Thought Control In The Schools

Here’s the link to the story I’m ranting about.

Now, I’m certainly not in favor of kids shooting up the schools, ghod knows.

I personally think that taking responsibility for cracking down on bullying and rotten behavior in the schools is a good idea. Way too often in the past, administrators and teachers have simply let students abuse each other, for a variety of reasons ranging from “we can’t do anything about it,” to “not our job, man.”

But this new case bugs me.

The short version: A high school freshman wrote in her personal journal. The story goes like this: student falls asleep. Student dreams she kills her math teacher. Studetn wakes up. Student sees live math teacher. Oh, it was all a dream.

This was not written as an assignment, nor was it intended for public consumption. It was written in a private journal.

Kid made the mistake of bringing it to school, and showing it to a classmate. Teacher takes an interest, confiscates it, glances at it… and the circus begins.

The teen is now appealing her expulsion.

For writing something in a private journal.

THIS bugs me.

The school waves its hands and goes, “Hey, zero-tolerance policy. Don’t blame us. Take it to the school board.”

If the kid was making bomb threats, or sending notes, or leaving anonymous phone calls, or MAYBE even turning weird stuff like this in as part of an English assignment… I could see MAYBE investigating the situation.

But what the hell is this? And what purpose does it serve? As far as I can determine, the message being sent here is “Some thoughts will NOT be expressed on school grounds, in any way, shape, or form. Violators will be expelled, no matter what.”

This creeps me WAY out. I know teenagers. I’ve worked with them for years. Teenagers are GOING to think what they think. They are GOING to write what they write. Teenagers push boundaries and test limits. It’s what they DO. It’s how they’re WIRED.

Admittedly, some boundaries ought not to be pushed. Bringing guns to school is certainly out of line.

But what are we teaching them by saying, “You can’t even MENTION death or murder in ANY form, even though we teach it in stuff like “Hamlet,” because you’re kids and we’re not.”

Seems to me that what we’re teaching them is this: The Grownups Are Hypocrites. They Should Not Be Trusted. Don’t Believe All That Crap About Freedom Of Speech; It’s Meaningless.

Is this what we wanna be teaching the kids who’ll be caring for us when we’re old?

I mean, I expect I’m going to draw some fire, here, for this opinion. Again, I say this: if it had been in any way threatening, I might think differently… but as written, it seems to be a work of fiction, a thought, nothing more.

Which is worse: kids shooting up schools… or schools attempting to practice thought control?

It’s all about liability, I guess. Schools seem to be worried about too many other things - mostly relating to mandated testing and litigation - to teach kids anything anymore. So all they’re shooting for is “let’s do anything we can to prevent us from being liable for anything at all, even if we’re completely infringing on the rights of our students and damaging their education and growth as people.”

We’ve been seeing ridiculous stories like this since Columbine, really. I wish I could be surprised.

I have to go with Michael Moore on this one. It’s all about the cult of fear. Schools and parents have gotten the notion that violence and unwed mothers and drugs and missing their 18 prayers a day and blahdifrigginblah is so rampant that they measure victory in whether students survive the program, not whether they learn anything of value.

What, some girl brought aspirin to school? Quick, get her before the others find out! Timmy wrote about how Billy is a jerk in his diary, and his mom dug through his room, found it, and reported him? Off to prison he goes! Two kids were holding hands? Forced sterilization at once!

Well, we’ve kept the two students who aren’t upstate for 25 to life on trumped up charges safe. Too bad they can’t read, and have been drilled into mindless puppets, but that’s their problem, not ours.

A friend of mine was suspended for calling a group of girls at our school “sluts” … in his online journal. He was suspended for something that happened off school property, and really had nothing to do with the school at all. My school’s administration had way too much power and little oversight, and they abused that horribly.

Fortunately, they eventually got caught, and the main problem(one of the VPs) got busted down to elementry school teacher.

If something like that happens again, you might want to contact these folks.

My English teacher wouldn’t have confiscated it, but he’d have marked it very poorly; pretty much the first thing he warned us against was the use of the incredibly trite “And I woke up and it was all a dream” endings.

I have to agree with Marley23 on this. It is about liability. If at anytime in this kids school career she would lash out at someone and information about this journal incident got out, the person or people who saw it and “did nothing” about it would be held liable for it. It is a ridiculous accusation, but there are enough lawyers in this country who would make this a case and possibly make millions off of some school district because of it. The danger here is the alternative: Kids NOT talking about thier strong feelings and inner thoughts. These restrictions will in NO WAY prevent them from having strong feelings and sometimes disturbing inner thoughts, but they will begin to manifest them in sudden and unanticipated acts that can, and in some cases will, cause injury to themselves and others (i.e. drug use, suicide, etc.).

There are examples of another solution that school administrators are applying to deal with the situation: I know a teacher who found a crumpled sheet of paper in her classroom one evening. She unfolded it and found it to be a dialogue between two students that occurred during class. One kid was talking about how depressed he was that his girlfriend had “dumped” him and how he was thinking about killing himself. She immediately took this paper to a school administrator requesting that there be some type of intervention. The school admin crushed up the note and suggested to her that she NOT pick up papers in her classroom anymore that were not related to school assignments. (No liability if you “never” saw it.)


But that’s not really an option any more.

You see, if a teacher is aware that (circumstance) is happening, then he/she is often LEGALLY OBLIGATED to report it. Circumstances falling under this law include child abuse, suicide threats, and threats of violence.

I personally think this bites. It takes the judgment call away from the teacher. What if the kid just wants to talk to an adult he/she trusts, get some perspective? Nope. There can be no trust any more, because the minute the kid opens his mouth, he has put the teacher in the position of (a) risking his/her job to keep the confidence, and (b) betraying the kid to save his/her job.

It’s time for a change, here. For too long, the conventional wisdom seems to have been “it can be fixed by legislation”…

So much for freedom I say… paranoia and fear rule ?

I agree with the OP. Adults are made into hypocrites while teens are told not to think (or have sex).

If thinking is outlawed, only outlaws will think. (Which seems perilously close to the truth, sometimes.)

If she brought it to school, showed it to another student, and a teacher saw it then how private could it really have been?


The teacher happened to see it. She then confiscated it. The girl did not intend for the teacher to see it. And in any case the school’s actions were totally unwarranted.

Are we suggesting that simply because a child brings personal writings to school… that she has no right to control who reads them?

I’m not suggesting it I’m saying it. When I was in school the teachers would almost invariably confiscate notes that kids passed among themselves. Sometimes they’d read the notes, sometimes they’d just throw them away, and on rare occasion they’d read the notes aloud to the class.

Rachel passed the notebook to her friend presumably during art class. The art teacher confiscated the notebook, read it, and reported it to “school officials.” I really don’t see anything wrong with the teachers actions. I do think it was silly for Rachel to be suspended though.


The teacher should not have read the journal. That was an invasion of privacy. If it was interfering with class, then confiscate it and give it back at a later date. But don’t read it.

However, I smell a rat. Why did the student feel the urge to bring her private journal to school? Why did she get it out and distract class in front of the very teacher that she had written about?

Sometimes students will use that sort of technique to try to intimidate a teacher.

But sense we can’t know her motives, she should have won that round. Instead of being expelled, perhaps her journal would have made good bulletin board material. :wink: The punishment would fit the crime…

Or maybe she should have attended school in Nashville. When I was teaching, a rather strange but bright student wired explosives above the piano that was to be used with a stage production by the drama class that night. Fortunately, someone found them. Disciplinary action taken? Three day suspension.


I just don’t see that her privacy was violated. Rachel was showing the notebook to another student presumably during class. I say presumably because the article doesn’t specifically say it was during class. Was the teacher even aware that the notebook was a journal? Should a teacher refuse to read any notes passed among students?


I didn’t think it was the same teacher. I thought she wrote about killing the math teacher and it was the art teacher who confiscated the book.


If she felt the need to intimidate a teacher with threats of violence maybe she does deserve to be expelled. Off hand I’d say suspending her seems a bit harsh. On the other hand I don’t know Rachels history of bad or good behavior in that school.


This is kind of a reverse isn’t it? You just said that reading the journal was a violation of her privacy. What do you call putting it on a bulletin board?

I take it the explosives weren’t anything that would have damaged equipment or harmed people?


I definately think this was over-the-top. Suspension or expulsion are not appropriate reactions to this. Depending on the context of the story, I doubt anything should have been done about it, except making note of the incident (I’m assuming this is a studen with no history of “violent tendancies,” since I imagine that would probably be mentioned). It just sounds like the school covering its own ass.

Thanks for the suggestion, Earl, but I’m a Canadian, so I don’t think the ACLU could really do anything. Plus, I’m out of high school now(and not a moment too soon - the teachers were for the most part good, but the aforementioned administration treated us like children).

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
"We have tortured ev’ry teacher, we have broken ev’ry rule
“We have— urk—”

—sound of jackbooted thugs hauling singer off to Thought Correction Laboratory—

Bill Watterson got angry letters from people when he published a Sunday Calvin & Hobbes showing Calvin fantasizing about flying an F-15 over his school and blowing it up with missiles and bombs.

Do these people not remember what it was like to be a kid?

Tracy Flick may have been fictional, but her inspirations were all too real. If you blew up the school, how would you get graded?