February 22, 2005

Watch what you say

With reports like this, it's no wonder that we don't see many students blogging about the inanities of their schools:

Yvette Lacobie was steamed at one of her teachers at Bellaire High School. She felt like her Spanish teacher had been picking on her all year, and particularly so on that day. So she did what a lot of teenagers do. She vented to her friends. She went home last November 9 and got on an online chat line called Xanga, used by a lot of Asian-American kids.

In her note she called her teacher a bitch, a fat head, said she hated her, and wrote: "shez now the first person on my to kill list." She wrote it under an alias. About a month later, on December 2, Yvette was called into the principal's office. A copy of her note had been placed in the named teacher's mailbox at school. Yvette admitted writing it.

Four days later, it was official. Yvette's father, Kevin Lacobie, received a notice from assistant principal Dave DeBlasio quoting from the chat-line message and informing him that his daughter was being kicked out of school for making a terroristic threat, a Level IV offense.

It seems another student, one not getting along with Yvette, had printed up a copy of her message, embellished it a bit with a few well-placed capital letters to draw emphasis to the salient points, signed Yvette's name to it and helpfully dropped it off at school.

Yvette was sentenced to 103 days at either the privately operated alternative school CEP (Community Education Partners) or online learning at the Virtual School.

Appalling. Jim of Zero Intelligence has more:

It did not matter that Yvette posed no actual threat to the teacher, had not threatened or intimidated the teacher directly or that the comment had not been made at school but rather at an open public forum [and was doctored before being delivered to the teacher, to boot]. Yvette's cooperation with school authorities and admission of penning the note did not matter either, except to make the administration's kicking her out of school a bit easier.

What's next? Kicking kids out for criticizing what their teachers say in class? For criticizing asinine school rules? What's more, Yvette's parents had more to add to the story in the comments of ZI:

...The particular statute they accused her of, "terroristic threat" (Texas Penal Code 22.07) very clearly requires intent. We reviewed the case with a few criminal attorneys, and they immediately agreed a website posting, without additional evidence (like, say, an actual kill list, or plans, or other violent or threatening behavior), would not pass muster in the courts; probably wouldn't even pass the DA's office. So, the school administration decided to handle in "administratively", with only cursory involvement from the police.

There's a couple of other sordid facts to this story -- like the kid who submitted the anonymous letter was at the time serving probation for a Class C Misdeamonor, so was highly incentivized not to admit harmful intent (least he be hauled back into court and asked to serve something more serious than just community service!), and we had coincidently just a week prior to the incident had filed a grievance against the teacher, who has a past reputation for being vindictive to students who've complained about her behavior. Oops for us!

We presented much of this upon appeals, but unlike the court system, the appeals process in schools is often long on style, short on substance. Sigh. Our daughter wrote something in an immature way, something that we would have immediately corrected her for, and demanded apologies (which she did give to the teacher), but to criminalize it as a threat, is quite a shock. And not the America I was used to as a kid!

Posted by kswygert at February 22, 2005 12:09 PM