The U.S. Marines have dropped the 18-year-old Cary-Grove High School student whose controversial essay got him a disorderly conduct charge from McHenry County authorities.
Allen Lee, a straight-A honor student, had enlisted, passed all of the tests and was scheduled to start basic training in October in California.
So as part of a free-writing assignment, Lee writes a violent essay about killing people and having sex with their bodies and then ends it with a comment about his teacher inspiring a shooting spree (“No quarrel on you qualifications as a writer, but as a teacher, don’t be surprised on inspiring the first cg shooting”). Here’s the original document he wrote along with the instructions for it. His handwriting is worse than mine, something I didn’t think possible as my handwriting has been characterized as chicken scratches. Thankfully, the Sun-Times provides a readable version here.
I think the kid is guilty of extremely poor judgment and of attempting to get a rise out of his teacher. (He clearly succeeded in the latter.) When I was a senior in high school, smart-assed metal head that I was, I once wrote in my journal, a journal that was graded weekly by my English teacher, my own extended definition for the word “fuck.” She labeled it obscene but did not tell me to rip out the pages, nor did she turn me in to the dean. Why did I write it? I was probably bored, and I hated school and couldn’t wait to get out and I didn’t really care too much about my grades. (I would later get an F for the last semester of that class for failing to turn in a thesis project. There is a slim volume I’m sure that could be written about this…)
Kids with attitudes like Lee’s are always going to try to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. It’s not like Lee posted his essay on some internet forum or blog. He wasn’t making public threats. Clearly, he only meant for his teacher to read it. He doesn’t have a history of psychological problems, even passing the Marines’ psychiatric exam.
The teacher is a first-year instructor, which means she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience. A more seasoned teacher might have rolled with Lee’s provocative essay, given him some props for creativity and spunk and just let it go. Though from what I’ve read about this controversy so far, we don’t know if there was any tension between the teacher and the student to begin with. That’s another possibility.
I realize that with the recent shooting at Virginia Tech everyone is jumpy. But it doesn’t look at this point that arresting Lee and keeping him from joining the Marines is the best thing for all involved. Lee looks like a kid with an attitude problem that a few months in Marines Basic Training will straighten out, the teacher looks overly-sensitive, and McHenry county looks downright draconian and silly.