Student Expelled for Writing

Just read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a local high student was expelled for the rest of the school year for an entry in her private journal. I’m still waking up (only one cup of coffee so far), but I needed to express a little frustration about this decision.

Rachel Boim, a 14-year old freshman, had written a short piece of fiction in which a student dreams about killing a teacher. One of her teachers–an art teacher, no less–confiscated the journal and kept it overnight. According to the article, the piece is completely fictional: no specific teacher is named and the student in the story isn’t clearly identified as the author herself (after all, it’s fiction). Boim, who grew up near Columbine, claims that her story was merely reflecting the violence that many high school students face in their daily experiences. Several prominent authors, including poet David Bottoms, have testified on her behalf, but Boim was still expelled.

I know that teachers and administrators must be pretty sensitive right now to any threat of violence, but this action really disappoints me. In part, I’m somewhat troubled by the action of the teacher. If the student’s sharing her writing with her friends was a distraction, I undertsand the teacher’s choice to temporarily confiscate the journal, but his reading through the student’s private (unintended for him, at least) writings seems a little invasive. From what I understand, there was little effort to place Boim’s story in a context with the rest of her journal.

More than anything, the “zero tolerance” policy is having the effect of silencing her–decding what she should and should not write about. I just happened to graduate from this high school (a long time ago, in a building not too far away), so that only increases my disappointment.


  1. chuck Said,

    October 24, 2003 @ 2:41 pm

    Just went back to the article and apparently Fulton Couunty has temporarily rescinded the suspension, which I think is a smart call. Possibly more to come (depending on how the case unfolds).

  2. V+ Said,

    October 25, 2003 @ 9:50 pm

    I asked the Area Superintendent a couple of questions yesterday after she made a statement on behalf of the new superintendent — the impression I got is that despite the claims that there will be a “further review” (she’s allowed back into school in the meantime), they’re just trying to save face and get the press off their backs — she’s off the hook.

    The worst thing about this is that it isn’t exactly a ‘zero-tolerance’ case (at least that’s not how I read the AJC story), there was a “tribunal” (that’s what they call it!) that went on for a couple of hours, after which it was clear she was not a threat and a good kid, and they STILL threw the book at her just (presumably) to make an example of her.


  3. chuck Said,

    October 26, 2003 @ 12:38 am

    Wow–thanks for the input, Vaughn. That approach is actually a little scarier in my book. I’m glad to hear that she’s probably off the hook, though.

  4. George Said,

    October 26, 2003 @ 12:05 pm

    The student has a column in today’s Atlanta paper:

  5. chuck Said,

    October 27, 2003 @ 11:23 am

    Thanks for the update, George. I’ve been slammed the last few days by job applications and such, but I’ll add a permalink to teh editorial soon (although I think the the AJC “hides” their archives after three days anyway).

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