California high school senior Courtni Webb loves to write poetry, and like most people who do, she uses her words on paper to express her opinions on big issues going on in the world, and the dysfunction in our society. But the high school senior received the shock of her life recently when administrators at her school, The Life Learning Academy, an alternative school for juvenile reform justice, caught wind of her poem about the Sandy Hook shooting and shooter after her teacher found it in class, and considered it a threat more than an expression of feelings. She was suspended for her words, and actually faces possible expulsion.
The poem was definitely not all sunshine and flowers, but from what could be taken of it in numerous interviews, it was just a simple social commentary on how people who feel helpless and hurt by the folks around them lash out. I’m guessing that the lines, “I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger,” are what got under the skin of administrators. In an interview with ABC affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco, Webb tried to let it be known that just because she said she might understand why someone would feel such a way and do such a thing, she’s not threatening anyone and doesn’t in any way condone Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza’s behavior. “The meaning of the poem is just talking about society and how I understand why things like that incident happened. So it’s not like I’m agreeing with it, but that’s how the school made it seem.”
Her mother, Valerie Statham, also feels that the school has overreacted big time, as they assumed that she was threatening to do something violent, which her mother says you don’t get from reading the poem. “I feel like they’re over reacting. Because my daughter doesn’t have a history of violence. She didn’t threaten anybody. She didn’t threaten herself. She simply said she understood why.”
Her mother also feels that suspending her for writing the poem is a violation of free speech, and in an interview with The Today Show, Attorney Jonathan Katz agreed with Statham. “If we can’t talk about this whole incident, we’re not going to understand what makes these people tick, who load up their guns and kill a massive number of people.” According to Statham, she won’t know whether or not her daughter will be expelled from school until The Life Learning Academy has classes resume on January 7.
While I understand schools trying to do everything they can to keep kids safe after such a tragedy, this seems like an overreaction of one of the highest forms. Instead of suspending her, they should have sat down and discussed the story behind the poem, and if they still felt a certain way about it all, they could have kept an eye on her around school and contacted her parents. But to jump up and punish a young person for trying to make sense of the world around them and express their feelings, I think they dropped the ball with such swift and harsh action–especially since they’re even considering possible expulsion. But that’s just my opinion. Check out the interview from KGO-TV below and let us know what you think.