Monday, April 30, 2007

Student Arrested for Creative Writing Essay

If you haven't already heard about Allen Lee, I'd be quite surprised. Since the 18-year old student's arrest, there have been varying opinions about the response to Lee's essay - media hounds and bloggers alike have expressed their views on Lee's predictament.

You can read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

To make a long story short, Allen Lee, an 18-year old senior attending Cary-Grove High School was arrested because his English teacher, the school board and the police deparment felt the content of his essay was disturbing enough to warrant an arrest.


I have issues with this. Why? Well, not only was Lee following directions for a class assignment, where his teacher specifically told students not to censor themselves, but now I wonder how other students' will feel when told to express themselves through creative writing. Will they feel afraid, as if anything they say in a creative writing class can be used to arrest them?

As a writer, I am very concerned about the future of freedom of thought. While I can understand that what Lee wrote was inappropriate for a classroom setting (especially given in the wake of the VTech shooting,) I do not believe the school's reaction to his words was appropriate.

While people have chosen to play the race card, I will leave that discussion to others. I choose not to delve into that side of the debate. However, I am more than open to hearing your comments about Allen Lee, and the issues surrounding his classroom assignment.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I look forward to opening up a discussion about this recent event, as I feel it touches on an issue that is relevant to all writers.

Phew... can you imagine what a young Stephen King might have gone through had his work been subject to such harsh critique?


At 12:30 AM, Blogger Greg Becerra said...

He may have been following directions but schooling includes a development process. If teachers notice odd behavior in a student it is their responsibility to inform others including the parents. You mention Stephen King in the end, but this incident involved direct mention of a real place, not a fictitious one.

It was good that they reacted, but they reacted in the wrong way. The article states: "McHenry County prosecutors have charged him with two counts of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine."

If this kid is really a threat, this does not solve it. It goes more to increasing the likelihood that he would react. Despite high profiles in the news, kids going crazy are not that common. It's possible that this kid would go nuts and start killing people, but most likely he needs some direction and an outlet with some constructive feedback.

Freedom of speech does not exist within the structure of pre-adult schooling according to several U.S. Supreme Court cases. Schools have considerable latitude in curtailing speech there.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Denise said...

I agree that a reaction was necessary. It would be foolish of the school to let the essay slip.

However, I strongly believe the WAY they reacted was completely unneccessary. The punishment is harsher than the alleged "Crime" in this case.

Thank you for your feedback, Gregory. I agree with several of your points.

At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Australia, I haven't actually heard about this case, however I find the level of judgement handed down to this person a bit disturbing.

Censorship will always be a topical and troubling issue for society, and I think there needs to be more thought put into litigious action as a result of someone seeming to exceed the acceptable boundaries.

I agree, however, that disturbing output from a member of society (or, in this case, a school student) needs to be investigated - carefully and with thought to precedent, before such a heavy punishment be inflicted upon a person who had thought, when he was imparting his thoughts, that censorship was being explicitly withheld.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger BobA said...

Good Topic Denise,
This case is a classic illustration of good intentions poorly executed. It would have been irresponsible for the school not to have responded to this idividual. But arrest? For executing poor judgement regarding societal boundries? Writing now constitutes disorderly conduct?
All this guy needed was some sort of mental health evaluation to make sure the his elevator covered all of the floors and maybe some mentoring about what is and isn't appropriate in certain settings. The teacher also needs to learn to be careful what you ask for and not to overreact when you get it.
I completely agree with your concerns about cencorship and free speech. Even minor limitations put you on a slippery slope with alligators at the bottom. In my mind the greatest threat to our country and the world are those who would stifle our ability to express ourselves along with those who would try to impose their religious beliefs on all others. Ussually those who are so certain that they are so right end up being the most wrong.
Given that there are no other incidents or red flags with this kid and no weapons in the garage or basement, they should let him get on with his life.


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