Monday, April 30, 2007

Use Some Common Sense!

An Asian student was arrested for disorderly conduct for writing an essay (Hat Tip: Steven Erickson):

One violent, profanity-laced English essay later and Allen Lee's future with the Marine Corps appears to be over.

Because of pending criminal charges stemming from his essay, Lee's recruiter told him Friday evening that the Marine Corps has discharged him from his contract, said Sgt. Luis R. Agostini, spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Station Chicago.

''Basically he is no longer an applicant to become a Marine,'' Agostini said.

Police Thursday released portions of an essay used to charge a Cary-Grove High School student with disorderly conduct, leaving several experts puzzled at an arrest based on such schoolwork.

Asked to write about whatever he wanted in a creative writing class, would-be Marine and honors student Lee, 18, described a violent dream in which he shot people and then "had sex with the dead bodies.'' ...

A second disorderly count accuses Lee of alarming first-year teacher Nora Capron by writing that "as a teacher, don't be surprised on [sic] inspiring the first CG shooting,'' an apparent reference to Cary-Grove High.

Many people seem up in arms about this arrest--it is, in my opinion, over the top, but was it such a good idea for this young man to write this so soon after the VT shooting? But while it might make one question his judgement, it certainly doesn't rise to the level of an arrest. Writing such stupid stuff is a sign that something is possibly wrong and a diagnostic tool that warrants a possible psychological, not jail time. How can we even begin to talk about sensible public policy issues surrounding violence intervention when the authority figures vascillate wildly between doing nothing to arresting people over what they write?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A susbtantial portion of teachers and professors, especially high school teachers, are authoritarian, controlling personality types. Give them more power and control and they are guaranteed to arbitrarily and pathologically abuse it.

The witch hunt begins....

The phenomena is still incredibly rare, so they're just going to ruin a lot of innocent people's lives while some authoritarian nuts get their rocks off.

10:52 AM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Quite so. Stupidity should be derided, but not criminalized. The predictions about thought crime coming to pass, spawned by the creation of hate crime categories, is actually happening, though I still have an "Oh, give me a break" reaction to the notion.

So we have laws to protect us from our own idiocy with inherent dangers, defying our learning processes and, in cases, certain Darwinian principles; and now we get criminal charges applied to what should, as you so correctly said, warrants psychological help rather than prison.

It's amazing that we're still the dominant species.

10:57 AM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Makes me wonder who's the more stupid, the kid or the adults involved. How can an honor student be so ignorant as to write such stuff and how can the adults believe is rises to the level of a crime?

I wonder how much his being Asian had to do with the reaction of the adults. If he had brought a ham sandwich to school, he'd really be in trouble.

The kid definitely needs a look see by a psychologist though.

11:20 AM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of the reason why he wrote the essay, we should be asking this.

Will sending him to jail solve anything?

No, it won't. The minor charges he faces now will only see to it that he spends time in a hostile enviroment (jail) then he will be freed and will likely be a bigger threat to society than he was before.

If he is a potential risk, sending him to jail instead of sending him to professional help will not make things better and might make things worse.

Of course there is also the issue that Peregrine John brought up (and I agree with) regarding policing thoughts.

12:09 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno about the kid needing to be seen by a pro.
The assignment was to knock yourself out and there would be no judgment. So the teacher lied. That's her job.
Anyway, if I were inclined, I could summon up the necessary adjectives and verbs to put together something like this, if I were paid for it. I guess some guys are, but I don't have their agent.
But it would have nothing to do with what I think or who I am.

We have no way of knowing if the kid was letting out his inmost self, never a good idea in front of a member of the helping professions, or trying to push the envelope for the hell of it.
I would take the reaction to this with some context and nuance. Search for Cody Webb Hempfield--no quotes--and you'll see what public schools are like. Ditto the juvie authorities. To presume that the school in this case is any more sensible would be a STREEEEEEETCH.

12:10 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Don Surber said...

There is no entitlement to be a Marine. I am sorry, but actions have consequences. At 18, Mr. Lee is learning a valuable, if expensive, lesson.

12:10 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Don Surber,

I agree, frankly, with this guy's poor judgement, the Marines may be doing themselves a favor by turning him down.

12:23 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger SarahW said...

Present policies of not forcing treatment on should-be patients unless they are behaving in criminal fashion means that "shoehorn charges" are filed in some cases.

I believe that to be the situation here.

12:52 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder EXACTLY what the preturbed and offended instructor said when assigning the essay?

IS it commonly known, and openly
announced, that teachers and beauticians are required to report unusual hearsay to "the authorities"?

12:55 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Sarah W,

Perhaps it is like those parents who take their kids to juvenile detention for acting up horribly, they are desperate and cannot get any help or even discipline without Child Protective Services coming after them, so law enforcement is their only resort.

12:58 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So he really was arrested for writing. What kind of insanity is this? Disorderly writing? Please.

His parents should be arrested for leaving him in a public school. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Heaven help us.


1:01 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading a part of it in a paper online, I think he probably was just kidding. How many straight A students do you know seriously confess to thoughts of violent necrophilia in such a public setting? None that I ever knew.

Hell, a friend of mine wrote an entire erotic story for his Virginia Standards of Learning test back when they were being put through a trial run in 2000. It was... pornographic to say the least...

1:22 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly the kind of shallow, tasteless crap that you'd expect a teenage boy to produce when allowed to write whatever he wants. Teenage boys write garbage like this because they think it's cool - even funny, as the little geek said himself. Most of them eventually develop some taste. Some don't and eventually become Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, or serial killers.

That teacher should certainly have kept an eye on the kid. If he seemed obsessed with this kind of writing, then maybe some counseling or intervention might have been in order. But as a writing teacher, she might have done him more good if she had tried to guide him toward exploring other aspects of his life and personality. You don't encourage a kid to think and write deeply about things by telling him to write about "whatever" and then rewarding every video-game-inspired brain-fart he puts on paper. But you also don't do it by calling the cops.

Guess we won't have to worry about this dude becoming an English major...

1:33 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe he was just experimenting with writing in Stephen King horror style.

I can't stand that type of novel myself, but many people read 'em and movie rights are sold.

1:42 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Teenage boys write garbage like this because they think it's cool - even funny,...

Very true, but that's a problem in itself. Why do teenage boys think that stuff is funny? Could it be the over exposure to violent video games, violent music videos, and the rest of the violent, sicko stuff that passes for art and entertainment nowadays?

Back when this old man was a teenager we didn't know what necrophilia was. Football was the most violent game. And the most violent songs were written by Johnny Cash.

2:14 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny because it grosses out the adults.
There's still a bit of fart/belch humor left over from fifth-grade, too.
Jeez. Don't overthink this kid. Save your concern for a bunch of supposed adults.
Young men are supposed to be a little crazy. Now, in addition to all the other coddling we've talked about, they need to be aware that authoritarian incompetents will be scrutinizing whatever they say for evidence requiring incarceration, drugging, or permanent residence on some 'crat's database.
Get a grip.

2:27 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm almost 60. Necrophilia, pedophilia, beastiality, etc. were known when I was young, just not seen as cool. Interesting, but not cool.

We had several boys in school who seemed to do nothing else but draw pictures of gun battles and fighting. I'm sure I drew a few.

Dodge ball. If you don't think it's violent, get hit in the face by one. By the way, its entire purpose is to pound someone or avoid the pounding.

For popular music, I'll give that to you (sans some WWI/II songs).

3:08 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Frankly I think everyone here is projecting their opinions on the situation without regard to the facts. The simple fact is that the teacher told the students to write what they wanted but without limits.

So why did he write what he did? I'd suggest it's more about the teacher than the student. I've had creative writing courses before and the point of such exercises is to go beyond the normal boundaries.

**Because otherwise you'll get a crappy grade.**

Why do I believe this? Because the only time I've gotten good responses from those teaching these courses has been when I've gone beyond the boundaries of good taste. In those occasions where I haven't I've generally gotten a mediocre grade.

Really now. The guy's a A student. Isn't it far more likely that he was pushing the envelope in order to get a good grade from a soppy teacher than an actual expression of his internal feelings?

How many times have you, as a student, played to the bias and preconceptions of the teacher rather than your own internal beliefs?

Counseling? Frankly the people here need more counseling than this kid.

3:52 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



4:09 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Joe said...

I took a poetry class when I was a senior in high school. While I never wrote anything obscene, I took it upon myself to deliberately slaughter every poetry form assigned, usually making poems insulting the entire enterprise. Except my teacher thought they were hilarious (and, I suspect, a welcome change from most the crap she had to read.)

5:01 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Marines made a good call. This does make me wonder, though, if the teacher ever reads suspense thrillers in the James Patterson mode. I wonder how she would separate what the kid wrote from what Patterson (among others) sells.

A friend published a best selling suspense thriller in which little boys were killed. I couldn't read the book without wondering how my friend was able to spend so much time imagining such repulsive stuff. There is something freaky about knowing the author.

5:34 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of the article, there is this: "Bernardine Dohrn, director of Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center, laughed when she heard the charge.

"You might want to talk to him, talk to his parents, but the criminal justice system seems to be the last thing you'd want,'' said Dohrn, a former Weatherman leader who lived for years as a fugitive. "

The Weathermen? I suppose she ought to know whether this kid was serious or not, since she used to be quite serious about violence. And of all people to say that the criminal justice system is the last thing you'd want...again, she ought to know.

5:44 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How many times have you, as a student, played to the bias and preconceptions of the teacher rather than your own internal beliefs?"

Never. But then I was such an outsider that I didn't even like hanging out with the other outsiders. Never mind kissing a teacher's ass just to get a good grade...

My point was the the kid probably *didn't* need counseling - he was just writing what kids sometimes write - especially teenage male ones. Gross-out humor is a male kid thing. We had it when I was younger (early 70s), and yes some of it was almost as bad as what this guy wrote. We had heard of necrophilia - talking and writing about it was just going a bit too far most of the time. I think people forget what it's like to be in the 12-16 age range...

Puts me in mind of that stupid song that's way older than I am.

Glory, Glory Hallelujiah
Teacher hit me with a ruler
Hid behind the door
With a loaded .44
Now teacher don't teach no more!

Of course, we didn't submit this kind of thing in poetry class, nor did we sing it when the principal was lurking around. We had at least the beginnings of basic common sense.

Anyone unfortunate enough to be overheard by the authorities usually got a lecture on rudeness rather than a trip to the county jail. I also don't recall any of us actually shooting any teachers.

Anyway, back to the knucklehead. Seems to me that teacher shouldn't have gone ballistic over one paper. Look for a pattern in his writing over time - is this all the kid ever writes about? Then look at the kid - is he obviously unhappy or angry all the time? Is he known to have problems relating to other kids or to be bullied? I'm not saying these are necessarily signs of an unhealthy kid. In high school, they're probably not. But at least they're more to go on than the contents of one paper.

5:50 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why is Bernardine Dohrn not still living as a fugitive? Why did somebody give the former leader of a group of bomb-throwers and cop-killers a cushy job at Northwestern University? And I wonder what "Children and Family Justice" means to somebody like that.

6:08 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."
Cardinal de Richelieu (1585-1642)

I for one am far more frightened by those who would claim the power of imprisonment for mere words - clear induction to panic or immediate calls to violence excepted - than I am by the barely coherent ramblings of some pimply teenager.

6:27 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bugs, here's a 1996 interview with Dohrn and Ayers:

Sounds like she paid her dues..something like a $1500 fine and probation. So now she's become someone we should listen to? I have to wonder about the Chicago Sun-Times reporters and what their motive was in interviewing Dohrn for the article about Allen Lee. Did they quote Dohrn because they think she's an expert or because they wanted to draw attention to the absurdity of the case...and to Dohrn's lurid past? I can't tell.

6:51 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a Chicago Sun-Times article at,042707lee.article that had the boy's recreation of his essay along with some commentary. The essay is pretty creepy, but it's not anything beyond what an imaginative teenager might see as provocative. His commentary isn't all that coherent either, but I don't remember being all that coherent when I was 18.

My question for Dr. H. is this - Given a single instance of inappropriate writing like this, could a normal, intelligent adult speak with this kid and make a determination whether he's just an obnoxious teenager or a threat? Or is the risk so great that he should be evaluated by a psychologist?

7:26 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


To answer your question, I think that one has to look at the context of what this guy did. It was reported that he made a threat to a teacher as well as wrote this essay after the VT situation. He has to know people are worried. It shows poor judgement, does that warrant an evaluation? Perhaps yes, to find out what, if anything is going on. I have gotten requests like this in my work and often find at times, nothing going on and I say so, and other times, there is some inner angst that caused the teen to write something that was a request for help--and the help was provided. Or I've seen teens who do this type of thing as a "prank" but you find out they have other "pranks" they play on people that can be quite cruel.

7:41 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect
the kid seems like a whack job, and the Marines probably made a good call
but, what, exactly,
does his being Asian have to do with it?

8:03 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen this before. People's imagination runs wild and they overreact due to their own fears. However, I have to agree with you Dr.Helen, it was poor judgment to be writing something like this after the horrific event at VA Tech.

9:41 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could do without the kind of passive-aggressive, manipulative geek who thinks it's funny to write this kind of thing and fancies himself a martyr when the inevitable smackdown comes. It's loser behavior, first cousin to a troll's, and shouldn't be encouraged.

Hope he enjoys bein' oppressed. Too bad for him he was too stupid to foresee the magnitude of the overreaction.

10:47 PM, April 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this seems to be the current policy on mental health...

depending on the way the wind is blowing either do nothing or commit/arrest them.

no fact logic review...just the political way the wind blows

just like on university campuses where they are sued for kicking people out prematurly or sued for letting them stay unil there is a suicide/homicide...

no guidleines...just emotion lawsuits..and poltics.

11:50 PM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger ricpic said...

Youth, impetuous youth. Soon to be outlawed.

8:44 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason the Marine Corps is releasing the young man from his contract is the pending criminal charges. It has nothing to do with the nature of the charges or the wisdom of them.

10:06 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put yourself in the place of school officials. What if the next day he brought an automatic weapon to school and killed students? Everyone, maybe even Dr. Helen, would ask how he fell through the cracks. They are placed in the almost impossible position of protecting students while maintaining their civil rights. Better to err on the side of caution. Monday morning quarterbacking is easy!

10:36 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


@ Dr Helen

It was reported that he made a threat to a teacher as well as wrote this essay after the VT situation.

I don't believe that's true at all.

Instead the teacher perceived a threat in the writing. There's a vast difference between the two.

Really now. What part of:

A Cary-Grove High School student charged with disorderly conduct for writing a violently descriptive class essay had received an assignment that said: "Write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing." ...

Is so hard to understand? Was there past questionable behavior? In an A student? Has there been any evidence whatsoever that this kid was a danger to anyone? Has shown any tendency to be a problem to anyone?

The only thing that supports any of this silly psychoanalytical nonsense is the excessive reading into by the teacher, who is legally liable IMHO, and the people here.

And I'll point out here that why is this kid supposed to censor some nonsense that he wrote for a creative writing assignment in Illinois based on something that happened in Virginia?

Seriously I am really underwhelmed by the logic being shown here.

11:06 AM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A threat is a chargeable offense: creative writing is not. If the writing was so disturbed, show it to someone. Report the concerns to his parents, have him talk to a school counselor. I have had kids brought to me with their drawings and the kid and I look at and talk about them. Some are depressed, some are just kids. But I still cannot figure out what he DID.


1:04 PM, May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...

Put yourself in the place of school officials. What if the next day he brought an automatic weapon to school and killed students? Everyone, maybe even Dr. Helen, would ask how he fell through the cracks. They are placed in the almost impossible position of protecting students while maintaining their civil rights. Better to err on the side of caution. Monday morning quarterbacking is easy! "


theres no guidlines to guide them

they get sued if they take action and sued if they dont.

why isnt there guidlines for the university to follow?

why cant there be a fact based policy...(the policy would decide what to do based on the facts...if there is just words..if there is history..if there is a violent threat..if the student is in cousoling or on medication etc....and perscribe an action...suspention..investigation...etc..)

yes its a case by case basis..but so is EVERYTHING ELSE for which there is policy.

if a doctor buthers you...he can say he was whithin procedure...if a used car salesman sells you a lemon...he can say hes whithin procedure...the questiion becomes whetehr the intituiton was whithin its resonable guidlines.

but there are no guidleines here

1:22 PM, May 01, 2007  
Blogger Psych Medications said...

Right. There are no guidelines here. And for insitutions, when there are no guidelines, time after time, our common experience has been they turn toward discrimination and punishment as a format for responding to fear.

Be careful how you react.


2:20 PM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

psch medications-

are you comparing this to fda guidelines for development and marketing of psychiatric drugs???

iin any case..what policy should be
that is an issue at least for debate at in a democratic forum.

not in a criminal court in cases like this

3:17 PM, May 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The minor charges he faces now will only see to it that he spends time in a hostile enviroment (jail) then he will be freed and will likely be a bigger threat to society than he was before."

How about THIS for a 'hostile' environment.. American culture? Yes, also as in the VA Tech shootings, why should any male have any respect for a society that has NO respect for HIM? Men are regarded now as sub-human in popular culture today as well as fathers being regarded as unnecessary. You cannot tell me that the current openly hostile environment that men now have to endure (especially on college campuses) from women and society in general didn't have a lot to do with why the VA Tech incident happened.

Expect many more incidents like it to occur out there in our society- and ladies, you only have yourselves to blame.

3:09 PM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, while I am concerned with hostility toward males in our culture, I think VT happened cause the dude was just plain nuts.

And killing folks in the face of verbal hostility in notacceptable to any reasonable man or woman. I agree with you in part, but VT was not due to misandry in my opinion.


3:54 PM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think VT happened cause the dude was just plain nuts"

This guy did not live in a vacuum and there is no doubt that a large part of what made him so hostile was the American hostile environment towards men. There are millions of 'just plain nuts' everywhere- I live in a city full of them that walk around mumbling to themselves, but they DO NOT go on shooting sprees.

"killing folks in the face of verbal hostility in notacceptable to any reasonable man or woman"

Well, of course not, but neither is it acceptable to any reasonable man or woman to live in a society wherein women constantly deride men as worthless and stupid (compound that with the fact that the utter opposite is true) along with the reality that all the rights belong to women & all of the laws are anti-male wherein any woman can falsely accuse a man of anything out of spite or for profit and have him put away. Or a society wherein men are denied any rights to their children. NOW we're talking about COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE AND CRAZY.

4:32 PM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon wrote: "Or a society wherein men are denied any rights to their children. NOW we're talking about COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE AND CRAZY."

Agreed. Unless a parent is harmful to their children, it is in the children's best interest to have contact with the parents as far as I am concerned. In our culture, it is typically father's who get ripped from a child's life. And the children suffer for it, as do the fathers.

Completely unacceptable and crazy is right.


5:57 PM, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The young man was permitted back in school and will graduate with his class. His lawyers say clearly he has never been in any trouble, and wrote what he did with the promise of complete immunity. They are working to get the charges completely dropped from his record; another meeting is set up next week.

The Corps says he is welcome to reapply if the charges are dropped.

5:49 PM, May 06, 2007  
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