Words, words, words – can be a crime

“Dark” writing is often more a cry for help, as in counseling – not handcuffs.

Be careful what you write. Dark thoughts are best left in your head, unless you want to end up in jail. A 17-year-old student at Humboldt High School in St. Paul was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct last week. He was the second student arrested for what he wrote in the last two weeks.

With tragic events, such as the Cold Spring, Minn., Rocori High School shooting, fresh in our minds, it is not surprising that students’ writing is being scrutinized. But it seems high school teachers, principals and law enforcement officials have forgotten what it’s like to be in high school.

It is not uncommon for teenagers to become depressed and angry with their surroundings. The student who was most recently arrested wrote poetry that police said was “dark” and contained “violent references about wishing other people in the school were dead,” but it was not specific nor did it make any threats.

In the past that kind of writing was seen as a cry for help and the student would be sent to the school counselor. Now we just call police officers, as if that’s going to show the student the sunny side of life. The students who were arrested for their writing are probably more miserable now than they were before.

Teachers should be concerned when they see that students’ writing is dark or threatening, but they should focus more on helping them, rather than locking them up. If all efforts to help a student have been exhausted and the pupil is seen to pose a serious threat to others’ safety, calling the police might be necessary.

If students can’t vent their frustrations in writing, they might be more apt to act on them violently. Its better to put dark thoughts on paper than to act them out.