California Student Suspended For Writing In Poem That She “Understands” Why Adam Lanza “Pulled The Trigger”

courtni-webb-adam-lanza-poemWe have often discussed the continuing crackdown on student free speech in high schools. The latest such case involves Courtni Webb, a seventeen-year-old student at California’s Life Learning Academy who was suspended for writing in a poem in a personal notebook that she “understand[s] the killings in Connecticut.”


A teacher appears to have spotted the poem and the statement that “I know why he pulled the trigger. Why are we oppressed by a dysfunctional community of haters and blamers?” Webb was promptly reported and suspended.

Once again, I fail to understand why students are punished for expressing their feelings and thoughts. I would rather address such feelings in a teachable moment as opposed to, as here, teaching students about the constant threat of censorship and discipline for free speech.

What is particularly problematic is that the student was not glorifying violence but denouncing the bullying and isolation that often comes with high school. Webb insisted that “Never in my life have I heard that you couldn’t mention a tragedy that happened. I didn’t say that I agree with it, I said I simply understand it.”

The lesson from this action is not likely to be received as a matter of responsibility of students as much as the power of authority over students. We should want the students to discuss the massacre, particularly in Connecticut. The students who commit these rare acts of violence tend to be those who did not voice or express their anger and isolation. These disciplinary actions tend to force such students further underground where their feelings of rage and isolation grows. Then there are the much greater number of students like Webb who merely want to discuss the underlying causes for such isolation. They should have not just an opportunity but a right to do so, in my view.

Source: Business Insider

32 thoughts on “California Student Suspended For Writing In Poem That She “Understands” Why Adam Lanza “Pulled The Trigger””

  1. Maybe if she had a “safe” atmosphere to write down her feelings, she’d never become another Adam Lanza. Yes, killers often leave diaries behind, but they’re usually full of thoughts of action. She was just trying to understand it.

  2. as said teachable moment. Maybe the girl needs to be talked with to see if, when she ‘understands’ it she does see it as a viable alternative to the bullies and haters or was this mere poetic license?

  3. Frankly, You’re correct. And that is how the insane “zero tolerance” in schools has come about. It doesn’t even have to be about “violence”. Kids getting suspended for having Tylenol in the name of “drugs.”

  4. I’m pretty sure the USSC has ruled that students have no constitutional rights unless the school board agrees.

    Secondly, we have put schools into an untenable position. Once there is a shooting the shooters past is dug into and it is always found that they wrote or expressed violent fantasies. From this people have decided to hold schools accountable for not recognizing those fantasies as real threats. This ignores the fact that 90% of all people have then and nearly as many write them out at some time during their youth. So the school, in order to protect itself from legal liability, is going to over react.

  5. Here, there, and everywhere…

    “France’s censorship demands to Twitter are more dangerous than “hate speech””

    “Few ideas have done as much damage throughout history as empowering the government to criminalize opinions it dislikes”

    by Glenn Greenwald

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/02/free-speech-twitter-france

    “Ultimately, nobody needs Jason Farago, French minister Vallaud-Belkacem, or Twitter algorithms deciding which ideas they’re permitted to express on the internet and which ones should be criminalized. Gay youth and women – especially in the west – have seen their situations significantly improve with the emergence of the internet (I’d argue that it’s due in part to its emergence as a democratizing force, but at the very least, even if there’s no causal connection, these trends obviously co-exist). Although Farago mocks the marketplace of ideas as some sort of obsolete relic of the past, it is undeniably true that arguments in favor of equality for women and gay people have triumphed over bigotry, not because bigots have been imprisoned, but because those ideas have proven more powerful, more persuasive.

    Criminalizing ideas doesn’t make them go away any more than sticking your head in the sand makes unpleasant things disappear. If anything, refusing to confront them makes them stronger. But what is certain is that few people have done as much harm in history as those who deem themselves worthy of criminalizing ideas they dislike.”

    (I trust that Courtni Webb will prevail in some way, shape or form.)

  6. “I didn’t say that I agree with it, I said I simply understand it.”

    There you have it. Understanding is now a punishable offense. And what mespo said.

  7. She has a First Amendment right of free speech and a Ninth Amendment right of privacy to her personal papers. If they want to deny that she was expressing free speech then they have to admit that they were invading her privacy by reading her writings to herself. Lets see your Diary teacher and yours too Principal. None dare call a Principal a Pal. Put those two out to pasture.

  8. Bizarre (but legally protected) comment meets bizarre (and likely impermissible) response. I’m not sure why she was suspended and I bet neither are the school officials. That’s why we have courts.

    Life Learning Academy, indeed, though not in the way intended.

  9. A really stupid misunderstanding of this girl’s attempt to make sense of the tragedy. It has long been a tradition in many schools to see those bullied as deserving it and merely going through a rite of passage. The British Public School system comes to mind. How can we expect an educational system to succeed if those running it have little understanding of what the concept of education is about?

  10. This is a matter for the International Court of Justice. Connecticut Yankee in Heir Hitlers regime.

  11. Connecticut. A Pirate Territory. Pull the embassy. Dont go there. When you fly over, flush. Twiice.

  12. I don’t know what that was thinking, but this story reminds of what Hulk Hogan said about his ex-wife after their messy divorce:

    “I get O.J. [Simpson] now.”

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I would consider that a threat of violence.

  13. Ignoring youth and their valid search for understanding is a time honored practice of Fascist organizations. Discussion and exploration of subjects is a freeing and growing exercise of life and understanding.

    Old fogies that compromise themselves to get along, don’t like to be reminded of the chains they wrapped their souls in.

  14. Schools gone wild. I thought talking about problems, expressing feelings and exploring thoughts and solutions were all part of what education was supposed to be about. Not in our teach to the test, don’t think world. This young women was subjected to hours of coverage of this tragedy and more coverage of the NRA’s insanity but she is the one who gets punished. Bizarro world, indeed.

  15. They should have not just an opportunity but a right to do so, in my view.”

    Totally agree.

    There is an academic side to solving the problem, as well as an emotional side.

    Discussion can help in both of those endeavors.

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