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A Post-Columbine Halloween Horror Story 579

Here's a true Hellmouth Halloween Horror Story: A Texas seventh-grader wrote -- at his teacher's request -- a "scary" story in which two classmates and his teacher were shot (the latter accidentally). He got a 100 on the story, and was thrown in jail for nearly a week on suspicion of making terroristic threats.

Christopher Beamon, a 13-year-old seventh-grader in Ponder, Texas, was, according to a school administrator, a "disciplinary problem."

He was also, according to a classmate, a little "weird."

Tuesday, Christopher was released after spending nearly a week in the Denton County juvenile correctional facility for writing - at his teacher's request - a fictional Halloween horror story that described the shooting of two classmates and his teacher.

Christopher had become another, particularly dramatic Hellmouth horror story, one more sacrifice to the profoundly ignorant way in which politics, education and the criminal justice system treat complex social issues involving technology, culture and the young.

The teacher gave Beamon a score of 100 on the writing assignment, on which she also wrote "outstanding."

Then, perhaps remembering the ongoing post-Columbine assault in American education on young geeks, nerds, gamers, the weird and the non-normal, she thought better of the grade and his story, and turned Beamon in to the principal.

School officials contacted the local district attorney, Bruce Isaacks. Beamon was taken into custody and brought before Denton County Juvenile Judge Court Darlene Whitten, who ordered the seventh-grader detained for 10 days. Whitten approved Christopher's early release only after the his stunned mother and the family's court-appointed lawyers began contacting Texas reporters.

The district attorney said - regretfully - that he couldn't find any grounds to prosecute Christopher, but managed to brand him on national TV anyway: "It looks like the child was doing what the teacher told him to do, which was to write a scary story" said Isaacks,"but this child does appear to be a persistent discipline problem for this school, and the administrators were legitimately concerned." The DA's subliminal message was obvious. Would Christopher have been hauled off to jail he if was the star quarterback on the high school football team? Not likely.

On his release from jail, Christopher Beamon said "it seems like a year ago, a big ol' long year" since he was first arrested, and asked for a bean burrito from Taco Bell.

Beamon's arrest came just days after the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency (ATF) announced it was joining with a private security firm (see the Slashdot: article) to distribute Mosaic-2000, a software program designed to spot potentially dangerous students in schools.

Beamon's essay, available on the Dallas Morning News website, describes he and a friend fending off an intruder with a .12 gauge shotgun. "this bloody body dropped down in front of us and scared us half to death and about 20 kids started cracking up and pissed me off so I shot Matt, Jake and Ben started laughing so hard that I acssedently [sic} shot Mrs. Henry (his teacher)."

The story is a crude, if classic pre-adolescent fantasy, and is about as menacing as "Daffy Duck." It would seem logical to many adolescent boys that a horror story might include some violence. Check it out for yourself.

Beamon said he read the story aloud in class for extra credit, and the teacher not only gave him a perfect score, but laughed when he read about her accidental shooting. The next day, he was in the local juvenile detention center for suspicion of making "terroristic threats." (Perhaps a bit ingenuously, Beamon told reporters he spent his time in jail reading the Bible).

Last year, in the wake of the Columbine killings, scores of schoolkids, many of them geeks, nerds, gamers, Goths and various assorted oddballs, reported a wave of suspensions, expulsions and forced counseling sessions after they were asked to speak openly about their feelings about school, classmates and cultural values. Many said they regretted speaking frankly about their feelings about school, and wouldn't do it again. They were wise.

A number of kids who said they understand at least some of the rage that might have driven the Columbine killers were sent home or ordered into compulsory counseling and re-education sessions.

What a windfall Columbine has been for timid educational bureaucrats: they don't have to deal with their disaffected students and their problems: they can just ship them off to counseling, private schools or jail.

And what a black mark for journalism, which contributed so mightily to the hysterical atmosphere in which this kind of insanity is possible -- remember the post-Columbine are computer-games-turning-your-kids-into-killers coverage? -- and manages to rarely offer relevent facts or ask any of the right or elemental questions:

Why are schools adopting these increasingly Draconian measures when violence in schools and among the young in general has been dropping sharply for years?

Isn't it better for kids to express their angry, even violent fantasies openly, where parents and educators can see and talk about them? Is it really safer if these feelings are hidden - the real legacy of Columbine and Christopher's nightmare.

Do children have any rights at all to free speech or due process? Do they have any recourse when opinions and stories are solicited by teachers and administrators, then used to punish and silence them?

Free societies have always accepted trade-offs between security and freedom. Urban streets would be a lot safer if nobody was permitted to go outside after 6 p.m., or if thieves and robbers had their hands chopped off. But safety isn't the only value in a democracy.

School killings are horrible, but they are rare. And they aren't as random as media reports would suggest: they invariably involve emotionally-disturbed adolescent white males with access to lethal weapons. Justice department surveys repeatedly have found that schools are the safest places for kids to be.

Awful as they are, these incidents don't justify turning schools into ideological prison camps where informers are encouraged, normalcy is a forced value, and law enforcement authorities are called in to police stories and jokes.

Beamon was asked on the Today Show what he learned from his experience. "Be careful what you say," he said.

Judge Whitten defended her decision to the Dallas Morning News: "I do want people to understand that, just like making a threat at an airport, a threat in a school situation is very serious, even if it was in jest."

Another grisly Columbine legacy: judges ruling on adolescent humor, deciding which jokes are acceptable, and which constitute terroristic threats. In Millenial America, fantasizing about fending off intruders with shotguns or offing your teacher is now a felony.

Judge Whitten reflected contemporary educational as well as law-enforcement thinking about oddball, individualistic thinking and offensive humor: it ought to be a crime, along with anger. Thus Beamon might have suffered the same fate if he quoted from any given character on the geek-loved "South Park." Beamon was lucky he wasn't a gamer playing "Doom:" he'd probably still be in jail.

For geek and nerd kids, this issue has special relevance, since they are prone to disliking school and are often angered by exclusion, harassment, and a widening gap between their often-Net inspired values, and the all-too often-oppressive 19th century educational system many have to endure. They are also nearly addicted to offensive humor.

The alienated and the weird are not only frustrated, but are now all potential killers as well. The price of being different only goes up.

The post-Columbine message was clear enough, even for a seventh-grader like Christopher: watch what you say, or safer yet, don't speak at all.

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A Post-Columbine Halloween Horror Story

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I won't comment on the outrageous behaviour of the various authorities involved. What scares me is that a 13 year old can get a mark of 100 and a comment of 'outstanding' for the barely-literate blatherings that constitute the 'essay' in question. Is this the standard of writing that American students are expected to aspire to?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Democracy only works if elected officials are continually reminded of what the people they WORK FOR think. If you live in Denton County, or even the rest of Texas (who knows maybe she wants to run for state office one day?) mail your thoughts to this judge at: [mailto]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I saw a thing about this on MSNBC(I was just channel surfing, I swear) and they were interviewing one of the school's adminstrators. From what he said there, the teacher had an arrangement with the students that anyone who would read their essay in front of the class would get a 100%(which is so typical of the Amercian educational system wherein social skills are always put in front of actual education). I strongly suspect that the teacher never actually read te essay in question. She probably wrote outstanding on every single paper.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dang Right! That seventh grade Texas cracker SHOULD be in jail, right along with his teacher! Both are guilty of PROFOUND STUPIDITY! Read his story. It's one long run-on sentence filled with spelling and gramatical errors. He got a 100 for this slop? Oh, wait... Stupidity's not a crime... It's your right as an American. Nevermind...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have strong opiouns to stories like this related to shool shootings and overeactions to them. I was made fun of a lot in my first two years of high school, and my sophmore year, I was also failing out (F's in 3 classes). Every day I would literaly have to talk myself out of killing myself. I also freaked out at people a lot, and nearly lost it once or twice. Going a little off topic, the only thing that kept me going was being able to take out a lot of my anger blowing things up and killing people in viloent video games. Anyway, this type of though police action is very frighting (I thought it was an incredible coidence that a freind two doors down in my dorm was watching the Matrix DVD the same day I read 1984, and then this happens) They can't yet change your thoughts, but you can be punished for them. Independtent thought is not the cause of school shootings, the cause is its opposite, conformity. Also, yesterday, a freind of mine told me something that indicates another reason for them, and this is the main reason I'm not posting my name.(The other is my email server with my password for slashdot still there is down) Anyway, in this class, to keep up with the course sylabus, our teacher has been covering a lot of importent stuff quickly, and dosen't anser questions that often, and nobody has a clue whats going on or is learning everything. She said "If I had a gun I'd shoot him right now, but I'm afraid they'll blame me because I have a tatoo." We have gotten to the point where if a student wrights an essay about violence s/he is labeled a potetional terrorist and arrested/suspended/expelled. In an article in my city's newspaper about Mosic, it mentioned that in some schools cloaths and music that are not part of popular mainstream culture are considered risk factors, as are watching violent movies and tv, and listening to violent music or playing video games. EVERYONE falls into one of those catagories, even if they only watch the news. It used to be that the purpose of english classes in school was to learn to write, to express yourself creativly. Now it is considered harmfull to express yourself, when it is one of the things that makes you feel less anger, by letting it out instead of letting it just stay there, building up, untill it explodes like a volcano. I have strong opiouns to stories like this related to shool shootings and overeactions to them. I was made fun of a lot in my first two years of high school, and my sophmore year, I was also failing out (F's in 3 classes). Every day I would literaly have to talk myself out of killing myself. I also freaked out at people a lot, and nearly lost it once or twice. Going a little off topic, the only thing that kept me going was being able to take out a lot of my anger blowing things up and killing people in viloent video games. Anyway, this type of though police action is very frighting (I thought it was an incredible coidence that a freind two doors down in my dorm was watching the Matrix DVD the same day I read 1984, and then this happens) They can't yet change your thoughts, but you can be punished for them. Independtent thought is not the cause of school shootings, the cause is its opposite, conformity. Also, yesterday, a freind of mine told me something that indicates another reason for them, and this is the main reason I'm not posting my name.(The other is my email server with my password for slashdot still there is down) Anyway, in this class, to keep up with the course sylabus, our teacher has been covering a lot of importent stuff quickly, and dosen't anser questions that often, and nobody has a clue whats going on or is learning everything. She said "If I had a gun I'd shoot him right now, but I'm afraid they'll blame me because I have a tatoo." We have gotten to the point where if a student wrights an essay about violence s/he is labeled a potetional terrorist and arrested/suspended/expelled. In an article in my city's newspaper about Mosic, it mentioned that in some schools cloaths and music that are not part of popular mainstream culture are considered risk factors, as are watching violent movies and tv, and listening to violent music or playing video games. EVERYONE falls into one of those catagories, even if they only watch the news. It used to be that the purpose of english classes in school was to learn to write, to express yourself creativly. Now it is considered harmfull to express yourself, when it is one of the things that makes you feel less anger, by letting it out instead of letting it just stay there, building up, untill it explodes like a volcano. Not so much by this example, but they are trying to make it a crime to be different. It isn't the students, and in many cases not even the teachers(at least by choice), but the whole concept of school in the first place. Sit in rows, be quit, no talking, pay attetion, sit still, no eating, do drinking, no gum ... We need to teach ideas as much as formulas and facts. The history classes I enjoyed most (and got A's in) were in high school, where the dates of most of the events wern't importent, it was the ideas behind them. Why did Thomas Jefferson write the Decloration of Independence? Why did the Roman Empire Collapse? It is far more intresting, for any subject, to learn WHY instead of HOW. Criticle thinking is one of the most importent thing to learn, but it seems to be the thing our leaders lack. It remindes me of a quote from my chemistry teacher(all in good fun here) "Ok, and now what is the CORRECT anser?" That is what needs to be said to the DA and school administration in this case, and to anyone who thinks something like Moasic will help anything
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Your post disturbs me. So you wanted to moderate him down because he disturbs you?

    Thats EXACTLY the problem we're discussing here: Some people can't deal with reality. Whenever something unpleasant happens, they want to hide it away.

    You want to moderate a post down, the school administrators wanted a kid thrown in jail.

    If you can honestly say that you've never ever even thought about how it would be to kill someone who have bothered you, then you're not representable.

    No, I'm not saying you would kill anyone, nor that you'd even consider it seriously. But as the poster you replied to said, most people at some point think about killing. Almost none do anything about it.

    And most people likely would never pull the trigger even if they DID have a loaded gun when they thought about killing someone.

    The important issue here, however is that some people (such as you) try to hide problems, rather than address them.

    Maybe this kid had problems, but they surely won't be better now that he knows that telling anyone about violence means his teacher and school administration will betray him, and the government throw him in jail.

    What have the kid been taught? That he's a freak. That he's weird, and according to society probably a dangerous, sick kid.

    Do you know what that can do to someone? To be marked as a potential killer?

    If this kid ever go out and shoot someone I'd say that his school was as much to blame as he would be.

    They're the one that has learned him that he's guilty just for being himself, and writing a story. So why shouldn't he REALLY do something?

    Treating people like animals is a sure way to make them into animals.

  •'s "critically acclaimed" (i.e., PRAISED) by the media. If a seventh grade boy does it, he jailed and questioned without due process.

    And the D.A. plans not to press any charges! In other words, "We fucked up, sorry". What punishment will the school receive? And what are the NAMES and POSITIONS of unnamed "administrators" who decided to take this action? Anonymous accusations are a dangerous thing indeed.

  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @09:40AM (#1564218) Homepage
    I've noted a few arguments appearing multiple times in these comments, so I decided to summarize my opinions about them.

    Argument: This is no different than getting arrested for joking about a bomb in an airport, or yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

    Counter: no, this is completely different. to make the situations analogous, please have the airport host a horror story reading, with free airfare for those who read a horror story. or on a more realistic level, see how much trouble you get in for writing a novel with a plotline similar to 'passenger 57' or such.

    argument: jake baker got dismissed from university for written stories, so we're hypocritical to argue just because he's younger.

    counter: jake baker got dismissed from university, but the charges against him were dismissed. while i found the story itself rather revolting, i fully support the rights of these people to write them.

    argument: school officials were just being careful, and it's a neccessary evil.

    counter: no, this one is just flat wrong. yes, we live in an overly litigious society, but it doesn't excuse suppression of liberty for "safety". I agree that this is tantamount to thoughtcrime. When I was in high school I wrote a story about a student climbing a tower with a gun and wiping out a ton of people. It wasn't serious, it was a story. Heck, I didn't even have fantasies about doing it, I just decided that 'avenue' and 'boy scout stew' were good rhymes and off I went. note: years later I ran into the teacher I handed that paper to, and she asked for a copy of it. She wanted to use it for a creative writing class as an example of 'black humour' and deriving humour by combining incompatible elements (a very happy, rhythmic flow and well.. a story about a sniper in a clock tower)

    Argument: he should be forced to have counseling.

    counter: why? should we all go for "re-education" whenever we say something outside the norm? this is similar to all the jokes in my current office about 'sensitivity training'. 99% of all people who say weird stuff are kidding or saying it purely for shock value. he might need counseling, he might not. none of us here have nearly enough information to make that call.

    Argument: the paper didn't deserve 100%

    counter: well... perhaps you're right... but perhaps the teacher was trying to get the students to do something for themselves, to get them to realize that perhaps they like writing creatively but without the pressure of grades and such.

    Oh, what a time we live in. I think I'm going to go watch Heathers.
  • The first line should be, "On top of the schoolhouse", btw. We sang it at my school too. Nobody ever got shot.

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Message to all kids: Say the wrong thing, go to jail. The damn russians don't even do this kind of shit to people anymore. Our schools are being run by jack-booted facists. Still think this place is free?
  • 1) the kids were asked to write a scary story about being home alone and hearing noises.

    I'm sure he wasn't the only one to change the premise of the story. Happened all the time when I was in school.

    2) the kid has been a "disciplinary problem" for a while.

    There are always kids who are "disciplinary problems." That doesn't mean they should be tossed in jail. He was asked to write a fictional story. He did that. Somehow they decide that it's not really a fictional story, but a terrorist threat. Who made that leap of logic?

    3) the essays were not graded

    This hardly matters.

    Sounds like a jerk of a kid trying to cause trouble.

    You're probably right. Usually kids like that spent a lot of time in detention, not jail.

  • I don't think you can really compare a college student with a seveth grader. Unless Beamon was told not to use real names in his story, I don't think he did anything wrong. There is also the point that he was told to write a scary story, rather than just writing and posting it on his own. The situations are not the same and I don't think they are even comparable.

  • You make me laugh. As soon as you're tossed in jail for 20 years or more for a crime you didn't commit, then you can talk about how it's a necessary thing because we don't live in a perfect world. Until then, your opinion carries very little weight.

    As for dealing with bullies, your experience is your own and not indicative of anything. If you were actually able to beat other people up, then I can assure you that your experience was not the same as mine. There were many times when I wished I had a gun. I wouldn't have wanted to actually kill anyone, (although there were a couple of people who I am pretty sure aren't really human... they couldn't be...) but I would have liked to shoot them in the shoulder or leg or something like that. It wasn't because I'm a violent person, it's just that I would have liked to see them understand what it's like to have someone else hurt you and not be able to do anything about it.

    Don't fall into the delusion that just because something is true for you, it is true for everyone.

    I'd like to ask you to take your own advice as well. You are probably no more representative of the people here than I am, or anyone else is. We've all had our own experiences and while some of us may have a lot in common, we're all different.

  • So we should say nothing unless we have first-hand experience of incident? I doubt it. We respond based on the facts as they were presented to us. If those facts turn out to be incorrect, as they did in Littleton, we will then respond to the updated version of the facts. Nobody is believing everything they read or see on tv. The net, newspapers, and tv just happen to be the best methods of getting news from other places. If the facts are sometimes wrong, then so be it. We'll just have to revise our thinking and opinions when the actual facts come in.

  • The problem isn't Texas culture. People here aren't that much different than people in other places in the country. Of course there are some exceptions, people who take things too far, but you can find those kinds of people anywhere.

    Texas will always be about 100 years behind most states

    What are you yammering about here? Give an example at least. Generalizing about something that you obviously don't know much about just makes you look stupid.

  • Do you really want someone who says "I'm going to kill Bill Clinton" to be free from any questioning?

    That depends on the context of the statement. In the case of the kid who wrote the story, he was asked to write a fictional story, which he did. Why then was it taken as a "terrorist threat?"

    In this case, a kid wrote an essay that was genuinely disturbing. While throwing him in jail may have been a bit much, I think asking him about it, counseling him for it, etc. were entirely appropriate!

    Disturbing to whom? I read many such stories when I was in school. Kids wrote stuff like that sometimes. It's immature, but not really disturbing. Sure, if they're really worried, get the kid some counseling. Their reaction was a lot more criminal than the kid's story.

  • We obviously don't want the kid to have been made to feel like he was an outcast, or violated some thought code...

    Well, since teachers are going to do things like this now anyway, they might as well show at least a little restraint. If you've decided to do something to the kid, it seems like counseling would be a much better choice than jail. Especially considering the fact that he was writing the scary story at the request of the teacher. By counseling the student, they would have at least shown that they tried to get him help, whether he actually needed it or not. Instead, he is tossed in jail, which would probably do a lot more to alienate and anger him than any amount of counseling. Especially when he didn't actually commit a crime. If a counsellor thinks he needs real professional help, then his parents should see that he gets it. Nobody needs to go to jail when no crime has been committed.

  • He did make an abrupt jump from waiting at home for his drugs and killing 20 people. That's sort of a red flag.

    I thought it was "only" 4 people. Either way, I agree that it could be indicative of a problem. Even if it is, jail is definitely not the solution.

  • First of all, a university is not the same thing as a public jr. high school. The kid is required to go to school there. Universities can kick you out for all sorts of reasons even if you don't violate a law. Second, the story was written at the request of the teacher. If she didn't want the kids to use real names in it, she should have told them that. They're kids! They're supposed to be learning!

    This wasn't a "savage and tasteless piece of fiction," although many horror stories could fit this description depending on whose opinion you ask. Even if it was, they were asked to write a scary story and should not be reprimanded for doing so. Kids are kids and say and do things that aren't appropriate sometimes. It's part of growing up and maturing. They should not be treated the same as an adult in college. They haven't had the same amount of experience and guidance yet. Perhaps the teacher and administration should explain the rules before punishing someone for breaking them.

    I don't know the kid personally, so I'm no more qualified than anyone else here to determine whether he is unstable or not. Even if they thought he was, they should have had him see a couselor or had his parents take him to a professional to try to find out if there really is a problem. This was a gross overreaction on the part of a bunch of people trying to cover their own asses at the kid's expense. I will say that it's got a lot to do with the fact that so many people in this country fly into a panicked hysteria rather than actually think when something bad happens.

  • To make one person suffer injustly to stop two or more people from suffering injustly is a good thing.

    That depends on the situation. It also depends on who gets to decide who will suffer.

    My real point is that it's easy to just dismiss any problems with the system as being a necessary evil rather than try to fix them if you've never been a victim of those problems.

  • Texas is it's own country

    This is more of a curiosity to most people here. It has little effect on anything. Technically, I believe that Texas is the only state that could secede and have a legal leg to stand on. I could be wrong. There's probably a lot of legal issues that would be unworkable if this was attempted which is why I believe that it matters very little these days.

    BBQ is the food of gods

    Well, I like BBQ, but it's not ambrosia.

    Executing people should be a sporting event

    We've got our share of people for and against it just like everywhere else. It is legal here and it is used. We aren't the only ones though.

    They have to have a bigger truck than everyone else

    Hmm.. there are a lot of trucks here, but most of them are just SUVs and pickups. Not all that many that are bigger than normal. I drive a Toyota Corolla, so I'm definitely not guilty of having a big truck.

    Btw, I was born in Massachusetts. I lived part of my young life in Ohio as well. I've been in Texas for the last 16 years though. It's not all that bad a place and I'll probably be here for a while.

  • What do we expect if we depend on software to tell us when our children are having problems? I'm lucky if I can get through a day without something on my computer not working properly, and all I do is web design.

    The idea that a software package can tell you when someone is a problem is beyond ridiculous. Teachers these days are just as bored and apathetic as their students, and it shows. Something needs to be done to our school system. Instead of fostering thought, it's a depressing example of civil service-style beaurocracy.

    This wouldn't even be so bad if the teacher hadn't awarded the student a perfect grade to being with! Incredible!

  • The worst part is that there is no evidence that it wasn't just PURE fiction, without even a real THOUGHT to kill anybody.

    I am sure that at some point, a kid in school will discover that he or she loves to write, and will have a great talent for writing. Perhaps the next Poe. Then the kid will go to jail (after a short story assignment) and learn how to commit crimes for a living.

  • We are discussing whether or not school staff should accept this garbage as an "essay."

    While some might argue that fiction CAN be bad enough to deserve jail time :-), apparently, the teacher didn't think it was garbage at all (at least for a 13 year old writer).

    I would not, for example, ever let Steven King babysit for me.

    Perhaps not, but I would hope that you wouldn't send a 13 year old version of Steven King to jail, just as he was discovering that he liked to write fiction.

    Remember, this was FICTION, a made up story. Something that didn't happen. Not necessarily anything that the author wants to happen (Unless you believe that all horror writers are really dangerously homocidal).

  • It's relevant 'cuz geeks seem to be the target for most of this bullshit. Look at all the geeks and/or protogeek Quake players that suffered in light of the knee-jerk reactionary thinking.

    Maybe he was dumb, maybe he was a bully, maybe he was a total inbred-Jed with 47 teeth and an uncontrollable urge to rub his nose on fire hydrants. Who cares? The point is he was entrapped by a school system who clearly doesn't want anything to do with kids that deviate from the norm (as in Norman Rockwell) any tiny bit at all... just another step in the State's unwritten mandate of creating and celebrating a boring, mediocre populace which perform thier jobs without question and act like good little consumers around Christmas.

    Try to remember that geeks often do (and indeed should) have more interests than the latest toy that's come down the pike. The Real World® affects you whether you like it or not, so it's best to be aware of it and prepare yourself accordingly.

    As the french say: "Those who don't do politics will be done in by politics."

    -- (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • And a funny thing about "life": sometimes the "pissed-on" get pissed-off and start becoming violent. This should surprise no one any more than a wild, or even domesticated, animal attacking a human at random, when frightened.

    Pissing people off INVITES them to act violently. Calling such reactions insane does not discharge the responsibility from those who drove them insane to begin with.
  • Sure, one *should* take responsibility for one's actions and sane people do.

    However, repeated abuse (and by this I mean any action that the abuser would not wish done to them) causes people to lose their sanity.

    Insane people are sometimes violent.

    Ergo, abuse can be expected to precipitate violence. Call it "inciting to violence" if you will.

    Saying that mature people don't respond violently to minor "pissing-offedness" doesn't fix the problem.

    Does this mean we should treat each other with kid gloves all the time? No, but perhaps if we treat eachother the way we'd like ourselves to be treated such violence would decrease.

    Stories like these make me angry. I can imagine less sane people being driven to violence by them "in retaliation". I'm not sure if that would be such a bad thing: the self-proclaimed spokespeople for society just don't seem to get the idea that abuse breeds retaliatory violence. Perhaps more evidence of this might change their minds. Somehow, though, while eventually solving the problem of abuse, I don't think such an approach is optimal.
  • My big problem with Katz is that he makes a lot of broad generalizations without attempting to back them up. Worse, many of his generalizations are wrong.

    See, for example, the recent "Onward Christian Geeks" article. The thing was so riddled with untested assumptions, snideness, and baseless harrassment that it was almost nauseating.

    On top of that, Katz seems to have bought heavily into the twentieth century doctrine of victimization -- a philisophy that I find repugnant.

    This isn't bashing. This is criticism. When did it become okay to define the statements of anyone with whom you do not agree as "bashing"? Or rather, since when does that prove anything?
  • I guess I see a kind of justice in Katz-bashing. While I choose not to engage in it (other than the occasional sarcastic "Watch out for the evil Christians" comment) it seems to me that his tendencies to dehumanize and villify anyone he does not agree with almost makes it okay to dehumanize and devillify.

    Its juvenile, I choose not to do it myself, but still there is a certain poetic justice to it.

  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @07:14AM (#1564249) Homepage
    First off, let me say that I think the "system" probably made a mistake in this case. But I would like to take a second to answer many /.'ers false assumptions regarding the right to Free Speech.

    You see, according to long judicial precedent, the right to free speech does not mean being free from the consequences of what you say. It frees you to say it. After you say it, you can be held accountable for the content of what you said. So, if you (to use the classic example) shout "fire!" in a crowded theater, you can be held accountable for the damage done. Your right to free speech does not include this.

    You can also be held accountable for using "fighting words" or other things designed to incite people to criminal action. And treason and sedition are still crimes, as is espionage. You are not permitted to divulge legitimate state secrets without consequence. Unfortunately, this approach to free speech (the only rational one in my opinion) has been eroded by a lot of people who want to be able to say or do anything without consequence. So far, the courts have not bought in in most cases. I hope they continue to hold out.

    In any case, I don't think that there is any natural right to speak without consequences. The logical extremes of this idea are absurd and untenable. Do you really want someone who says "I'm going to kill Bill Clinton" to be free from any questioning?

    In this case, a kid wrote an essay that was genuinely disturbing. While throwing him in jail may have been a bit much, I think asking him about it, counseling him for it, etc. were entirely appropriate! I'm sorry, but any kid who writes something this graphic (have you read it?) is very likely to have a problem. The school system would be derelict to not inquire -- and yes, this /is/ profiling. But there I'm not aware of any legal or moral reason that it shouldn't be done.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not defending public schools. In fact, I am a staunch advocate of home schooling. But in this case I think that they are doing the best they can with what they've got.

  • How about for overreacting to the nth degreee. Would a parent/teacher sitdown and talk meeting have accomplished much more. Panic is the downfall of sentient species. The teacher, principal and judge, all panicked (sp).

    Ah, but why?

    See, everyone knew it was wrong. Instead of crying, it was wrong, it was obvious, lets find out why they believed a sit-down wouldn't be enough, and deal with that problem.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • Obvious threat? You gotta be kidding. What this kid wrote is not a threat. It's a story. Story, fiction, ring a bell? It's not true. Some people are just too paranoid for their own good.

    Real names. If the kid wrote a short story about how he saved the life of some girl in the class and they kissed and were really happy together, it wouldn't take too much thought to consider that the kid might like that girl.

    Sadly, it takes very little thought to consider a story where real people get shot to be a threat. Even if, after more thought it's obviously just a story, the fear of others' 20/20 hindsight can take over.

    Somebody should have just talked to the kid is said alot...exactly how should the kid have been talked to? We obviously don't want the kid to have been made to feel like he was an outcast, or violated some thought code--you can shove that on a kid in juve or in a counselors office.

    What would have been a reasonable act to have been done that would be a fair defense for the administrator if the kid all of the sudden turned around a few months later, changed his mind, and did shoot up his school?

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • Jail is totally inappropriate in this case. Jail is a bullying manuver. We need to cry out about this. Suspension with required counciling is the appropriate action.

    So you're telling me that suspension with required counciling is NOT bullying? We'd be hearing the same stuff from Katz if that happened, and you know it.

    Besides, lemme get this straight. They think this kid might kill, so...they're going to tell him he's not welcome as part of the school community right now, and that they think he's crazy?

    Sorry, everyone still gets fired for letting the kid shoot up the school.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • by Rick_T ( 3816 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:19AM (#1564259) Homepage
    | Any grade 7 should be able to write better than
    | that. It really makes me worry about schools
    | today.

    Back when I was in high school (class of '90), I was the editor of the school's literary magazine. I've seen writing as bad as that from juniors (who were apparently proud enough of their work to submit it to the literary magazine - it wasn't a requirement!) As a graduate student, I've taught a number of freshman-level chemistry labs. I've gotten lab reports from students that were written as poorly as this seventh grader's essay. I guess what I'm saying here is that schools "today" have been as bad for at least the past ten years.

    Should the kid have been arrested for writing this essay? Heck no. Should the kid have been given a perfect score on it? Hell no! The first sentence alone would have made *my* seventh grade teacher give the thing an "F". Honestly, it sounds like the kid did a little too *much* "freeon" before class that day.

    Having said all of this, I feel a little sorry for the kid because I put one of *my* short stories into my school's literary magazine. This story was about an abused child who ends up shooting his parents. I wasn't an abused child and I had no intention of shooting my parents, but I *was* questioned about the story at length.
    This happened even though the story was written in third person and used no "real" names. It's a good thing that Columbine hadn't happened then, or I might have been put in jail!

    [PS - No grammar flames about this post, please. Slashdot ain't no literary magazine! ;) ]
  • The kid was harrassed for clearly fictional gun-related "threats", and yet the story contains another threat that is much more real and yet was completely ignored:

    ...we both wated and wated for Ismael because he was supposed to bring the ounce so we could get high...

    NO ONE expressed any sort of concern that this thirteen-year-old kid might be getting involved in drugs (a threat to himself). That a school-teacher could applaud such content without feeling some sort of concern for the child's perceptions and behaviour in regard to drugs is appalling to me.

  • >Dracula was about a great warrior for good >turning into an evil monster who destroyed and >corrupted all he held dear.

    True, true, except for the fact that dracula didn't kill people "because they pissed him off" or smoke dope and inhale freon.

    >Looks to me that expanding on the basic concept, >this kids story, rather than a terrorist threat, >could have become a great classic of horror.

    Sorry, I don't see it. I remember being in school which was not all that long ago since I'm only 21, and I remember assignments like this. This is the kind of thing that I would write because I wanted to freak my teacher out or get people upset. It's the kind of thing that a kid can do because it fits the assignment, so straight off the bat any punishment is unjust, yet at the same time, it defies the "purpose" of the assignment.

    Now I can't believe he got a 100 for that piece of writing, although I don't claim to be up on writing standards for (7th?) graders. But that's beside the point. Seems to me to be primarily a case of neither a dangerous person exposing his intent, nor a case of a completely harmless event, but just a case of a regular smart ass kid, freak/geek or not, who just wanted to rattle people's cages.

    It worked. :)

  • I agree. Pointing out errors in the article might be considered offtopic (for those who don't care about proper punctuation or grammar), but it is certainly not "troll"-ish. Hopefully, justice will be done when it comes time to Meta Moderate.
  • You can indeed compare a college student with a seventh grader.

    In both cases, a work of fiction was written that referred to acts of murder against classmates (mentioned by name).

    I cited the Baker story because it DOES compare:
    1. The school authorities took action against the student for writing something that the school authorities decided could be taken as a threat against another student.
    2. The student was arrested as a consequence.
    The dismissal of Jake Baker was upheld by the courts. The government's prosecution of Baker failed because the govenment failed to show intent to carry out the threat; the judge referred to Baker's story as "a rather savage and tasteless piece of fiction."

    Thus, according to the courts, an institution is allowed to dismiss the student for such actions, apparently if they violate some code of ethical conduct. However, such writings don't pass legal muster of showing intent to cause harm. (Note: Baker's case was tried in Federal court; Texas may have its own laws and precedents; again, I am not a lawyer.)

    And I think it is this last thing that has people so up in arms... nobody believes that Christopher Beamon INTENDED to do any harm to his classmates... and if there was no intention of harm, how can there be a threat? And if there's no threat, why was he arrested?

    This is a question that nobody here can answer. I just hope that the American public sees the kind of slippery slope they are sliding down when they pursue these kinds of things, whether it be a college student writing on, a seventh grader writing a "scary essay," or a pre-teen attempting to steal a kiss from another pre-teen.
  • by lar3ry ( 10905 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:36AM (#1564276)
    I remember a few of years ago, a student named Jake Baker at the University of Michigan wrote piece of erotic fiction on USENET ( that described acts of rape, sexual torture, and murder of a classmate, who was mentioned by name.

    He had prepended a disclaimer to his work (mentioning that it contained "lots of sick stuff") and he put his real name on the postings.

    When the University was informed of the postings from an alumnus who is an attorney in Moscow (!!!), he was dismissed from the University. The 6th Circuit court of appeals affirmed the dismissal.

    Now... the case that Jon sites is different in that this was schoolwork that the 7th grader wrote, but the similarity was that people were mentioned by name.

    I agree with Jon's sentiments that students should have freedom of speech and press (which applies here? I'm not a lawyer.). However, the University of Michigan case is a precedent that has already undergone appeal in federal court that states that such writings COULD and ARE considered threatening.

    Jake's story was posted to one of the groups in early 1995. This was way before the Columbine killings. Instead of seeing an increased panic among school administrators, I see continuity from what they were doing four years ago.

    Now... I do not for one minute believe that either Christopher Beamon or Jake Baker meant to threaten anybody by their writings. However, there is still a precedent that considers these writings as threatening and should be punished.

    For this reason, I think Jon is jumping the gun here in saying that this has anything to do with the Columbine shootings or the perceived "anti-geek" attitudes that were mentioned in the previous "Hellmouth" stories.

    Maybe, just maybe, those shootings made school administrators more willing to take quick action.

    Nevertheless, I do not agree with the disposition of either Jake Baker's case, nor with Chris Beamon's.

    I think that if schools are going to prosecute people for such things, then there should be a clear policy explained to all the students; the ground rules must be made clear if we are to try to avoid such things that may upset other students or their parents. If a school has such rules, they should be published and placed under the scrutiny of the public. If they are too draconian, allow them to be challenged by the parents, teachers, or students... even the ACLU.

    Otherwise, I can see this being a precedent for yet another case, where a five year old says to another student "Come back here! I'll kill you!" and gets expelled.

  • I don't have any problem with the subjet matter.

    Frankly, I would have given him a D for the spelling errors alone.

    Aside from that, the grammar is all but nonexistant.

    Even if I was being extremely kind, I would feel that was being remiss in my duty as a teacher if i scored it higher than a B-.

    I'm not shocked that they locked him up. I'm cynical enough that I've come to expect that sort of thing. There are two things that shock me.

    The first thing, obviously, is how easy it is to get an A these days. I would have flunked out of english writing drivel like that 10 years ago.

    The second thing is the discrepency between the school's description of the student to the press and their description they put on his report card.

    His report card says that he is an "Outstanding" student, while the school told the press that he is a "consistent discipline problem"

    I used to work for a software company that sold their wares exclusively to the primary education industry. I dealt with public school educators day in and day out. Dozens of them every day, hundreds of them in a month. In my unqualified opinion, our education system should be burnt to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.

    Disclaimers: I am not a teacher, but both of my parents are.
  • I think it's interesting that the slashdot community is so quick to point out all 100 errors in any story about Linux put forth by the mainstream media and yet we take this story completely at face value.

    We have no idea what really happened and we won't have any hope of knowing for several months.

    I wish there were still news publications that could be trusted to deliver real facts and research.

    Oh, well...
  • First off, most private schools currently recieve NO government funding. I've seen many private schools loosen up over the years, but its not nearly as out of control as public schools are (in general), nor will they ever be. The difference between private schools and public schools, is that in private school the controls are in the hands of parents (a far more singular voice) and the board/principle. In public school, you've got 50k voices, and a particularly loud voice, the teachers' union -- no real leadership. For private schools it is simply a matter of taking control of the reigns, and deciding WHAT the objectives are (barring civil litigation and the like).

    That being said though, this kind of random violence is bound to happen at private schools as well. The problem has between little and nothing to do with discipline. Private schools do have other more significant advantages, but I don't believe this is one of them. Kids such as the ones at Columbine aren't neccessarily going to set off any blips.

    Futhermore, this "random violence" problem is statistically not that big of a problem, for public and private schools alike. There have always been kids with serious emotional issues at all schools. I, for one, believe that if we could somehow get the media to not DWELL (eg: one hour -- people shot -- end of story) on such acts we'd never see such spikes in violence -- they're clearly "inspired" by one another. Kids have not fundamentally changed in the past 20 years. It is the media. Forcing the media to ignore the situation would be best; I suspect the ACLU might object. ;)
  • Really, honestly, it should be illegal to write a story like this, and a felony offence to film one. We just need to apply the law equally. Then the next time all the cable channels make a fictionalized account of some well-publicized crime we can arrest them all and get something decent on the air instead...

    (For the humour impaired: :) )

  • I hope something is done to this teacher. What a fscked up way to praise a child who has done a paper (at your request) that you deemed "outstanding" and worth 100, send him off to jail.

    I'd like to see the teacher spend a week in jail, then perhaps she would learn the meaning of threats and see some "real" danger*


    *Disclaimer: While this sounds like a mean thing to say, remember, I'm not a schoolboy so I have a right to free speach.

  • Sarcasm and humour not withstanding..

    Overlooking the terrible grammar and poor spelling, the kid was pretty creative about doing his homework. He saw his cultural context clearly enough to write a scarry story about something not seen in a traditional 'horror' movie.

    I just hope that the creators of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, et al. do not decide to sue him for IP infringements. The kid wrote something that might serve as a back-plot for an NYPD Blue episode. He wrote a scary story, true to life as he sees it, and close enough to home to provoke an emotional response, not just from his audience but from the community. Good for him.

    But, bad for the rest of us. He drew on what he saw for his inspiration. Everyone was enthralled by the Columbine tragedy. Cop shows like Homicide and NYPD Blue are and have been (Hill Street) very entertaining for a long time. We've come full circle folks. This is art imitating life that imitated art.

    Should a scarry story, that is possible, be punished on the grounds that it may be a threat or that it may inspire someone to perform an IRL copy-cat killing? Should people who help to bring such a vision before the public eye be viewed as accomplices, since they serve as potential inspiration? Should Anthony Hopkins be jailed for his portrayal of Hannibal Lechter?

    But why beat around the bush? Let's ban the Bible - it's full of sex and violence, and that's just not healthy. It sets a bad example for our children:
    Cain killing Abel (worse than Columbine)
    David sending his lovers husband off to war (on the next Ricci Lake)
    God testing Abrahams loyalty by telling him to kill his son (sounds gang related)
    Sodomy (not in MY backyard)
    Prostitution (that Jesus hung out with the WRONG element - see what happened to him?)
    Those Commandments (who does this Yahweh think he is, infringing on my inalienable human rights).

    Ah well. Disasters come in threes. I think I'll complete the pattern and blow away a few co-workers.
  • So I suppose that BJM is an out-of-the-question movie?

    Beamon wrote for a small audience. Using real names just added to the realism of the plot. It made it more scarry. Had he been told that it was for a large-scale contest, he would have probably made up names. Heaven help him if one of the made up names was a real one though. Then he's a premeditated stalker, rather than a lucky guesser.

    Than again, it's entirely possible that he's another Hinkel, headed off at the pass by vigilant administrators. Yeah! That's it, I'm sure.

    As for setting policy, it's a real hard call. It's so subjective, that we'd be looking at law suits and expulsions for looking at someone funny. A grandmother of mine died of Emphysema. Your smoking, or faking a cough with your friends (even if completely unrelated to me) may be argued to be insensitive and a cause of emotional distress...

    I realize that it's taking the point to an absurdity, but there's not a clear place to draw the magic line. "That's a very angry looking integral sign Little Johnny! Off to therapy with you!"
  • by YeOldeGnurd ( 14524 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @05:55AM (#1564307) Homepage Journal
    There are three stories here:

    1. The kid writes a scary story.
    2. The kid ends up in jail.
    3. The teacher gave that story 100% Outstanding?!?

    I must be getting old. How can a seventh grader be praised for a story with such horrible grammar, spelling, and structure? Sure, it was creative. Sure, it was scary. But even in this email-driven, post-modern age, there are still some rules for well-formed written English.

    The teacher ought to be forced to read Strunk & White []. The kids ought to be assigned to each memorize a chapter. Yikes.

    Bravery, Kindness, Clarity, Honesty, Compassion, Generosity

  • You know I was thinking the same thing. Someone who writes a story about failing to score an ounce and then going outside to do makeshift inhalants should probably be under supervision for different reasons. Especially if he's a known discipline problem. Sounds to me like this kid needs a lot more help than a lockup is going to provide.

  • I'm sure he wasn't the only one to change the premise of the story. Happened all the time when I was in school.

    He did make an abrupt jump from waiting at home for his drugs and killing 20 people. That's sort of a red flag.

    There are always kids who are "disciplinary problems." That doesn't mean they should be tossed in jail. He was asked to write a
    fictional story. He did that. Somehow they decide that it's not really a fictional story, but a terrorist threat. Who made that leap of

    I agree with you here. It's not a terrorist threat. But it is either 1) A big red flag that someone should help this kid before he hurts himself or others, or 2) a nasty joke that he should be disciplined for. Either way we shouldn't be reading about it on /., that's only going to fuel the fire if it's a prank, and it will only hurt him if he really needs help.

  • I remember the Baker case too and IIRC, there was some off usenet stalking going on between Baker and the girl as well. Regardless, Baker was an adult who should know the consequences. Beamon may not know better, so his case is a bit different.

    Personally I think disciplinary action and a national media frenzy are not going to help anyone. What should have happened is the teacher/principal/counselor/shrink/whoever should have sat him down and got to the bottom of it, and then handled the situation with some tact.

  • Talking about shooting another kid is not a crime, regardless of what school administrators say. Shooting someone is. Writing
    about violence is not a crime, and should not be.

    I agree, He should have never been treated like a criminal. Both the school's and his best interests would have been better served by dealing with him personally and trying to figure out what motivated him to name classmates by name in a fictional shooting spree. No person on /. can know what he was thinking, but he does. Talk to him, talk to his parents, figure out what it is he is getting at, and get him on the right track if something is wrong. Maybe nothing is. Maybe not. It's gonna be a hell of a lot harder to figure that out now as everyone backpedals away from the facts to pretect their interests.

  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:08AM (#1564320) Journal
    Something's not right here, as several have pointed out. A crappy essay receives a 100% "outstanding" grade. (This might be adequately explained by lowered standards in school, but still, 100+%?) Being asked to read it aloud in class, then being sent to jail for a week? Why would a teacher send the student to jail if the essay was so good? Laughing at the portrayal of the death of a teacher?

    Hypothesis One: The teacher was genuinely amused, and a student who was in the class and heard it read aloud reported it to higher authorities.

    To corroborate this theory, wait to see if that teacher faces disciplinary action for "encouraging" violent threats.

    Hypothesis Two: If you're paranoid, you'll love this. The teacher was disturbed by the contents of the note. To play along with and placate the student, she gives him the best possible grade and overacts her enjoyment of the story. She then later turns him in, after he's left.

    If this is the case, the teacher will not face disciplanary action, and will probably be held up as an example of how to act under these circumstances in the educational circles.

    Does anyone have anything to add to resolve these apparent inconsistencies?
  • I am 17 years old. Honestly I would not kill anyone.

    Can you say that never, ever, in your entire life, you have never, or will never, ever even THINK about killing another person.

    Because that's what this is about. THOUGHT. Not action, thought.

    This boy harmed nobody. He did not kill anyone. He did not bring a gun to school. He did not bring a knife. He didn't say "I'm going to kill you" to anyone. He made no threats. He harmed no-one in any way at all.

    He wrote some words on a page, at the request of his teacher, and read them aloud. He spent 10 days in jail for this non-crime.

    Face up to it. They said to write a scary story. The Columbine massacre sure scared the hell out of me, and I'm a grown man, not a child. Just think of how much it must have scared some kids, that a thing like this could happen. Then a kid writes a story similar to that, that he considers scary, and goes to JAIL for it?

    Yes, there should be rules. Yes, there should be limits. No, the rules and limits should not be absolutely insane.


  • Well, the story is total crap that deserves an F, in any case. I'll give them that.

    Here's the story: (it's on the Dallas Morning News Website)

    My flashlight went out and I heard someone right behind me and I turned in a very slowly scared way and boom the lights came on and the door bell rang. I walked very slowly and creepy and turned the knob ding dong the door bell went again. I said just a minute and I will be right there and I looked through the little hole in the door and Robin said Boo. I told him to come in and have a seat and we both wated and wated for Ismael because he was supposed to bring the ounce so we could get high but half an hour later still no Ismael so I got the idea of freeon and we grabbed a bag and a knife and ran out back to the airconditionar. We througth the bag over the nostle and covered it tightly and used the knife to press the volv. We started to hear something after we got high so we ditched everything we quickly run to the door to see who it was and there wasn't anybody there then we heard someone at the back door to see who it was I thought it was a crook so I busted out with a 12 guage and Ismael busted out with 9 mm and we step off the porch and this bloody body droped down in front of us and scared us half to death and about 20 kids started cracking up and pissed me off so I shot Matt, Jake, and Ben started laughing so hard that I acssedently shot Mrs. Henry. Ismael saw somebody steeling antifreeze so Ismael shot over ther near the airconditonar and hit somebody [indecipherable word] also scattered out and went home and my mom drove up and everything was back to normal but they didn't have any heads.

    Even so, if it was read properly, it could be fairly good. Reading in front a group is a lot different than writing something.

    Also, the grade depends on the intent of the assignment. The teacher would grade differently if she was wanting a plot development type-of-thing rather than simple grammer. Or perhaps it was just to get the student to speak in front of the class, get them used to public-speaking..

    You just can't say this didn't deserve a good grade because you don't know the intent of the assignment.


  • Our sue-happy society pisses me off to no end.

    I will be enraged if the parents of this kid attempt to sue the school. And I am sure they are getting plenty of offers from lawyers this minute. Yes, it was stupid of the school and they over-reacted... but to sue them, and waste education funds because of it!?

    I don't think the school should be sued either. I think that the principal and the teacher should be fired and banned from working for the state (at a minimum) ever again.

    You just really can't understand how much this angers me.

    Yes, society is to blame.. Yes, sueing people has gotten entirely out of control..

    However, beating the crap out of 'em doesn't seem like a feasible option. :-)

    Honestly, I feel that there should be punishment against the people who caused this outrage to occur. Yes, it is an outrage. No, nothing will probably happen from it. That's the real tragedy, because this teacher and principal are still in charge of myriads of students, and one just can't help but feel sorry for those poor kids.


  • My goal is not revenge. My goal is to weed.

    Stupid people like the prinicpal who caused all this crap in the first place should not be in charge. Toss him out, put someone else in his place.

    Revenge is a bad thing. Taking stupid idiots out of power is not.

    A student at MIT dies from binge drinking that was involved with a frat. The dead student's parents decide they're going to stick it to the school, since its their fault.

    I agree that your example is not a case where sticking it to the school (and the frat) is an option. The student did this dumb thing himself.

    But that's entirely different from one person doing nothing wrong, and having wrong come to him because of some idiot in power.

  • I never signed those things when I was a kid. I bloody well refused.

    More to the point, I did so loudly, angrily, and blatently. Teacher handed me the paper, I read it, said out loud, "I won't sign this thing," and threw it in the trash. Every year I saw the principal because of it, but, legally they can't make you sign shit. If you don't agree with it, you don't sign it.

    If they FORCE you to sign it, then it is not legally binding. By rejecting it, refusing to sign it publically like that, then even if they force you to sign it later, it means nothing. Signature under duress.

    Anyway, it got me a reputation as a "bad" kid, which didn't bother me, but did bother teachers. Let me add I had straight A's too, with practically no effort, which I imagine pissed off the teachers to no end. :-)

    Oh well. Screw 'em. They didn't respect me, and I didn't respect them. But, at least it was a mutual hatred you could rely on.

  • by Otto ( 17870 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:30AM (#1564330) Homepage Journal
    First off, he probably shouldn't have got 100, but perhaps the true brillance was in the reading of it, okay people? Interpretation is everything... :-)

    Stories like this anger me, because it causes me to recall back to my high school days, just under a decade ago..

    Mainly, however, it reminds me of a story.. :-)


    My sister is diabetic. We discovered this maybe three or four years ago. She has to take two shots per day. No problem.

    Except, the idiot people at the school won't allow her to bring a needle to school. Fir enough, easy compromise we suggest, keep the needles and insulin in the nurse's office, so she can come there to take her shot. Many kids did this when I was a child (this is 7th grade, BTW).

    School's response? No, we can't do that because if some other kid wandered in and shot themselves full of insulin, we'd be liable... WTF!?!?!? The stuff is in a locked cabinet, in a locked room behind the principals office, which has two people in it at all times. They must be joking right?

    Not at all. In fact, they wouldn't even allow her to take her shots ON SCHOOL PROPERTY because then they could be held as encouraging DRUG ABUSE! Can you believe it? I sat there with my mother as the principal spouted this nonsense off. I almost hit him.

    He convieniently ignored the fact that without the shots, my sister would probably die. It was all we could do to get him to allow her out of classes to take the shots. Even then, she had to go out to the PARKING LOT where my mom had to be waiting in the car with her medication and blood-sugar testing equipment. Needless to say, they moved away from there soon after, but I still say we should have sued their asses.

    Remember, this whole story is pre-Columbine. The point is that schools are now so concerned about liability, esp. after the shootings and so forth, that all forms of common sense in the school system has been lost. NOBODY, not the principal, not the superintendant, no-one, is allowed to use their brain in any form whatsoever, because they fear that they'll be accountable if something happens down the road.

    And that of course is the problem. Brainless droids mindlessly implementing a policy that's open to interpretation. Ever read those "zero-tolerance" policies? You could get expelled for a year for having a single aspirin at some schools. Seriously.

    The fact is that when any policy gets implemented with NO exceptions, you get some unfair occurances. Sometimes extremely unfair, esp. in the public school system.

    What's really sad is that a lot of the policies are downright illegal. Many take away the kids rights (yes, kids have rights too) without informing the parent, informing the kid, or informing the state. If any parent actually read these things, they'd disagree with many.

    But how many people would take a school to court over these policies, until it directly affected their child? Few. Damn few.

    These are PUBLIC schools. The public should decide these things, true, but they must be WITHIN THE LAW. That's all I ask. If a child can have an aspirin outside the school, he should be able to have one inside the school.

  • Some moderator over the age of 21 moderate this up as funny. Being a huge ST fan, this made my fucking day.
    "We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece
  • It [freon] will work as well as most other inhalants. It will indeed get you high.

    Only if most other inhalants work by merely causing oxygen deprivation (which is possible, given that oxygen deprivation can make one pleasantly - or unpleasantly - lightheaded). It's been a long time since I took any classes about it, but as I recall, freon is mucho unreactive. It even requires UV to make it react with something very reactive - like ozone in the upper atmosphere. Of course once it does the reaction continues unchecked (a radical chain reaction IIRC). But in any case I have my doubts that freon would react - at the mild temperatures and pressures of a human body - to produce anything toxic or psychoactive. But it would work as well as any other inert substance to keep adequate oxygen from being absorbed into the blood.

    This is not to say that it's safe to inhale freon. Oxygen deprivation can kill.
  • by drox ( 18559 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:07AM (#1564334)
    The teacher gave Beamon a score of 100 on the writing assignment, on which she also wrote "outstanding."

    Then, perhaps remembering the ongoing post-Columbine assault...
    [snip largely-irrelevant bit about who the assault is directed at, as that shouldn't matter. It's wrong, regardless of who it's targeting] she thought better of the grade and his story, and turned Beamon in to the principal.

    Here's where this really gets sinister. Turning him in to the principal was the entirely wrong thing to do. Turning him in to (or just asking him to visit with) a school guidance counselor would be far more beneficial.

    It's the counselor's business to determine who in the school is sufficiently disturbed to really do something destructive to themselves, others, or school property, and who is just being normal (or even harmlessly abnormal) for an adolescent. At least that's what counselors did when I was a student, lo these many years ago.

    The counselor, who should be more qualified than the principal in these matters, can then determine whether the police need to get involved.

    Calling in the police in this case was even more wrong-headed than calling in the principal. This kid wrote a paper ferchissakes. He didn't detonate a bomb, come to school drunk or high, or assault other students. Those are the kinds of things that principals and police need to put a stop to - not creative writing, however violent or poorly spelled it is.
  • This story should not have resulted in the incarceration of the child. It should have resulted in a parent conference. The school should have asked the parent about knowledge of or signs of drug abuse.

    One of the problems out there right now, though, is parents who go ballistic whenever a school official suggests that their little darlings are leass than perfect. My mother works in a high school and they had an incident where a ring of students was selling copies of upcoming tests for profit. When the parents of the children who bought and sold the tests were brought in, several of them threatened to sue the school if they damaged these kids chances of getting into ivy league schools.

    Parents do not seem to see that an unearned degree doesn't do anyone any good. Cheating doesn't improve things for anybody in the long run.

    This is a halloween horror story. But the horror is the inarticulate writing, the unimagintive substitution of gore for fear, and the fact that a 13-year-old is fully literate in the drug culture.

    Something should have been done for this young man a long time ago. Someone should have rewarded his diligence and been disappointed in his laziness. Someone should have been proud of him.

    I don't know the particulars here, but freedom is not a right of childhood. It is not and it shouldn't be. Parents and educators should have both a right and a obligation to constrain the behaviors of the young. The young should have the right to try and get away with everything they can. That's what the passage into adulthood is, the establishment of a unique identity that knows that society is bound to him and he to society. I don't mean blind, mindless obedience, I mean enlightened self-interest.

    Nihilism and self-destruction seem to have replaced optomism and cooperation. I don't know why, but I do know two things that should NOT be done about it:

    1) Children should not be treated as criminals because they have the irresponsibility of youth.

    2) Children should not be allowed to run wild, doing whatever they please, saying whatever they please without regard to how it affects others.

    The condescending and paranoid adult attitudes towards the young dovetail neatly with the arrogant, disrespectful, "serve me now" attitude that the young seem to display towards educators.

    The combination is a formula for disaster.

    A 13-year old doesn't know that he will die. He WILL die. When he dies, everything stops. If he loves, everything he loves will one day be lost. Time is short, life is so precious, and we are teaching our young to waste it by being callous, unfeeling, indifferent, nonchalant, self-centered, nihilistic, and bored. The worst thing a young person can be is passionate.

    The sad thing to me is that I think it is the ones who deep in their hearts know that life is a magnificient, intoxicating, awesome thing, those who have shown their caring and vulnerable hearts cautiously and tentatively to others, who have had their deep feeling and thought mocked and belittled. They are the ones most harmed. They are the ones most likely to be unable to live with this world that seems not have a heart. They are the ones most harmed by the "paranoid adult" attitude that so rankles Katz and company.

    The problem is that the adults can't tell the difference between those alienated children and the others who definitely do exist. Those whom we have made sociopaths. Those who take pleasure only in cruelty. Who have known only the tenderness of the blue flickering phosphor tube, those who have been held in human arms so rarely that they are scarecely aware of the absence. Those who cannot see others as feeling beings because they no longer are.

    You see, they've learned that the only love they've had, that flickering phospohor tube, only wants to sell them something. It doesn't love them either.

    We need to ask ourselves (those of us here old enough to be parents) what we are doing by bring a child into this world and raising them this way.

    I'm going to quote from what I think may be one of the most important films of all time, a film made in the mid-1970's called Network. Watch it. Feel it. Make it a part of you.

    "...because fewer than 8% of you people read books. Because fewer than 15% of you people read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what comes to you over this tube. Right now there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the Gospel. The Ultimate Revelation. This tube can make or break Presidents, Popes, Prime Ministers, this tube is the most awesome goddamned force in the whole godless world, and that's why woe is us...

    "So, you listen to me! Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamned amusement park. A traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, jugglers, and football players! We're in the boredom killing business! So, if you want the truth, go to God. Go to your gurus. Go to yourselves because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. Man, you're never gonna get the truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer, and that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, just look at your watch, at then end of the hour, he's going to win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear.

    "But YOU people sit there, night after night, day after day; We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the lies we're spinning here. You're beginning to believe that television is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing, we are the illusion!

    He proceeds to chant "Turn off your television sets, turn them off, turn them off and leave them off, turn them off!"

    The screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, had something important to say, I think...

    I've rambled here. I haven't been exactly on point, but I'm concerned. I think our society is deeply sick and the problems of youth seem to me to point only at it getting worse. I don't think youth is to blame. Quite the reverse. We are for overcoddling, indulging, being fearful of the rebuke of parents, courts, lawyers. We don't hold children accountable when they're young and ready for moral learning, so we abuse them when they're adolescents and either (as I think most of them are) just awkward and searching for themselves, but basically just fine, or they are that tiny minority of true sociopaths, and its already too late for them. So we abuse the sensetive because we fear them, and we continue to let media and consumer culture raise our young because we are too busy making money to buy crap ourselves.

    I don't know the way out.

    I don't know what to do.
  • by Zoltar ( 24850 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @07:00AM (#1564356)

    All it takes is some "news story" from Podunk USA about some poor little innocent boy wrongly imprisoned blah blah blah... and people jump on the "This is wrong"..."Our rights are being infringed upon" "blah blah blah" bandwagon.

    You don't know the facts.. you know what the oportunistic sensationalistic media has presented.

    It might be accurate, it might not be. Sheesh. Why do we just love to believe the absolute worst.
  • by PigleT ( 28894 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:10AM (#1564377) Homepage
    just because one of his kids liked to draw belly buttons on her pictures

    Apparently, over here in the UK, kids' drawings /can/ be analysed by psychologists and are used in (particualrly primary) schools for spotting early signs of abuse at home. But at least we realise that it's only a sign, I think that's where a difference comes in.

    The problem with (post-) Columbine reactions is the f*cking LUDICROUS escalation from one kid's story to national newspaper and jail, etc. If the teacher requests "a scary story" then the results are /her/ fault.
    There is a sizeable inconsistency between the implied age where someone would write a horror story that scares the establishment IRL, and someone who can still get 100% for putting obscenities and misspelling stuff in the story - I mean, "pissed off" pisses me off, "acssedently" would be permissible younger than required for it to be scary, IMO.

    I object to the idea that "School killings ... invariably involve emotionally-disturbed adolescent white males with access to lethal weapons.", on racist grounds. There is *no* racial prerogative for school attacks / killings.
  • ...and got pissed. Thoughpolice are in effect, if you even think, or god forbid write, about doing doing something bad it will end you up in jail. Of course, this is only if you are someplace that doesn't respect human rights, like school.
  • Yup, it was called "Rage" and you can find it in the Bachman books with the Running Man and the Long Walk (a personal fav)

    Basically a kid gets a handgun and decides to be heard for a little while. Sad to think that one of the most prolific and successful writers of this era is really a deranged sociopath that needs counseling or jailtime to help him conform to the blandness of normal society. Wouldn't the world be a better place if he had been stifled as a child?

  • and this is why. For every situation where somebody is wronged in the slightest a gaggle of lawyers wanders over, says "Don't worry about a thing, I'll talk care of you. It won't cost you a dime unless we win." Person says o.k., lawyer goes to work. Somehow the L proves that somebody made a mistake, caused mental anguish (which should NEVER be equated to money), and generally caused someone to have a bad day. Then they argue that these feeling shoulds be compensated with money (of which the L gets 1/3). This adds up so eventually you are trading bad feelings (which everyone gets everyday) for money, which usually represents something of actual value. Eventually you must move to a society where you can't hurt anyone feelings ('cause of the fsckin' liability) or do anything out of the ordinary without fear of being sued into oblivion.

    Lawyers and thier greed are the single largest factor in the disintegration of rights and freedom in this country (US).

    Unfortunately no one wants to stop suing. Even the originator of this thread, while ranting against restrictions caused by lawsuits, wants to sue the school and take more money because of the already ridiculous nature of the situation.

    Anybody see the Southpark where they addressed this issue (schools getting sued for children playing around with each other, err, sexually harassing one another)? Laughing at the patently absurd is good therapy, but not a solution. What is?
  • exactly, they didn't put him in prison (or did they?!?!), they had someone talk to him. Replace the professional law employment officer at schools with a professional therapist. Pay 'em with federal money taken from the War on Drugs (except alchohol and cigarettes(and viagra(old), prozac(middle), and ritalin(young)))
  • by Wah ( 30840 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:07AM (#1564389) Homepage Journal
    Putting a child in jail for writing a story.

    That's not simple? Not simply wrong? CYA does not make its o.k. to put people in jail for writing fiction. But, but, but, the liability..fsck the liability.

    Suddenly, this teacher would lose her job for not doing anything after such an obvious threat.

    How about for overreacting to the nth degreee. Would a parent/teacher sitdown and talk meeting have accomplished much more. Panic is the downfall of sentient species. The teacher, principal and judge, all panicked (sp).
  • Yes, to treat this person as a criminal would have been wrong. That is not what I got from the story, however. What I got was that the individual was seen as a danger to society, and was therefore removed from society. He should have subsequently received a lot of counselling as well. He wasn't removed for doing something wrong, he was removed because it appeared he was a danger to himself and to others. It is not only within the rights of school administrators to do what they can to protect the children under their care, it is their responsibility .

    Sure, in the "perfect world" we could assume he was just being artistic (though in that world, the "art" would not be understood by himself or anyone else, as those tendencies would be gone). In the "perfect world" we could let anyone do anything, we could trust everyone, there would be no need for money, communism would be the way of society, yada yada yada. But we're not in a perfect world. In the world we are in, utilitarianism is the most logical choice. The best way to service that end is through a capitalistic republic; one that occasionally infringes on personal liberties, but hopefully the victims of said infringement are in need of it more often than not. It may seem abhorable, but that's just the way it is. It is a reflection of the fact that this isn't a "perfect world." Should we close down all the jails just because there is a small percentage of the incarcerated that are not guilty of the crime for which they were commited?

    Your post amuses me. I know that there is a need for the paranoid, the consiracy-theorists, because without you the sane would fall completely into complacency. You keep us aware that we don't live in a perfect world. You keep us aware that people can make mistakes.

    And yes, I can say that I would not have shot the bully. I would have either beat him up or, barring the ability to do that, would have thought of some ingenious way to get revenge in a slow, coniving way (and never gone through with it). There is no way in the world I would have shot a bully however, and never did I ever fantasize about shooting anyone at all. I guess that makes me weird. Only twice in all my childhood did I ever get picked on and not just beat the guy up. Those two remaining times must not have had the psychological effect on me that your encounters had on you.

    Don't fall into the delusion that just because something is true for you, it is true for everyone. You are not the standard; the rest of society is not required to have the same psychoses as you. This egocentric view is something that could easily be annoying, if I was so inclined. It is something that is more prolific in this community than in most others, same as paranoia. Like I said before, they have their purposes.

  • And John Trimble's "Writing with Style" - I wish someone had given that to me when I was in 7th grade.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • umm.. the story was about getting high off freon (because their drugs hadn't arrived yet) and then shooting people because they got pissed by being spooked. This wasn't anything close to a school shooting.. so that was utterly dumb of them. Him talking about how he was getting high off freon and such seems far scarier than that. I can't see why anyone would make a fuss about the imaginary guns he had, and not the drugs.

    Lots of stories by adolencents are with violence, just not many with drug use. That's what they should be concerned with. Otherwise, it was just a political thing.. as it had no relevence to columbine at all.
  • You have to remember that he was a 7th grader... most 7th graders aren't exactly highly skilled in the arts of written language.

  • The boys story, while *unusual*, is not a problem. It is our reaction to it that causes long term damage. What did the boy learn from this? Violence and the implied threat of it scares people, and that gives him a sort of power, if not respect.

    How many of us have suffered through diversity training? Well, diversity is more than race and sex. It includes social behavior. As a general rule, a person who thinks, acts, or believes differently does not need to be locked up. When we learn to accept and appreciate people at the fringe of society we learn to stop pushing them over the edge.
  • Sort of like the problem the SCA group I'm in ran into with getting a practice site. Yep, consenting adults beating each other with rattan sticks and fencing foils while wearing appropriate safety equipment and being supervised, AFTER SCHOOL HOURS, break the no-weapons rule at the school we were supposed to be practicing at.

    A friend of mine who's a second-generation scadian liked to borrow his dad's chainmail to set off the metal detectors. The admin laughed it off, mostly, then. Now, they'd probably lock him up.

    Or maybe not. This is, after all, a city magnet school that concentrates a good bit on theater, not a white-bread suburban school that never had a sense of humor even when it didn't have metal detectors. :P

  • My housemate, my boyfriend, and one of the guys living across the street all, as minors, had some "well-meaning" adult tell them to commit themselves to a mental institution. My housemate actually got stuck in there for a matter of days, WITHOUT parental consent. This scares the hell out of me, and I think it should scare most people.

    I sort of end up with a split-down-the-middle situation; I'm fairly free with personal info (on the net and elsewhere), because I'm a resourceful little brat and I haven't done anything horribly illegal lately (though I used to commit the occasional acts of civil disobedience for various causes; never got arrested, though). However, I know that there are a lot of people who don't want les/bi/gay, pagan, leftist, supporter of drug legalization, scadian, or plenty of other things I'm not thinking of right now (all of which apply to me) as concepts that are traceable back to them. So the right to privacy is one of my big causes. I'd also appreciate freedom from the threat of being thrown in a mental institution (this was done to me by my mom, long story, but she didn't actually manage to get me in one *sigh of relief*) unless you are a genuine threat to society. And well, most people just aren't that dangerous.

    As I've posted before recently, my boyfriend fits the "profile" of an abusive man (broken home, "troubled" high school days, "fascination" with weaponry -- he's a wargamer and a SCA heavy fighter). However, I know damn well that the only way he'll EVER hit me is if I take up heavy fighting or he takes up fencing and we're both appropriately armored. Still, folks tell me we should break up because he's got all the signs of being abusive ... *rolls eyes*

  • Columbine was only the catalyst for this to get widespread attention.

    The Hellmouth has been going on for years, in one form or another. My mother, the valedictorian, suffered from it when she was told she couldn't be an exchange student because "HER father is just a stupid steel worker," so some girl whose father had a classier job got to go instead.

    Anyplace that clueless/ignorant teachers are given the opportunity to control the lives of students who are smarter (or at least make better use of their brains) than the teachers, there you will find a Hellmouth. They are everywhere, and have been for years. My mom identifies with Harris and Klebold, too. Not that she would ever have DONE something like that even if given the chance, but she understands the rage. She's been there, too. And this was in the shiny-happy 1960s. :P

  • The kid could well be the next Stephen King, not the next Ted Bundy. But guess what he's being treated as?

    THAT is wrong. And (speaking from personal experience) every school counselor I've had the misfortune of dealing with created more problems than she solved. When a student on meds is being so completely not-monitored that it becomes possible for her to fatally OD on Zoloft, and then the same folks hand out MORE Zoloft when my then-housemate goes to them saying "I need drugs," there is a big problem. When a senior throws a seventh grader up against a hallway wall and says "I'm going to fuck you before I graduate if it kills us both," the seventh grader reports it to the high school counselor, and is told "Oh, he's just a flirt, and if you can't handle it that's your problem!" ... I have a REAL problem believing in the validity of sending ANY kid who isn't a mindless sheep to one of these fools. I was sent to a counselor and she basically dismantled the coping strategies I had (which were nonviolent, btw), AND ignored my complaints of severe abuses going on in the system.

    Lots of kids write scary, depressing stories. Lots of kids enjoy scary, depressing stories. My 9th grade classmates and I freely traded old VC Andrews back and forth. Not exactly sweetness and light, there. And someone (accidentally or deliberately) being killed at school or at a school function is a staple of teen culture books and movies. It's been that way for quite a while. This teacher, at the very least, severely overreacted.

  • McMartin Preschool, anyone? OK, so that time it's the adults and not the students, but still. Kids were claiming that they were being flushed down toilets to be molested somewhere else, and 96% of people who had heard of the case believed that the McMartins were guilty?! This "protecting the kids" garbage has been out of hand for a long time. Now that the SRA scares are fading, we get to deal with "every strange kid is a potential psycho." Old dog, still hunts.

    Speaking of which, check out ... we've got a kid on death row for a triple murder he obviously had nothing to do with based on him being the neighborhood weirdo and the police coercing a borderline retarded 17-year-old boy into making a false confession by telling him that a polygraph "tells us your brain is lying to us." People are always willing to believe the worst of anyone even the slightest bit "abnormal" if it's in the best interests of their little darlings. Of course, the fact that it usually isn't in their best interests, but is in the best interests of someone who wants to get elected, is utterly beside the point. *rolls eyes*

  • This is an awful like the generalized psychosis about teen suicide (the biggie when I was in high school, well other than Satanism). "Don't talk about it because then someone might actually do it."

    But people NEED to talk about it. Why do you think it got so much media coverage in the first place? Even the media felt the need to talk about it. We on /. obviously feel the need to talk about it -- look how many posts this and other stories like it get. :)

    Those of us who write for purposes other than class assignments tend to work things through via our writing. Of course, some of it comes from thin air or from other resources -- my Amber fanfic certainly contains a lot of things that have nothing to do with MY reality. Yet I identify strongly with the "villain" of that story-world because he's another smart kid who couldn't stand the stupidity of the world anymore and went ballistic (at least, that's how I see it). There have certainly been times when I've wished I *did* have some appropriate way to make those who made me miserable suffer as they made me suffer. But it's better to write a story about blowing things up than to actually blow them up, n'est-ce pas?

  • And maybe the day after tomorrow one of the people getting pissed on gets a gun and blows away the pisser, and few innocent bystanders, before turning the gun on himself.

    Or, maybe the day after tommorrow a few of the pissed-upon band together for mutual protection and stop the bullies.

    Or, maybe parents and teachers come to understand that it's not a good idea to let kids piss on each other. (If you're consenting adults, of course, it's you're own damn business. Weird, but your own damn business.)

    That's life too.

  • so, the people who work at the airport don't respect peoples human rights, becuase if you talk about carrying a gun or bombing the airplane your ass gets thrown in jail immediately!
    Airports are not schools - few people spend several hours a day, five days a week in an airport. But yes, there are many restrictions made on travel in the name of false safety, or preventing smuggling, that do infringe upon human rights. The existence of bad laws is not a justification for more bad laws.
    You don't scream fire in a movie theater...
    Writing a story is in no way comparable to starting a dangerous stampede towards the exits.
    ...that is trying to finish up rebuilding from the fire a year ago where countless numbers of teachers and students were killed.
    Oh, please. Where was this? I think that the number of teachers and students killed in school shooting last year was quite countable, and very small compared to the number of people gunned down in the streets of any medium sized American city.
  • True. The drug part is a little unnecesary to the story, and there probably is a better paralel in literature, Dracula was the first I came up with.
    Jeckyl and Hyde, perhaps?

    As far as the grade is concerned, I wonder if it wsa the written version or the oral presentation that was graded?

  • This has made me remember something from grade school - sing along with me!

    On top of old smokey,
    All covered with blood,
    I shot my poor teacher,
    With a .44 slug.
    I went to her funeral.
    I went to her grave.
    Some people threw flowers.
    I threw a grenade.
    I looked in her coffin.
    She wasn't quite dead.
    So I took a bazooka,
    And blew off her head.

    Hmmm - should I be in prison???
    That was pre-Doom, so maybe Space Invaders and Pac Man were my problem.
  • I can't begin to describe how outraged I am that a kid could be jailed for writing a story in school. I can see counseling, or a teacher or administrator sitting the kid down and asking him why, or what he was thinking, or what might have provoked him to write a story such as he did, but to just cart him off to jail? It's sounding more and more like the school authorities are saying, "Write clean and sanitary stories, devoid of bad feelings and anything objectionable, or otherwise you will be punished." It sounds like something out of Huxley's Brave New World, except fortunately the public schools haven't yet begun drugging their students. Not yet anyway. But who knows? Maybe in the next couple of years they'll put anyone who deviates from the so-called norm on Prozac, and then all our kids will just be bubbly and happy and we'll have no problems whatsoever! Ha!

    Ah, we live in such a crazy age. I can only wonder if this madness will continue, and to what end. I just thank God that I managed to get out of the public school system two years ago, just before everything went down. I could already see it happening--Jonesboro had just happened a month or two before I graduated--and I worry about friends of mine who are still in high school.

    I remember my high school taking the stance that students, whether minors or adults, give up some or all of their constitutional rights at the door. I've heard of at least one court case that threw that attitude out. So where's the good old First Amendment in schools today? What happens if not just schools, but society itself, manages to make it illegal to write a story about violence, or express discontent with the system under which we live? It seems to me that a lot of people are going to be taken to jail. And on what charge? Inciting people to violence? Conspiracy? How about plain old creativity, or writing down feelings that would have otherwise been acted upon? What might have happened if the killers at Jonesboro or those at Littleton had written stories about what they wanted to do, rather than actually doing it? The tragedies might not have occurred.

    I can tell you, though, that if this trend continues, there's no way in hell I'm going to put my kids through public school.
  • What's really sad is that a lot of the policies are downright illegal. Many take away the kids rights (yes, kids have rights too) without informing the parent, informing the kid, or informing the state.

    I don't know about other schools, but where I go, this isn't quite the case.

    We have our student handbooks, of course, which outline all these asinine policies. Having (and having read) the handbook, of course, creates no legally binding agreement to abiding by it.

    So we get this sheet of paper with it saying that we've read and agree with the thing, with space on it for our signature, and one of our parents'. If they don't get it back, signed, within a few days? In-school suspension until you return it.

    In other words, the public school system here is forcing us to sign away our rights. Yes, you can file a formal objection to anything in the handbook -- after you've returned the form -- but that's never taken seriously.

    So when I wake up with a headache in the morning, I had better take some aspirin before I leave and hope it doesn't come back while I'm in school, eh? Especially since, due to these same kind of rules, the school nurse isn't allowed to dispense headache medication. I'm surprised she's even allowed to give out cough drops (and yes, I've seen her do it.)

  • by homebru ( 57152 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @05:53AM (#1564475)
    is neatly expressed in this letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News.

    See second letter - Horror story []

  • by mochaone ( 59034 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:13AM (#1564479)
    It seems that Katz bashing is a favorite pasttime in this forum and I sincerely hope that this article does not become another open license for attack on Katz. There is quite a bit of the Pavlovian, knee-jerk, vitriol that makes its way into this forum and it really needs to stop.

    Katz should not be above criticism, of course, but the type of comments that are usually directed his way are very personal and tasteless.

    Someone pointed to an article that had a picture of Katz and contained a brief blurb on him. You know what? The guy is human. He is married and has a wife, daughter and two dogs. He lives in North Jersey, which is my neck of the woods, and is really no different than me or you. He just happens to be someone who writes for a living and whose topics are usually complex and controversial. He is not above interjecting his opinions because he is not a newspaper reporter; he is a writer who writes about issues that concern him.

    Just remember, his daughter might be reading the comments about him.

  • Last year, my brother wrote a story for his teacher in which he changed the names of the teacher and his own into pig latin ( how clever! ) and detailed a story in which he shot the teacher. Soon thereafter, he also threatened the lives of my parents, and the principal of the school. Was he the product of a school system that excluded him based on his "difference" from the others?

    Ahhh, there is the crucial distinction though! This child did not threaten anyone. His teacher requested that he write a SCARY Story. Apparently he drew from past experience and decided that a couple of people getting high and shooting their schoolmates was pretty scary. If he was writing from the point of a drugged up murder then the story reads MUCH MUCH better than if you look at it as being written by a 7th grade student. If I were requested to write such a story mine would have proper spelling and grammer, would be five or six pages, and would contain essentially the same theme. This is not a disturbed child. This is an observant child who knows what is frightening about real life and can express it in a rudimentary manner. What he needs is not counseling or jail time, what he needs is a creative writing class.


    PS. I did write Short Stories in 6-8th grades, and they were well written, somewhat juvenile, science fiction stories that I am still proud of and file with my high school poetry. Some of the poetry is readable, some of it is crap, and 2 of them have gone to the finals in poetry contests.

  • I don't recall it saying anywhere that it was the teacher who turned him; unless, I missed it somewhere. I'm willing to wager that if she gave him a 100, she wouldn't turn him in too, but there was probably a horde of classmates in the adim. office after he read it allowed, everyone of them ready to be a documented case of emotional trauma

  • I'm having a hard time caring about this situation. The problem is a bit millenium madness and a lot of Texas culture. Mix those two and you'll get a couple dozen, 'civil rights' cases a day. Texas will always be about 100 years behind most states in a country that is 100 years behind the rest of the world in just about everything that makes a society worthwhile.

    This is just one of maybe 10,000 reasons why you should think, "Move from Texas."

  • I am not suprised at all.

    My mother is a teacher, and she tells me that she is afraid to giver her kids hugs anymore (she teaches 3rd grade), for fear that it might come back to haunt her.

    Our sue-happy society pisses me off to no end.

    I will be enraged if the parents of this kid attempt to sue the school. And I am sure they are getting plenty of offers from lawyers this minute. Yes, it was stupid of the school and they over-reacted... but to sue them, and waste education funds because of it!?

    I have no respect for those people.
  • by Rabbins ( 70965 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @06:21AM (#1564502)
    What upsets me the most about this whole ordeal is that right now, kids are learning to keep quiet.

    Many said they regretted speaking frankly about their feelings about school, and wouldn't do it again. They were wise.

    So here you have teachers and councilers trying to get kids to open up, and then they turn righ around and suspend them. That is so incredibly assinine. It seems like a place of learning should know that punishment is not the best solution. I am sure some of these kids will never open their mouths again when it comes to their personal feelings.

    How do you feel about the Columbine murders?

    Well, to be honest, I can sorta identify with how the kids who did the killing felt.

    So in this case, the obvious solution would be to suspend the student. He will certainly know better in the future to ever think that!

    Great fucking solution.
  • well as creativity and subtlety.

    In horror/suspense, there's a lot to be said for cloaking the plot in mystery. I'd have to say that straightforward violence like your typical Tarantino flick (_Reservoir Dogs_, anyone? Which looked damn like _City on Fire_ (IIRC) -- but that's another thread... I don't know which came first, or whether one was a remake of the other) is far less "horrific" or scary than your average Machen, Poe, (Clark Ashton) Smith, or Ellison, or...

    It's also incredibly uncreative. Well, perhaps 'incredibly' is the wrong word; more like 'typically'. It would have been at least marginally more interesting to invoke the inexplicable.
  • Dude, it isn't stale until it stops happening. This one is abso-freakin-lutely poppin' fresh. Just because your school isn't going nuts over non-events like this doesn't mean hundreds of others are not, or that yours won't tomorrow.
  • I'm fairly neutral to Katz. The problem I think a lot of folks have with him is that he (arguably) commits the crime of not researching or not thinking through his arguments. This is a geek forum and it's heavy on the attitude that you should know what the heck you're talking about. I have been justifiably moderated down several times for shooting from the hip, and I'm starting to learn not to open my mouth without having something to back it up.

    The problem with Katz is that he often doesn't back himself up. He makes assertions that are sometimes at best speculative, and then he fails to provide proof. Usually (although IMO not for this article) the controversy is created by him since it doesn't exist IRL. It works for mainstream journalism, but this is a forum for those with a little more intellect.

    That said, personal attacks are usually in poor taste. It's far more meaningful to show that somebody's arguments are full of crap than to flame them because of it. All personal attacks accomplish is to annoy the target to the point where they most likely won't bother to read anything meaningful you happen to be saying.
  • It seems like every few years the schools get really hyper about something and seem to think that it affects every kid. ADHD anyone? I remember a few years back a friend of the family was accused of sexually abusing his children just because one of his kids liked to draw belly buttons on her pictures. Violence is the "in" thing this year and, unfortunately, some innocent people are going to be affected. It can be difficult to make people aware of an emotionally charged issue without causing them to overreact.
  • This is a horrible thing. He was tasked to write a horror story. Many horror stories have a component where the hero turns and destroys his friends and loved ones. Innocent people often get caught in the crossfire. Heres some parralels:

    Dracula was about a great warrior for good turning into an evil monster who destroyed and corrupted all he held dear.

    This story is about two friends who were heroes fending off an assault, then turned and destroyed their friends.

    Dracula had innocent people get caught up and destroyed.

    This story had an innocent bystander get caught up in things and destroyed.

    Looks to me that expanding on the basic concept, this kids story, rather than a terrorist threat, could have become a great classic of horror. What would have happened in Bram Stoker was sent to jail or a mental institution for his work? A great classic would not be on bookshelves, some of the greatest movies of all time would not exist, The best RPG would not exist, my favorite 3 tv shows wouldn't exist... A huge selection of artwork in various mediums simply would not exist. What if this is done to all artwork deemed contreversial? That would be a sad day for art.
  • I'd have to agree with a few others who've said that this, and many other events like it, have been blown way out of proportion after the Columbine incident. Yes the story can be percieved as a potential threat, but does the child really have to spend time in juvenile hall? It seems that some people are more willing to point fingers and say "He's wierd, like those Columbine boys." and punish them than to look at the individual and try to figure out why they're doing what they're doing and preventing stuff like this from even happening.
  • by LennierBOFH ( 110505 ) on Thursday November 04, 1999 @05:50AM (#1564606)
    I think it's more of a crime that the kid got a "100" on such a horribly written essay.

% "Every morning, I get up and look through the 'Forbes' list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work" -- Robert Orben