Friday, April 27, 2007


I just read this story about Allen Lee, the eighteen-year old boy who was arrested for writing a violent stream-of-consciousness essay in English class. I find this troubling. The students were told not to censor their writing, and Allen Lee didn’t. And in a world of school shootings and violent video games, is it any wonder that what he wrote was so disturbing? I’m not trying to defend his essay as normal, but I don’t think he should have been arrested for writing it.

Now, as a few of you reading this blog can attest to, I was a somewhat troubled teenager. I wrote a few disturbing essays in English class because I was, well, disturbed. But I was never arrested. I was pulled aside after class and invited to counseling, but never arrested.

In the wake of Virginia Tech, schools are obviously taking a proactive approach to preventing violence, and they should. But I think school officials missed a critical first step in this situation: talk to Allen Lee, call his parents, find out why he wrote this essay.

If Allen Lee had been a cute, blonde white girl would they have been as quick to call police? Maybe. Maybe not.

What do you think?


WilyHacker said...

I think people are way to reactionary. We had an aberration at VT and should not feel the need to look at every angst ridden teenager as a potential mass murderer.

While his (Allen Lee's) writing should not be completely ignored, a jail cell is not the right answer. A concerned parent, social worker, pastor is a much better place to start.

This is one of the problems with a hyper media-driven instant information age. It invites short-term thinking knee-jerk reactions. I liked a letter to the editor in today's Naperville Sun. (link not available for a couple days). The writer was championing new laws and pointed object identification cards in light of the recent local stabbing that occurred. I thought it was a great juxtaposition of two recent violent events and the futility of reactionary legislation.

spaghettipie said...

Certainly a disturbing article, and I don't disagree with the desire to be cautious and proactive identification and addressing of potential issues. But arrest? Disorderly conduct? Seems a bit of a stretch to me, and as WH pointed out above, a knee jerk reaction as opposed to a well-thought out plan, which has a higher probability of success.

Ted Gossard said...

By the link I couldn't find the article. But I agree with your point here. It is always good to ask questions. You may just find a frightened, timid teenager or person, who needs a listening ear.

Ed G. said...

Llama Momma,

Thanks for this honest and important post. I did a brief post on it here:

Ed G.

Llama Momma said...

Good thoughts.

Ted - I updated the link. Sorry about that!

Ed - thanks for the link.

Incidentally, I've gotten a couple of calls and emails from people who read this blog, but are shy to comment. They both vehemently disagree with my take on this and think his arrest was justified.

michael said...

The action, while the note is disturbing, is an overcorrection and is an ineffective philosophy, and our society has been doing it for generations.

Like everything else, what is the context of the paper, and the mindset of the author?

Was the action taken in conjunction with those factors or irrespective of them?

jazzycat said...

I am pretty much agreement with these comments. The so-called prevention srategy is doomed to failure and will play havoc with basic freedoms. Investigate for sure, but to go around arresting people because of their classroom writings is over the top.

I think the thing we have got to face as a society is that large assemblies of unarmed people need to have armed protection nearby, And I mean within seconds nearby.

Llama Momma said...

Michael - I agree -- context is so important. And while we can't know everything, from what I've read it sounds like Allen Lee is a top student who doesn't cause trouble at all. Many of the violent illusions he makes in this creative writing exercise are taken directly from video games he plays.

Jazzycat - thanks for stopping by! Interesting solution. I'm not sure I agree with it, but thanks for sharing!

And, in regards to Virginia Tech, I think the one thing that could have prevented that tragedy is good mental health care. From what I understand, Cho was very disturbed and referred to counseling several times. There is so little help for the mentally ill in this country. So. Little. Help. And no follow-up care. (Thank you Ronald Reagan.)

Every Square Inch said...

I don't think race had a great deal to do with this but I maybe naive.

I think we're in a period of sensitivity and perhaps some reactionary backlash...but I don't think it's racially motivated.

Still, thanks for bringing up the topic for discussion

jazzycat said...

It has been 19 years since Reagan was president. Surely you jest!

Trying to determine who will do this sort of thing before they do it and "lock-downs" will never achieve much success. Having armed security protect large assemblies of un-armed people will be effective.

Llama Momma said...

Jazzycat - has it really been 19 years? Wow. Time flies. I'm quite serious. We still feel the impact of Reagan's budget cuts and unwillingness to support the mental health systems act of 1980. Obviously he doesn't bear all responsibility for this...but IMO, he gets a share of the blame.

There is no follow-up anywhere in the system. Someone can be hospitalized against their will for being a threat to themselves or another, and 72 hours later, they're roaming the street with no one responsible to follow-up on them. This can happen twelve times in a row, and nobody pays any attention.

It's a mess.

And if we all carried guns, don't you think there would be a lot of accidental deaths? Seriously. A few months ago when it was below zero here in chicagoland, I was grocery shopping in the early evening, and it was already dark. When I returned my cart in the parking lot, an attendant came over to take it from me just as I turned around, and I freaked out. He had one of those pull down masks on, and I just panicked. The poor guy was just trying to do his job and I was screaming. Oh, yeah. Not a proud moment. Thank goodness I didn't have a gun!!

jazzycat said...

Illama momma,
There is a big difference between everyone carrying guns that I do not favor and having armed trained security and law enforcement people protecting buildings and groups on college campuses.

A close read of my comments will show that I nowhere suggested people carry weapons.

However, if my government does not offer more in my protection in the future than "lock downs" etc, I will certainly have to consider arming myself if the problem gets worse.

I do not point any fingres at V-Tech's leadership. However, if unarmed students get slaughtered again at any college and there is a lack of armed security to respond immediately, I will consider that college negligent in protecting there students and faculty.

BTW, I have always been puzzled at how Reagan gets blamed for drastic budget cuts and also running up a huge deficit. How can both be true?

Llama Momma said...

Jazzy - I get what you're saying, now. I should not try to think after 8 p.m. Seriously.

Who pays for these armed people? Colleges? And do we put them only on college campuses or everywhere?

I don't mean to blame Reagan for all of our woes, but my family was in serious crisis when he came on as president, and the budget cuts he enacted affected me personally.

jazzycat said...

Great question about the funding of these guards. It comes down to priorities and I believe security should be at the top of the list. Private colleges pass such costs on to the students, but public colleges probably could probably pay for it by cutting out the wasteful spending in other areas. I think at some point we need to address the wasteful way government spends money.

Example: As a pilot in the Air National Guard in the early seventies, I can remember launching airplanes for the sole purpose of using all of our alloted budget (flying hours) in the last week before the FY ended. We would climb to about 8000 feet, put it on auto pilot and fly around in circles.

My guess is that kind of folly is still going on in all government agencies. Then we could take a knife to the pork spending that my two senators are up to their eyeballs in.

Times have changed and security is no longer optional in my opinion. If it is not kooks, it will be terrorists, but it will happen again.

L.L. Barkat said...

Ah, well. The beauty of bias. (Not.)