Measured Against Reality

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The first ammendment surrenders

A Chicago high-school student wrote an essay, following his teacher's instructions to be creative, turned it in, and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Disorderly conduct, which carries a penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, is filed for pranks such as pulling a fire alarm or dialing 911. But it can also apply when someone's writings can disturb an individual, [Cary Police Chief] Delelio said.

"The teacher was alarmed and disturbed by the content," he said.


But a civil rights advocate said the teacher's reaction to an essay shouldn't make it a crime.

"One of the elements is that some sort of disorder or disruption is created," said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "When something is done in private—when a paper is handed in to a teacher—there isn't a disruption."


Experts say the charge against Lee is troubling because it was over an essay that even police say contained no direct threats against anyone at the school. However, Virginia Tech's actions toward Cho came under heavy scrutiny after the killings because of the "disturbing" plays and essays teachers say he had written for classes.

Simmie Baer, an attorney with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, called the Cary incident an example of zero-tolerance policies gone awry. Children, she said, are not as sophisticated as adults and often show emotion through writing or pictures, which is what teachers should want because it is a safe outlet.


This is absurd. I could see the school taking some kind of disciplinary action against him (which may or may not be justifiable), but arresting him? If creative writing doesn't fall under the first amendment, then what does?

I hope the kid gets a good lawyer and sues the crap out of that school and that police department. I hope that every idiot involved with this decision is fired and never works again. I hope that every administrator learns that you can't inhibit free speech when it's not threatening anyone. But that won't happen.

The kid will probably get off, but the idiots who put him through this won't learn their lesson or get their comeuppance. There's no justice in the world.

[Edit: Several people have asked, so I thought I'd mention that I have no idea what the essay specifically said. All I know is that it was violent (or scary) enough to make the administrators think that arresting him was a good idea, and that it contained no specific threats against any individual. But I do know that instead of discussing the matter with the student they sent policemen to his house to arrest him, which is ridiculous and irresponsible.]

[Edit 2: A reader gave me a link to an updated story that includes some of the actual essay. Here are some parts:

[First assistant state's attorney] Carroll said the complaint against Lee quotes his essay as saying: "Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, s ... t ... a ... b ..., puke. 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."

According to Carroll, another passage said, "as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting."


Lee said he was "just following the assignment." Asked if the Virginia Tech massacre had anything to do with the content of his essay, Lee said: "I had no influences outside the class."

Lee's essay, written in class Monday, also refers to lyrics from a song by the band Green Day and violent images from a Super Mario Bros. video game, according to Jamie Emling, a close friend of Lee's who is in the same creative-writing class.

Emling is scheduled to begin Marine boot camp with Lee in October. He said he has talked to his friend several times since the arrest, Emling said.

"He wrote about the dream of killing with P90s, which is a sci-fi gun from the show 'Stargate,'" Emling said. "It's a really cool gun. Top-loaded. And it's in 'GoldenEye,' the Nintendo 64 James Bond game."


The new article also quotes the teacher as saying "Don't censor yourselves." Sounds like she meant "Don't censor yourselves unless what you have to say is somewhat violent."

Now that we have this I think that I'm even less sympathetic with the school. Why didn't they just go talk to him? He probably doesn't even have access to weapons and he clearly wrote "I had a dream..." I don't know about other people, but I've had dreams that involve shooting before, better arrest me before I go on a shooting rampage! Ridiculous.]

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22 Comments:

  • It's just this kind of thing that makes me glad that I returned an interception for a touchdown against Cary-Grove in their Homecoming Game in 1991. GO STREAKS!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 PM, April 26, 2007  

  • Kingdom of Fear

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 PM, April 26, 2007  

  • This country has no justice...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:21 PM, April 26, 2007  

  • This country has no justice, we need a complete remake of nearly all laws

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 PM, April 26, 2007  

  • so so gald i dont live in the "land of the free"!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:40 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • What the hell was the essay about?

    By Anonymous Ejir, at 8:27 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • While this straight A student is getting busted for doing his homework and gets arrested some stoner 16 year old who hasn't turned in an assignment since the 6th grade is blowing weed behind the schools gym. I think that's the definition of irony.

    Nice post.

    By Anonymous Clay, at 8:39 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • "There's no justice in the world."

    Oh, cmon... there's no justice in YOUR country. In mine, there are no school shootings, no 6-year-old arrests, and OMG! No creative writing arrests at all!

    Is this paradise? No, just another 3rd world country :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • wouldn't it make more sense to have the kid evaluated instead of arrested. wasn't the lesson of VT that we can't just ignore those kids?

    By Blogger toolsonfire, at 9:20 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-070426essay-update,1,1939754.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=2&cset=true
    says:

    Carroll said the complaint against Lee quotes his essay as saying: "Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, s ... t ... a ... b ..., puke. 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."

    According to Carroll, another passage said, "as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:20 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • Just so everybody knows, the P90 he was probably talking about is a REAL submachine gun made in Belgium by FN Herstal.

    Here's the Wikipedia article.

    By Blogger a-rock, at 11:17 AM, April 27, 2007  

  • Arrested ? Yes, wrong. But the 'writing'
    example from this little waste of skin should alarm people even more.

    THIS is what we're raising?

    So- we have reached the point where Beavis & Butthead are now looked back upon as high-level humor.

    Sad. sad.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:19 PM, April 27, 2007  

  • It's what you'd expect from a high school like mine (Yeah, I go to school there). It's very white and suburban and completely controlled by fear.

    A lot of people speculate that the fact that he's Asian (like the Virginia Tech shooter). I wouldn't be surprised, considering several other students wrote very similar essays.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 PM, April 29, 2007  

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