School Climate & Safety

School Suspends Girl Because She ‘Understands’ Newtown Shooter

By Ross Brenneman — January 03, 2013 1 min read

After the Newtown, Conn., shootings last month, Education Week asked how teachers would address Sandy Hook in their own classrooms. Multiple respondents said they had no plans to address it, or that administrators had proscribed talking about it.

That doesn’t mean students don’t want to discuss the tragedy, of course, but with the killings only a few weeks old, any such discussions can be highly sensitive. That’s why a San Francisco charter school recently suspended 17-year-old Courtni Webb for writing a poem that suggests some empathy for Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza.

Webb attends Life Learning Academy, a charter school serving high schoolers who have been involved in the juvenile justice system or who are likely to live in adverse circumstances. Webb’s teacher found the poem in a journal, though the writing was not for a class assignment.

The poem starts like this:

They wanna hold me back. I run, but they still attack. My innocence, I won't get back. I use to smile. They took my kindness for weakness. The silence the world will never get. I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger. The government is a shame. Society never wants to take the blame. Society puts these thoughts in our head. Misery loves company."

In an interview with KGO-TV, Webb defended her poem, saying it was merely a commentary on society, and an outlet for expression.

“For example ... Stephen King, he writes weird stuff all the time. That doesn’t mean he’s going to do it or act it out.” (Thank heavens for that.)

According to the New York Daily News, the school maintains that Webb’s writing “contained deeply concerning and threatening language.”

San Francisco Unified School District is currently reviewing Webb’s case.

Between Christmas and the fiscal cliff, Newtown and its related issues fell out of the national spotlight. But it looks like there’s plenty about Sandy Hook still worth discussing.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.