Just a Thought

Yet another story of a kid getting in trouble because of something he wrote:

A George Rogers Clark High School junior arrested Tuesday for making terrorist threats told LEX 18 News Thursday that the “writings” that got him arrested are being taken out of context…

“My story is based on fiction,” said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. “It’s a fake story. I made it up. I’ve been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies.”

The thought: If we don’t respect teenagers’ right to free speech, why would we expect them to respect the right to free speech when they’re adults?

40 thoughts on “Just a Thought

  1. I think Fark’s comment was best… “Forget hiding your porn, hide your zombie fiction instead.”

    This is the same collective of administrators following the zero tolerance laws and suspending kids for bringing table knives with their lunchbox. Or suspending them for having politically controversial shirts (without a law or a reason). I’m sickened by the lack of individualism and quiet protest allowed both in the schools and in society.

    I keep hoping that the pendulum will swing the other way. We do have some hope, I just read of a person starting a lawsuit challenging the requirement of showing a valid driver’s license at the airport. His argument is that under that law we should just have travel papers and get it over with. This law effects that without the debate the other would entail. Should the Supreme Court eventually hear it and rule on it (in any favorable way), it would gut the Department of Homeland Security. That actually makes me all tingly.

  2. It seems to me that if there were any actual zombies in the “story” he wrote, they’d have already released him.

  3. As I wrote in my blog there’s more to the story [http://g-blog.net/user/Zhaneel/entry/23650].

    A classmate has come forward to state that the student has changed his story twice already and already been suspected of terrorism. The local paper reports that the student was arrested on Gang Recruitment suspicion, not as a result of the story. The story may or may have been the document police have that detailed the locations of the cameras around the school and timing of police arrival in the case of a problem.

    I would wait further before commenting that the student is truly innocent.

  4. As I wrote in my blog there’s more to the story [http://g-blog.net/user/Zhaneel/entry/23650].

    A classmate has come forward to state that the student has changed his story twice already and already been suspected of terrorism. The local paper reports that the student was arrested on Gang Recruitment suspicion, not as a result of the story. The story may or may have been the document police have that detailed the locations of the cameras around the school and timing of police arrival in the case of a problem.

    I would wait further before commenting that the student is truly innocent.

  5. “I would wait further before commenting that the student is truly innocent.”

    Well, Dawn, legally in the US everyone is presumed innocent.

    If they’re getting the information for gang recruitment from the short story he was writing, as the story you link to seems to suggest, then we’re back to square one. Stories about zombies or even recruiting others to storm the high school with guns are not in themselves indicative of actual intent.

    When I was in high school, I wrote a short story in which numerous members of my high school faculty were rather brutally (but amusingly) killed off. Everyone in my high school knew I was writing the story, including the faculty. Separately, as it happens, back in high school I repeatedly clashed with the girls’ school headmistress.

    Back in my day, no one assumed I was actually planning to kill all the faculty — even though I had an open antagonism with at least one high-ranking member of it. These days, someone who did the same thing I did could get arrested for terroristic threats. It’s ridiculous.

  6. “The thought: If we don’t respect teenagers’ right to free speech, why would we expect them to respect the right to free speech when they’re adults?”

    You could also look at it another way. Persecution will create either a submissive subordinate or a passionate rebel. On the matters of freedom, I would tend to think that the former happens more often than the latter, especially with youth.

    There was a story recently that showed shocking numbers of American teens holding the belief that newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government approval, that speech should not be free, etc. I think part of the reason is that they’ve never had their freedom really questioned, so they take it for granted or don’t realize its value.

    Maybe America’s youth *needs* some shoving around, just enough to get them absolutely enraged when their rights are marred like this.

    (Of course, there are plenty of very bright young kids who don’t need such a wake-up call, and I’m sure the student in this instance is one of them.)

  7. Sweet mother of pearl, I’m about as conservative as visitors come on this website, and even I’m a bit appalled by:

    A). Grandparents turning their grandchild over to the police over zombie fan fic, and
    B). The police taking it seriously. This isn’t Columbine. There is no mention of pipe-bombs and shotgun shells or even as much as Umbrella Corporation mutagen in the “materials” detailing the school takeover.

    I mean, zombies? Hello?

  8. Sweet mother of pearl, I’m about as conservative as visitors come on this website, and even I’m a bit appalled by:

    A). Grandparents turning their grandchild over to the police over zombie fan fic, and
    B). The police taking it seriously. This isn’t Columbine. There is no mention of pipe-bombs and shotgun shells or even as much as Umbrella Corporation mutagen in the “materials” detailing the school takeover.

    I mean, zombies? Hello?

  9. “If we don’t respect teenagers’ right to free speech, why would we expect them to respect the right to free speech when they’re adults?”

    People who support these kind of things don’t respect the right to free speech; why would they want to encourage others to?

  10. The article I linked did not suggest that the story was the piece of evidence that got the student arrested. I posited that the story may exist and be the piece evidence, or as suggested by the other student, the story may not exist at all and is merely a cover-up used by the student.

    If the police arrested as the result of a fictional story, zombie or not, there is a problem. If the student is lying about the reason he was arrestd and was in fact studying the school layout and encouraging gang violence, then there isn’t much of a problem.

    I believe this is a case of the internet blowing a story out of proportion as few read all the links provided which show two very different sides of the same story.

  11. The article I linked did not suggest that the story was the piece of evidence that got the student arrested. I posited that the story may exist and be the piece evidence, or as suggested by the other student, the story may not exist at all and is merely a cover-up used by the student.

    If the police arrested as the result of a fictional story, zombie or not, there is a problem. If the student is lying about the reason he was arrestd and was in fact studying the school layout and encouraging gang violence, then there isn’t much of a problem.

    I believe this is a case of the internet blowing a story out of proportion as few read all the links provided which show two very different sides of the same story.

  12. “The article I linked did not suggest that the story was the piece of evidence that got the student arrested.”

    The article to which you linked noted: “Police recovered writings in which Poole allegedly attempted to convince other students to participate in an armed takeover.” It also notes that family members alterted police. We also know, per the article I linked to, that the kid involved “claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.” It seems reasonably clear that the writing referred to in the former article is the writing the kid refers to in the latter article.

    And again, the presumption of innocence lies with the kid. Writing a story is not evidence of anything other than of writing a story. Even studying plans of the school is not evidentiary of anything — if the kid was trying to write an accurate story, he’d want to get the details right (or at the very least, that’s what any halfway competent lawyer would say). Even writing about inciting gang violence is not evidentiary, if he’s writing fiction.

    To give yet another parallel from my own life, several years ago I created a Quake level based on the layout of my workplace at AOL, and talked to my Quake-playing co-workers about how much fun it would be to zip around the workplace with rocket launchers blasting the hell out each other. In the process of making my level I spend rather a bit of time wandering through the office, figuring out they layout of the place. Someone who didn’t know what I was doing could have not unreasonably assumed that I was up to no good. Would I have deserved to be arrested for it? Would I have deserved to be arrested for it if I was a teenager, and the level I was creating a mock-up of my school?

  13. “The article I linked did not suggest that the story was the piece of evidence that got the student arrested.”

    The article to which you linked noted: “Police recovered writings in which Poole allegedly attempted to convince other students to participate in an armed takeover.” It also notes that family members alterted police. We also know, per the article I linked to, that the kid involved “claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.” It seems reasonably clear that the writing referred to in the former article is the writing the kid refers to in the latter article.

    And again, the presumption of innocence lies with the kid. Writing a story is not evidence of anything other than of writing a story. Even studying plans of the school is not evidentiary of anything — if the kid was trying to write an accurate story, he’d want to get the details right (or at the very least, that’s what any halfway competent lawyer would say). Even writing about inciting gang violence is not evidentiary, if he’s writing fiction.

    To give yet another parallel from my own life, several years ago I created a Quake level based on the layout of my workplace at AOL, and talked to my Quake-playing co-workers about how much fun it would be to zip around the workplace with rocket launchers blasting the hell out each other. In the process of making my level I spend rather a bit of time wandering through the office, figuring out they layout of the place. Someone who didn’t know what I was doing could have not unreasonably assumed that I was up to no good. Would I have deserved to be arrested for it? Would I have deserved to be arrested for it if I was a teenager, and the level I was creating a mock-up of my school?

  14. Whether or not this one kid had his freedom of speech trampled, I think there is a disturbing pattern emerging of overzealous school officials abusing the constitutional rights of kids. I recall a segment in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ where a police officer pointed his gun at a kid’s head during a ‘routine’ drug sweep. You may not agree with Michael Moore’s politics, but I think we can all agree this is wrong…

  15. Whether or not this one kid had his freedom of speech trampled, I think there is a disturbing pattern emerging of overzealous school officials abusing the constitutional rights of kids. I recall a segment in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ where a police officer pointed his gun at a kid’s head during a ‘routine’ drug sweep. You may not agree with Michael Moore’s politics, but I think we can all agree this is wrong…

  16. Sorry for the double-post. The first time I hit the ‘Post’ button I got an error that said it hadn’t gone through…

  17. John – The presumption of innocence lies with the kid WITHIN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. As readers, we are under no such obligation. If we want to be intellectually honest, we do have an obligation to note that all we have to go on is two sketchy newspaper articles and some Internet rumors. We have to say: maybe the kid is guilty. And maybe all is as it appears in the first article you referenced, and the district officials and DA are a bunch of dicks who don’t know horror fiction when they see it.

    You’re analyzing the article and attempting to determine evidence of what the kid did and didn’t do based on inferences in the reporter’s phrasing and what the reporter left yout. You’re reading too deeply into it. We don’t KNOW.

    You write:

    The article to which you linked noted: “Police recovered writings in which Poole allegedly attempted to convince other students to participate in an armed takeover.” It also notes that family members alterted police. We also know, per the article I linked to, that the kid involved “claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.” It seems reasonably clear that the writing referred to in the former article is the writing the kid refers to in the latter article.

    No, that is by no means clear. What IS clear is that law enforcement says that they found writing in which the kid “allegedly attempted to convince other students to participate in an armed takeover.” The kid says that was a zombie story. Might be true. Might be the cops found something else. You and I don’t know what it was.

    Police and the courts have an obligation to presume innocence. The kid’s neighbors and community have an obligation to … well, to be careful. They have no obligation to presume innocence, but they do have an obligation to avoid rushing to judgment.

    Analogy: A popular teacher is arrested on charges of molesting one of his students. We can all agree that the teacher should receive a fair trial, and be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But should he be allowed to teach. John, would you want Athena to be in the guy’s class? To be alone with the guy?

    I just read Dawn’s blog entry, in which she writes in part:

    His sister, who read what he wrote, indicated that he had listed the sites where the cameras are located in the school and timed out the minimum time it would take for police to arrive on campus. Still sound credible to you?

    My answer: Maybe. If I were trying to launch an armed takeover of the school, I’d certainly do those things. I also might do those things if I were writing a story about zombies taking over the school. Realism is important to a lot of horror fiction and dark fantasy — it adds verisimilitude and reader enjoyment if your zombies behave like magical creatures but your cops and school security systems behave as they actually do in real life.

    We really don’t know what went on.

  18. “If we want to be intellectually honest, we do have an obligation to note that all we have to go on is two sketchy newspaper articles and some Internet rumors. We have to say: maybe the kid is guilty.”

    Maybe the kid is guilty; from what I see it doesn’t appear so, but I grant I don’t know the whole story.

    However, the law which this kid is being charged equally penalizes the kid who is writing fiction and the kid who is planning to assassinate everyone in the faculty lounge. It would appear you could be arrested for either, which to me is rather the larger issue. I have no opposition to preventing the latter, but not at the cost of muzzling the former. Look at the statement “Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it’s a felony in the state of Kentucky,” as one cop put it and tell me it’s not absurdly vague. As I suggested before, by this standard, I could have been arrested for the short story I wrote in high school, provided someone nervous enough had read it, thenceforth to be judged as guilty by people who do not feel obliged to presume my innocence.

    Whether we know what’s going on in this specific case, I find the growing imposition on the speech of young people both unnecessary and worrisome.

  19. “If we want to be intellectually honest, we do have an obligation to note that all we have to go on is two sketchy newspaper articles and some Internet rumors. We have to say: maybe the kid is guilty.”

    Maybe the kid is guilty; from what I see it doesn’t appear so, but I grant I don’t know the whole story.

    However, the law which this kid is being charged equally penalizes the kid who is writing fiction and the kid who is planning to assassinate everyone in the faculty lounge. It would appear you could be arrested for either, which to me is rather the larger issue. I have no opposition to preventing the latter, but not at the cost of muzzling the former. Look at the statement “Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it’s a felony in the state of Kentucky,” as one cop put it and tell me it’s not absurdly vague. As I suggested before, by this standard, I could have been arrested for the short story I wrote in high school, provided someone nervous enough had read it, thenceforth to be judged as guilty by people who do not feel obliged to presume my innocence.

    Whether we know what’s going on in this specific case, I find the growing imposition on the speech of young people both unnecessary and worrisome.

  20. Minority Report on the Arts. (BTW, I’m pretty certain that at least one person has gotten in trouble for making a Quake map of their school. I’m pretty certain, because I’d been planning for ages to make a level based loosely on my old junior high, and all my friends told me not to make it public knowledge if it was. Never did make the level after all.)

    In high school, I drew a comic strip called Suicide Sam. (Suicide Sam commited suicide a new and novel way every strip.) I also raided the science lab for the dead fetuses in bottles, carted them around school, and sketched and drew them. I plotted battles using chess pieces in the back of history class. I wrote stories in German class about exploding nuns. A classmate and I filmed my little sister tied to a garbage can with what looked like an apple sitting on her head, which we detonated. (The apple was actually several yards away behind her and we’d supplied her with earplugs and headphones.) We intercut that footage with shots of Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia blowing up railroad tracks and showed the equations for various chemical explosions…and we got an A. Very sensibly, none of my teachers over-reacted or tried to get me to stop. (In fact, one might almost say I was wildly encouraged–I had at least two teachers’ blessing to borrow the fetuses and walk through the halls of school with them. I had awesome teachers.)

  21. John, I think that getting arrested for fiction is crap. I think that it is important to know certain details. And I fully give you that if the police arrested based on research [for fiction or not] and a story [zombie or gang based] that there are problems. The cop quote does put them in a very bad light.

    However, I also think that if a child has been involved in violence on school grounds multiple times, has already been unders suspicion for a previous terrorist action [which was not defined] and then was found to have researched camera locations and responses time, I believe that a certain amount of prevention makes sense.

    And that’s where my problem lies: Two very different takes on the same situation are percolating through the internet. They can’t both be true. There’s no way. Too many facts are left out of each one and some are contradictory.

    My point isn’t that the child or the police should be presumed innocent (that is for the courts). Merely that many people on the internet read a headline, decide guilt and refuse to follow sources and/or dig deeper. Whether it is because they believe that Saddam was involved with 9/11 or that a student was arrested for fiction, I believe people should give more time and thought before making accusations and perpetuating rumors.

  22. That’s well and good, Dawn; however, my point is that more government in the US seem to be perfectly content to criminalize speech, particularly the speech of minors (and whatever else this kid may or may have done, it’s pretty clear his speech was a significant factor in his arrest). And I think that’s dangerous.

  23. That’s well and good, Dawn; however, my point is that more government in the US seem to be perfectly content to criminalize speech, particularly the speech of minors (and whatever else this kid may or may have done, it’s pretty clear his speech was a significant factor in his arrest). And I think that’s dangerous.

  24. The powers that be don’t want people who respect free speech; they want people who shut up and do as they’re told.

    Already we have the usual rightwing suspects equating dissent with treason; just wait until the current generation of high and primary school kids comes of age, having survived a school system which has always emphasised authority over their human rights and be scared.

    This doesn’t even have to be a conscious conspiracy; there just have to be enough teachers and administrative staff who believe that students should not have the right to free speech.

  25. The powers that be don’t want people who respect free speech; they want people who shut up and do as they’re told.

    Already we have the usual rightwing suspects equating dissent with treason; just wait until the current generation of high and primary school kids comes of age, having survived a school system which has always emphasised authority over their human rights and be scared.

    This doesn’t even have to be a conscious conspiracy; there just have to be enough teachers and administrative staff who believe that students should not have the right to free speech.

  26. What if there are no zombies? What if the kid wrote a couple pages about him and his buddies taking over the school and shooting everyone, and he drew diagrams and checked cameras and priced weapons? What if he wrote the whole thing not in a fictional format, but as a battle plan? It scares me that that’s scary–in High School my friends and I pulled that sort of shit (and worse) all the time, and everyone KNEW we were a bunch of harmless geeks.

    Now we know geeks aren’t always so harmless–but to criminalize even the behavior in my extreme example strikes me as wrongheaded. Yes, if I, as an adult, encourage specific acts of violence through my research and writing, I am liable. (Aren’t I? Isn’t that speech criminalized already?) But the vital difference (well, aside from the fact that this is very probably friggin’ FICTION), is that this is a kid. Better to be a culture in which a few kids go berserk every few years and kill people than be a culture in which a few kids go berserk every few years and kill people AND we suspect all other kids are about to snap at any second. This sounds alarmingly like racial profiling. Some young Muslim men blow up airplanes, hence all young Muslim men are suspected terrorists. Some High School boys write violent stories and snap, hence all High School boys who write violent stories can be arrested on suspicion of snappiness.

  27. I don’t think this is some neocon plot to trample free speech, and I don’t think it’s some knee-jerk reaction to 9/11.

    I think this whole thing comes down to liability. After Columbine it came out that Harris and Klebold had written things on the internet and even done school projects reflecting their intent. The community was up in arms that the police didn’t “do something” before the tragedy in light of the signs.

    I think police and school districts these days are more afraid of being sued than anything else.

  28. I don’t think this is some neocon plot to trample free speech, and I don’t think it’s some knee-jerk reaction to 9/11.

    I think this whole thing comes down to liability. After Columbine it came out that Harris and Klebold had written things on the internet and even done school projects reflecting their intent. The community was up in arms that the police didn’t “do something” before the tragedy in light of the signs.

    I think police and school districts these days are more afraid of being sued than anything else.

  29. Minstrel: Possibility, but neither are liability issues a good reason to trample free speech, and a lawsuit in that direction is not going to be cheap either.

  30. Fact: A child was arrested suspected of terroristic threats.

    Police had reason to believe he was a threat to others. We don’t know the whole story. An investigation is in order. Period. While I believe people (adult and child alike) should be presumed innocent, etc…I also believe we have a responsibility to protect the general public.

    Personally, I’ll wait till the investigation is complete (or at least until more details are available) before I start second-guessing the people who are paid to up-hold law and order.

    As a mother of four children, I prefer that the possible threat is removed until the investigation is complete. Because Freedom of Speech is sometimes abused.

  31. “Fact: A child was arrested suspected of terroristic threats.”

    Actually, he was 18, so he was a legal adult. So much for that “fact.”

    Also, if we’re going to pull parental rank, as a father I get annoyed at the idea that some idiot who happens to be a law enforcement official might restrict my daughter’s right to self-expression because it makes him nervous. Call me nutty, but I want to see the clear and obvious reasons why law enforcement officials do the things they do. It’s never too early to second-guess the people who can lock you away for reasons that appear specious right out of the gate. Law enforcement powers get abused with rather more frequency than free expression, Bugg.

    If there’s more to this specific story than a zombie story and nervous adults, of coure it will be good to know. In the meantime, there’s ample evidence in general that there’s not much respect by adults for the free expression of young people, and this appears to be another example, and again, I find that troubling.

  32. “Fact: A child was arrested suspected of terroristic threats.”

    Actually, he was 18, so he was a legal adult. So much for that “fact.”

    Also, if we’re going to pull parental rank, as a father I get annoyed at the idea that some idiot who happens to be a law enforcement official might restrict my daughter’s right to self-expression because it makes him nervous. Call me nutty, but I want to see the clear and obvious reasons why law enforcement officials do the things they do. It’s never too early to second-guess the people who can lock you away for reasons that appear specious right out of the gate. Law enforcement powers get abused with rather more frequency than free expression, Bugg.

    If there’s more to this specific story than a zombie story and nervous adults, of coure it will be good to know. In the meantime, there’s ample evidence in general that there’s not much respect by adults for the free expression of young people, and this appears to be another example, and again, I find that troubling.

  33. So the police and schools are not really scared of kids, but of ambulance-chasing lawyers?

    “Here’s my card. We can sue the school for the paper-clip that fell into your eye, and we’ll be rich… I mean, you’ll be rich.”

    I think it was Shakespeare who wrote: “**** *** *** lawyers.” (Can’t quote that anymore, because someone might think it’s a crime and have me arrested.)

    Of course, if the Bard had lived today, his plays would be banned. “Mr. Shakespeare, HAMLET will encourage teenagers to murder their step-parents.”

    -A.R.Yngve
    http://yngve.bravehost.com

  34. This remind me of those “zero tolerance” rules where an honor roll student who has never, ever been in any trouble accidentially leaves his swiss army knife in his backback from his boy scout trip and then gets expelled from the school when another kid finds it when snooping through his bag… I’m sure you’ve heard these stories before.

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