Friday, September 16, 2011

Natural Born Idiots

The prosecution of school kids for using violent imagery in poems, stories, and video is out of control. It is also a violation of their First Amendment rights.

A recent example is the case brought against Zaidee Harrison, a Radnor High School student, who was charged with making terroristic threats, harassment and disorderly conduct, for reciting a not-very-good poem she'd written with her little brother to a friend's Facebook page.

The poem is about a crazed student shooting and setting fire to his school. It's a lame distillation of Natual Born Killers meets Carrie.

The poem was not written in school or even brought to her school. It was, according to Zaidee, written for her brother's "poem book" and sent to her friend for a second opinion. It was copied off the girl's Facebook by some busybody adult and sent to the RHS principal Mark Schellenger.

The over reaction started there. Schellenger had no reason to believe that Zaidee was an actual threat to act out this horror story in real life, any more than he could reasonably expect Quentin Tarentino to show up at his school and go on a killing spree. (But maybe a warrant for his arrest should be issued just in case.)

Schellenger knew or should have known that Harrison has no record of being a problem student with any penchent for violence. According to school records, teachers found her to be a pleasure to have in their classes.

Nevertheless, Schellenger called the cops who took it from there.

That no adults in the criminal justice system managed to recognize the studipity of this prosecution, not to mention the illegality of it, or worse, didn't have the guts to stand up and say they did, just goes to show how far common sense has been removed from the goal of school safety.

It is one thing to phone in a bomb threat that forces the evacuation of a school. It is quite another to write a poem from the perspective of a psychopath. It's done in popular films, books and art all the time.

The district justice in the case threw out the most serious charge, that of making terroristic threats, but held her on charges of harassment and disorderly conduct.

There must be a few school administrators, cops, prosecutors, or judges out there who would admit this is a dumb way to handle matters like these. It would be nice for a few of them to stand up and point out that the process "has no clothes." These sort of prosecutions should be brought to an end.

Will it take a civil rights lawsuit to help these "authorities" see the error of their ways? Maybe.

In the meantime, my print column is up.


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July 1, 2015 at 1:43 AM 

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