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Roundup: Violent Essay, Gay Student’s Killing, and Confederate Flag Mistrial

By Mark Walsh — August 18, 2008 1 min read

I took a vacation day on Friday, thinking that the school law beat would be relatively quiet in the middle of August. But all kinds of stories were breaking ...

Violent Essay: A Minnesota high school student’s creative-writing class story about a student who murders his teacher and commits suicide was not speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal appeals court has ruled. The court upheld seizure of the 17-year-old student by county authorities for a psychiatric evaluation.
“This lengthy essay describing an obsession with weapons and gore, a hatred for his English teacher with a similar name who had been critical of his prior essays, a surprise attack at a high school, and the details of his teacher’s murder and the narrator’s suicide lead to the inescapable conclusion that it was a serious threat directed at” the student’s teacher, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, said in its Aug. 15 opinion in Riehm v. Engelking.

Lawsuit Over Death of Gay Student: The family of Larry King, a 15-year-old Oxnard, Calif., youth who was shot and killed in school, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the school district’s actions allowing the young gay man to wear makeup and feminine clothing contributed to his death, the Associated Press reports here. A classmate of King’s has pleaded not guilty in the shooting death.
For an exhaustive report on King’s death, see Newsweek’s cover story from last month, “Young, Gay, and Murdered.”

Mistrial in Confederate Flag Suit: A Tennessee student’s lawsuit challenging school restrictions on displays of the Confederate flag has ended up in a mistrial, the AP reports here. The story, which may be a pickup from a local newspaper, helpfully explains that the stars and bars symbol was flown by some Confederate troops during the Civil War, and that the “northern states loyal to the federal government crushed a secession effort by southern slave-holding states.”

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.