go off the deep end. Now we get this report:

CHICAGO- A student, described as an excellent student, wrote a class assignment essay so disturbing to the teacher, school administrators, and police, that he was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct”. Officials concede the essay suggested no imminent threat to anyone. But in light of the Virginia Tech shooting, officials have been on high anxiety alert for students showing disturbing signs in their writings after Cho’s pre-mortem revelations.

Allen Lee, a senior at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested near his northern Illinois home after penning the in-class writing assignment Monday. The assignment had been to use poetic conventions to express ideas and emotions.

"At the very last sentence, I said that this teacher's method of teaching could lead to a school shooting," Lee said Wednesday. He said he'd intended the entire essay as a joke.

After reading the essay, his teacher alerted the school's principal, and district officials reported it to the police.

Lee, who was arrested Tuesday, posted $75 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court June 18.

Albert Lee said his son was not suspended or expelled but is attending classes somewhere else for the time being.

"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said Albert Lee, referencing last week's shooting of 32 students by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. "I understand the situation."

But he also defended his son as a straight-A student who was following instructions for the assignment.

Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said an essay done for homework would ordinarily be "protected speech."

How can they criminalize a Straight-A student?
Commentary by Eddie Griffin

The students were encouraged to write essays expressing their feelings and emotions. But school officials contend that there were guidelines and limitations as to how far a student could go in their expressions. The actual content of Allen Lee’s essay was not released to the public, but civil rights attorneys are looking into the matter, according to the report, for possible violations of the first amendment right to freedom of speech.

I am sensitive to the issue of censorship in aborting freedom of speech. Many people find my writings “disturbing”. And, as a prison writer, I spent many years in solitary confinement for my political writings. Therefore, I know the meaning of being punished for writing. In the immediate case of Allen Lee, he is charged with “disorderly conduct”- a straight-A student.

Something is wrong with this picture. The student was asked to do an assignment. It appears that he was so effective in his written essay that it impacted the mind of the teacher. It frightened her. But I am not sure if it is the psychological state of mind of the student or the post- traumatized mind of a teacher whose fears had recently been heightened by the Virginia Tech shooting.

What is more disturbing to me is the factor that the student’s written essay is being kept under wraps and no one else can see and judge for themselves. Was the essay a confession of a crime? Was it a terrorist plot? Was it overtly profane with obscene language? Was it racially offensive? There are very few other instances that might be classified as “disorderly conduct” as it relates to writing. But the student Lee called it “a joke”.

Where are we headed with this censorship- punishment for those who offend our consciousness? Pseudo-psychologists have a measurable history in accessing human intelligence. In fact, it is a field for the least intelligent college student. So, how in the world is a knucklehead going to figure out the psychology behind a straight-A student’s thinking. Masterful writers like Mario Puzzo specialized in playing mind games with words, without ever crossing the line. And, who would not institutionalize Stephen King?

The next thing you know they will be accusing hip-hop rap artist of making terrorist threats in their violent videos. Where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and that which offends public sensibilities?


  1. It's disgusting what has happened to our First Amendment.

    Civil rights and respect have always been missing from schools, and I think that's a big part of what ails us as we get older. It's amazing we're not even more crazy than we are.

  2. Sorry Anne. We are crazier than we think- a byproduct of mass psychosis. Just because we have a Bell Curve of normalcy does not mean that everybody under the curve is normal. That's why I am outside the box in thinking.

  3. Here is a link that gives a good indication of one of the real issues with folks who go off the deep end
    We have an inadequate school system within a culture that is lacking and we medicate ourselves with substances that we really don't even understand. Virtually every school shooting has involved people taking these meds.