Is this legal?

  • Thread starter arunma
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  • #1
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Here's an interesting piece of news I found today:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18353425/&GT1=9246" [Broken]

Apparently a student wrote a violent essay for a creating writing assignment, and he's being criminally charged. The maximum jail time is 30 days.

I'm no legal expert, but I'm quite surprised to hear this. The article doesn't mention any threat directed at a particular individual or organization (though he did possibly make an indirect threat). Is it legal to criminally charge him for writing this? After all, many modern musicians write lyrics that are far worse, and they are protected under free speech laws. I don't take any particular position on whether or not it's right to charge this guy, but if anyone knows, I'd honestly be interested to know more about the legal aspects of this. What boundaries are there on free speech, and why do they seem to be more restrictive for high school students?
 
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  • #2
Evo
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This is ridiculous. Talk about over reacting. You can be arrested for bad taste now?

At most, a visit to a counselor to see if the kid shows signs of behavioral or mental problems. So far it seems this kid has no history of problems?
 
  • #3
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Well it's good to know that I'm not the only one taken aback by this. Again, I'm not going to say with certainty that he shouldn't be charged: first because I don't know the specific details on the pertinent laws, and secondly because I don't know if this kid has a history of violent behavior, or if this essay was accompanied by some violent action. But I never thought that you could get arrested for writing violent literature.
 
  • #4
Evo
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But I never thought that you could get arrested for writing violent literature.
If you could, there wouldn't be very many movies or tv shows, would there?

There must be more to the story.
 
  • #5
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This is a gray area here. While the student is 18 and enjoys the full protection of the Consitution, he is also a student. There is precedent for students having some rights onerously suppressed (free speech among them.)
See http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_stud.html" [Broken]
There are other violations of a minor's rights that on their face seem quite onerous, but for which there are many legal precedents. The most common such violations are of the rights of students. That is, of children attending school. The rights of free speech, free press, free association, and from search and seizure are points of contention between school administrators and students, and have been for decades.
Personally, I think it is an overreaction to what happened, and if he is in any way punished, I'm sure it will be challenged in court since he is 18. Whether it stands up or not is yet to be seen.
 
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  • #6
Office_Shredder
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Nooo...... the school can take away a kids rights, but only within the school's authority. The school can't decide to make jailtime a punishment
 
  • #7
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The charge is disorderly conduct? In what way is writing an assignment disorderly conduct? I can't possibly stick. Whoever approved this charge may have been looking for political gain. Either that, or it's an overreaction because someone wants to do something, anything, just in case this student is another Cho, possibly out of irrational fear. But it should be no surprise post-VT that a student asked to "write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing" would write something like this. The assignment should have been "write what you think I want to read; use appropriate restraint". As it is, it smells like entrapment.

EDIT: I know it's not legally entrapment (before someone points that out).
 
  • #8
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The school can do whatever they want. The police, on the other hand, need to abide by the First Amendment, and criminal charges are ludicrous. I'd call the ACLU, but apparently they're already involved.
 
  • #9
G01
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Wow, this is nuts. Theres no way that these charges can stand up in court.
 
  • #10
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This is the result of blind paranoia.

Why is anyone surprised that local school administrators and police are idiots? Humanity is a race of idiots.
 
  • #11
Chi Meson
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My goodness. It's no good to take drastic precautionary measures in the wake of the Va Tech shootings, but it's perfectly reasonable to denounce all school administrators and police in a sweeping blanket overgeneralization?

Let's read some more about it:
http://cbs2chicago.com/northsuburbanbureau/local_story_117092318.html [Broken]
Dane Loizzo said the Lee family and school district officials were moving toward a resolution that would free Allen from any disciplinary action.

He said a timeline for resolution was discussed but would not reveal details.

“Any sort of penalties or disciplinary actions are yet to be determined,” Dane Loizzo said. “In my opinion, I don’t believe that it is warranted. Allen is a good kid.”

He also said expected a similar result for the criminal charge.

“Given the facts as I know them, Allen [Lee] will certainly be vindicated,” Loizzo said.
It appears many smart people are just as capable of rash judgements before the full story is known.

Without question, the teacher did the correct thing. When such a document is brought before the administrators, they have specific protocol that they must follow. Once the essay (which does contain threatening and distubing language) the police are obliged to take action first. If a mistake must be made, it is better to make the mistake that doesn't end up with dead bodies.
 
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  • #12
Evo
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Arresting the kid just went too far. Per the article you posted, everyone is back peddling now that they realized they over reacted.

I agree the teacher needed to bring it to the school's attention. Like I said earlier, he should have been sent for evaluation. The school can ask the court to order evaluation, treatment, etc.. if necessary.

The writing was crap, not creative at all, but copy cat. It was stupid. No, it was idiotic.

But arrested for disorderly conduct? What good does that do if the kid has emotional problems that need to be treated?

Looks like the kid is guilty of bad taste and stupidity. This will likely result in a lawsuit. This will make schools hesitant again. The school used poor judgement, IMHO. It could have been handled much better.
 
  • #13
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This is ridiculous. The student is asked to write whatever comes to mind and is punished for his ideas. How surprising is it that the first thing to come to a student's mind recently would be the VT shootings? I guess the other students just had enough fear of the system to edit their thought process. Because we all know good creative writers edit their thoughts to be politically correct.

Someone needs a goodf kick in the pants.
 
  • #14
Moonbear
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From the article linked in the OP:
Another passage said, "as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting," the complaint said.
That sounds like a threat to me, and I think the teacher was right to call the authorities based on that. The police and prosecutor can determine if they want to follow up and file formal charges, but I think you have to take anything like that as a threat. You have to remember that in the wake of something like VA Tech, there can also be other students who have been contemplating something violent who are emboldened by seeing someone else carry it out.

Once an arrest is made, if there's enough reason to go ahead and press charges, it's possible that a plea agreement can be made that requires psychological or psychiatric treatment, as necessary.
 
  • #15
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From the article linked in the OP:


That sounds like a threat to me, and I think the teacher was right to call the authorities based on that. The police and prosecutor can determine if they want to follow up and file formal charges, but I think you have to take anything like that as a threat. You have to remember that in the wake of something like VA Tech, there can also be other students who have been contemplating something violent who are emboldened by seeing someone else carry it out.

Once an arrest is made, if there's enough reason to go ahead and press charges, it's possible that a plea agreement can be made that requires psychological or psychiatric treatment, as necessary.
But if the threat is what's at issue here, then shouldn't he be charged for making threats rather than for disorderly conduct? It seems like the charge is based on the paper itself, and not specifically on the threat that can be inferred from what he wrote.
 
  • #16
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Well, he's already been kicked out of the marines, and will certainly face consequences at school. The actual charges against him won't hold up in court unless his paper contains some kind of direct threat, which it doesn't appear to.

"Disorderly conduct" is absurb, considering that his conduct was perfectly fine given the assignment to "write what's on your mind" and told that there will be no censorship or judgement of what is written. It's just that what he wrote is somewhat disturbing, especially when viewed from this state of recent school shooting tragedy, so it is taken more seriously. If you look hard enough you can find much more violent, weird ideas that actually published in your local library or bookstore...
 
  • #17
Curious3141
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1) The student is an idiot for having done this in the immediate aftermath of Va-Tech.

2) The teacher is an idiot for having given this sort of unqualified instruction, *specifically* stating "no judgement, no censorship", only to renege on her promise. Same goes for the school principal.

3) The chief prosecutor is an idiot. There is no call for criminal charges here. Counselling yes, psychotherapy maybe, charges no.

Summing it up, bad things happen when idiots work in tandem.
 
  • #18
Moonbear
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But if the threat is what's at issue here, then shouldn't he be charged for making threats rather than for disorderly conduct? It seems like the charge is based on the paper itself, and not specifically on the threat that can be inferred from what he wrote.
It sounds like they arrested him on the basis of the threat, and probably decided they only have sufficient evidence for the lesser charge of disorderly conduct...unless he was disorderly when they arrested him and that's not told in the story. Perhaps he resisted or started to make a big scene, so instead of a prosecutor or judge looking at the charges and the paper and deciding there was nothing to the case and letting him go, they then had to address his conduct between the time the teacher reported the problem and the time he was in custody.

There are no reports from any witnesses, so we don't know much about what really happened and if there was any other behavior from him to warrant such charges.
 
  • #19
Chi Meson
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IF the marines have "kicked him out" (though he was not yet in the marines), then it was due to the very timely psychological profile delivered by the essay. Either this guy has a disturbed psyche, or he finds the wrong this to be funny.

THe instructions by the teacher regarding "no censorship" would be referring to letting the student not worry if he says a few bad words, or goes into some "suggestive theme." If this led a student to a descriptive rant of homicide, wherein his teacher and his own school is directly identified,... and he calls it a joke. The guy needs deep evaluation, and the Marines need someone else. We cannot tell what has been averted; the evidence of effectively avoiding disaster is never seen. Perhaps this is the best thing that ever happened to him. But we'll never know.

I do wish that this rarefied group of PFers would rise above the common rabble and stop their rash judgements of those who are constantly faced with "unwinable" decisions.

Either that, or take your Solomonesque wisdom and become the single "non-idiotic" public servant that you have decided we need.

Go ahead and look through my history of comments. I try very hard to be nonjudgmental, to be as objective as possible. When I occasionally post an overly-emotional, underly-logical comment I try to qualify and or apologize.

I will not apologize for the following:
Some of the comments on this thread are juvenile.
 
  • #20
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I think writing of disturbing things (and who's to decide that?) as a kid does not mean the same is of your mind. Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe were once in English classes and I wouldn't be surprised if they dipped into horror in any creative writing to do. He's not exactly Stephen King, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

"So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did.”

My first thought is "immature." "So I had this dream" Right, he can't dream now? :biggrin: Maybe just not say what he dreamt if other people do not deem it acceptable.
 
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  • #21
Chi Meson
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Describing a slaughter (a "funny slaughter" in which one has sex with the dead bodies) at your OWN high school, and tangentially blaming the teacher who assigned the project, directly in the first person, is not even starting toward Steven King. Let's assume that the people involved have a modecum of sense: what they read was disturbing and threatening (all we have seen so far is short snippets of the "essay" and I find them disturbing), the student's response what that it was supposed to be "funny."

We all have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Each level of authority along the way to the kid's arrest had to react based on what was presented to them. When the police are given a piece of paper that explicitly contains such threats, they don't have the option of weighing the mitigating factors: that's the judges job.

I still am aghast at the irony. You can do a sweep of forums around this net. The common response is of "oh the teacher, the priciple, the cops are all idiots; everyone is an idiot; all people are idiots" That is the COMMON response, so isn't that the response of idiots? That's the ironic implication.

I don't believe that the people here are idiots. I just wish some of them apply their higher thinking capabilities to these news events without being suckered by our sensationalistic news habits.
 
  • #22
Astronuc
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I think the teacher followed the appropriate course of action given recent history. I think the student had poor taste and poor judgement.

I think the administration went overboard. Rather than arrest the student, it would have been appropriate to talk to the student and the student's parents. I don't think it necessary to call upon law enforcement for each an every concern, dispute or disciplinary problem.
 
  • #23
Chi Meson
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Although I do agree with Astronuc, administrators do not have the option of deciding whether or not to call in the authorities. If it is anything like Connecticut, there is an officer on the premesis at all times. Teachers and administrators are required by law to forward to the law enformement authorities anything that might be considered an immediate risk to students. Notice the word "might," and consider the very worst outcome if one errs on the wrong side.
 
  • #24
Moonbear
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What's interesting is that people here think this kid should have just gotten a little slap on the wrist, yet as the news reports for the VA Tech killings were coming out, they were all the same ones saying, "Why didn't the school do anything?"

Why are folks calling this paranoia and over-reaction? Perhaps it's better called a lesson learned and in the wake of the VA Tech massacre, their heightened awareness may have caught one student showing such signs of maladjustment before another tragedy occurs.

Or, the same thing would have happened without VA Tech, but it wouldn't have made an interesting news story. Afterall, we've been hearing for a week now about all the schools closed across the country for bomb threats. Believe it or not, these are not new things, especially as final exams approach and stupid kids think they'll get out of exams if they call in a bomb threat. The only difference is that now the media is following each of these reports and making it a national story instead of dismissing it as yet another sick kid being stupid and relegating it to police blotter of the local news.

Remember, as we've been hearing, Cho was also taken into court-ordered custody (at that stage, not really different from an arrest) for his creative writing papers...did we ever hear about that in the news at the time? No, it was just something administrative that is done when someone that disturbed is identified as a potential threat to self or others, and nobody would have thought to make a news story of it. Perhaps that his illness was not taken seriously enough allowed him to remain out in society and to do something so horrid. Here's another kids who seems to be showing similar disturbing, violent tendencies, finds humor in it, and makes threats against the school and teacher, and you want the teacher to not notify the police to do something about it?

No, maybe he won't be the next school shooter, but someone who finds humor in shooting people and having sex with the corpses might turn out to be the next serial killer. Who knows, if there's an unsolved murder in the area that fits that description, the police probably wanted to detain him long enough to make sure it wasn't a confession.
 
  • #25
Evo
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No, maybe he won't be the next school shooter, but someone who finds humor in shooting people and having sex with the corpses might turn out to be the next serial killer. Who knows, if there's an unsolved murder in the area that fits that description, the police probably wanted to detain him long enough to make sure it wasn't a confession.
Good point. I guess they want to have his information in the police database, but I still think he needs psychological evaluation, not jail time.
 

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