Illinois police arrest teen after teacher "disturbed" by essay
Told to express emotion for a creative-writing class, high-school senior Allen Lee penned an essay so disturbing to his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct, officials said Wednesday.
Lee, 18, a straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Ill., was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with the misdemeanor for an essay that police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.
Neither police nor the school would release a copy of the essay written Monday. School officials declined to say whether Lee had any previous disciplinary problems, but said he was an excellent student. Authorities said Lee had never been in trouble with the police.
The charge against Lee comes as schools across the country wrestle with how to react in the wake of the massacre that claimed 33 lives at Virginia Tech.
Cary Police Chief Ron Delelio said the charge against Lee was appropriate even though the essay was not published or posted for public viewing. Disorderly conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, is often filed for such pranks as pulling a fire alarm or dialing 911, he said. But it can also apply when someone's writings disturb an individual, Delelio said.
"The teacher was alarmed and disturbed by the content," he said.
The teen's father said he understood concerns about violence but not why a creative-writing exercise resulted in charges against his son.
"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said Albert Lee. But he added, "I don't see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions."
Some legal experts said the charge against Allen Lee is troubling because it was over an essay that even police admit contained no direct threats against anyone at the school.
A civil-rights advocate said the teacher's reaction to an essay shouldn't make it a crime. "One of the elements is that some sort of disorder or disruption is created," said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "When something is done in private — when a paper is handed in to a teacher — there isn't a disruption."