Thursday, April 26, 2007

You Can Now Get Arrested, In This Country, For Writing A Story TO FULFILL A HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH CLASS ASSIGNMENT.

I am so angry.

Angry is not even the word.

I am supposed to be sitting outside right now, under a tree, reading Auden. I am supposed to be enjoying the springtime air before going to the final dress rehearsal of Our Town. I am supposed to be all bubbly and pink-cheeked happy.

Instead I am in a stinking computer lab on a very slow machine because I cannot not blog this story.

Allen Lee, 18-year-old "straight-A student" at Cary Grove High School in Cary, Illinois has just been arrested.

His crime? Writing a short story in response to an English teacher's homework assignment. She asked her students to write a story that "expressed emotion" (I am taking those words directly from this article in the Chicago Tribune -- and incidentally, that is a fracking idiotic English assignment; emotion in writing is a result of good writing, not something you can just stick in there like a semicolon).

Lee evidently expressed too much emotion. His story was considered so disturbing that he was charged with a misdemeanor: disorderly conduct, worthy of up to 30 days in jail and/or a $1,500 fine.

As of the Trib article (published this morning), Lee was in police custody.

The article states that directly after the English assignment was given, the teacher (who is coyly left unnamed) reminded students that in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, stories which referenced threatening or harming a particular individual would result in discipline and punishment for the author, as per the school's Zero Tolerance policy.

Lee's story, which has not been released and has not yet hit the internet through other means (in fact, the Trib article implied that no one read the story save Lee, his teacher, the school administration, and the police and that it has now been confiscated -- so there will be no fellow student to post it online for us), did not reference or otherwise imply harming an individual or group. The Trib article mentions this several times. And yet it contained generalized, "disturbing" violence (whatever that means), and so Lee was charged with disorderly conduct.

He's the child of Chinese-American immigrant parents, btw, in case the "Lee" tipped you off. And his photo looks a bit like Cho Seung-Hui's, if you're one of those people who thinks that all Asian-American kids look alike.

I don't even know how to respond. I cannot believe that it has come to this. I hope his parents sue the pants off of the school.

The real question, perhaps, is why did they go directly to criminal charges? why didn't they send Lee to counseling, or advise that he get a psychological evaluation? The media has spent the past week talking about how important it is for teachers to help students get psychological help if their writing implies that they are mentally disturbed, so why was this step skipped?

Please, please let that story appear somewhere so I can blog it and we can decide for ourselves whether it was worth being hauled off to jail.

Last week this blog had a moment of silence for Virginia Tech. This week we are having a moment of silence for freedom of expression.

*moment of silence*

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