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Student Banned From Minnesota Campus Over Facebook Comments 806

Posted by timothy
from the but-we're-gonna-kill-ya-slow dept.
Be careful just how you vent online is the lesson from this story pointed out by reader kungfugleek, from which he excerpts: "A University of Minnesota student has been banned from the Twin Cities campus after three of her instructors felt threatened by some of her Facebook postings. Amanda Tatro was patted down and questioned by campus police when she got to class Monday. The 29-year-old mortuary science student had posted comments on her Facebook page after breaking up with her boyfriend. She told her Facebook friends she wanted to stab a 'certain someone in the throat' with an embalming instrument. Tatro said she was 'looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy.' When the instructors learned of the postings, they contacted police." The Star-Tribune's account offers more detail.
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Student Banned From Minnesota Campus Over Facebook Comments

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  • My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:18PM (#30461808)

    What the fuck is it that you american's live in such state of paranoia?

    Yes, I understand that you guys have had some gruesome stuff happen at schools and all, but some dark and frustrated writing on a wall is no threat at all. Man, if Nietzche or Sartre studied in today's america, or even burroughs or kerouac, they'd be behind bars by now.

  • by DotNM (737979) <matt.mattdean@ca> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:18PM (#30461816) Homepage
    I think the question is if written comments like that should be construed as threats, or more like a journal where you'd just write for yourself. I'm also wondering if there's any other evidence that anyone on campus was targetted. The ban should have been lifted after the full story was found out.
  • by kriston (7886) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:18PM (#30461828) Homepage Journal

    Threats are threats.

    Yup, sounds about right.

    Next topic, please!

  • Modern times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fastest fascist (1086001) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#30461850)
    A society that expects a group of people to judge the actions of other people, but is too large to allow these people to know each other well enough to be able to make such judgement combined with an increasing amount of private information being publicly communicated = recipe for trouble.
  • never a good plan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by farble1670 (803356) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#30461860)
    threatening to kill someone publicly is never a good idea.
  • by Kyrene (624175) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#30461866)
    Yes, she was upset and "venting" but what you put on the Net stays on the Net. I always treat EVERYTHING I post online as public and manage my words with care, as they may come to haunt me someday. It's a shame. What she needed was to be forced to attend counseling, not have her entire college career ruined. But maybe people will learn from her mistake.
  • by TheLostSamurai (1051736) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:22PM (#30461918)

    Threats are threats.

    Yup, sounds about right.

    Next topic, please!

    I believe saying I want to is quite different from saying I'm going to.

  • by Deosyne (92713) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:24PM (#30461956)

    "For whatever reason, this professor took it personally."

    Hrm, was it the part about stabbing, "a certain someone in the throat with a trocar," or maybe the part about spending, "the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy," all in the context of, "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy?" And yet the dumb bitch actually doesn't get it. Being pissy is one thing, making very specific public remarks about killing someone and disposing of the body, on the other hand, pretty much guarantees a visit by the po-po, and not to pat you on your angsty little head and tell you it's going to be OK.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:26PM (#30461996)

    Real adults also recognize that venting doesn't constitute a threat. Unfortunately, we don't have a society of real adults, we have a society of paranoid, litigious cowards.

    Frankly, though, I think this is a good thing. Sooner or later, everyone is going to have embarrassing material about themselves available online, and then maybe we can accept that we're all a bunch of irrational monkeys, lighten the fuck up a bit, and get on with life.

  • by longhairedgnome (610579) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:26PM (#30462000)
    I wish more people would do this when simply TALKING. Words are very powerful tools and carefully choosing those words when speaking, either publicly or in private, is just as important when posting typed words online.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:27PM (#30462010)

    Consider this one to grow on, Amanda. Don't publicly threaten to stab others in the throat with an embalming knife. It makes people nervous.

    According to the article, the Ms. Tatro complained that for whatever reason, the professor was "taking it personally". Excuse me? She was talking very explicitly about her "Death List #5" and what exactly she would do with her very sharp instrument the following Monday in class.

    How is a professor to know who is "just ranting" and who might be mentally unbalanced? I say, a prudent move by the prof.

  • by Chees0rz (1194661) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:28PM (#30462028)

    It's a shame. What she needed was to be forced to attend counseling, not have her entire college career ruined. But maybe people will learn from her mistake.

    Learn what? Last time I checked, saying "I want to stab someone in the throat" is different from:
    a. Stabbing someone in the throat
    b. Threatening to stab someone in the throat
    c. Planning to stab someone in the throat
    d. Having any intentions of stabbing someone in the throat, at all
    e. Being capable of stabbing someone in the throat


    I really want to take all your mod points. Quick, ban me for hacking!

  • by vcgodinich (1172985) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:28PM (#30462030)
    Except if you are the leader of Iran, then everyone ignores you.
  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:29PM (#30462052)

    "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm ... perhaps I will spend the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code ..."

    Yea, after Virginia Tech talk like that when it concerns a University get a second look. Its her own damned fault for posting it on Facebook.

    Did Nietzche or Sartre, Burroughs or Kerouac talk about killing someone and then cremating bodies in a public forum? Not that I know of so don't compare Apples and Pomegranates.

  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:29PM (#30462062)

    What the fuck is it that you american's live in such state of paranoia?

    Relentless public announcements that we should accept our neighbor and be considerate of each other's differences. It's to the point now where people can't even make self-deprecating comments about their own race or sex without being fired for being racist or sexist. Jokes have become illegal. We've made negative feelings essentially taboo -- you can't express anger, dissatisfaction, or anything but sunshine and kittens.

    The laws of thermodynamics also loosely apply to social problems: In this case, the rate at which negative emotions are created hasn't changed, but the available space they exist within has been constrained. This has led to a rise in pressure and temperature. Naturally, leaks develop, which result in high pressure discharges into the relative vaccum of positive emotions, which are suspiciously absent right now due to an economic turndown, a lack of socialization amongst our peers (due to the constant fear of them), and so yeah...

    We've made it illegal to cry tears, and so... some have started to cry bullets. I'm sorry to say, America -- but life is shit. We need to square with that and be honest. A few more fuck you's and honest brawls between people would do us all a lot of good. Yes, I'm advocating violence here -- because a few punches in the face is a lot easier to get over than a few bullets in the back.

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:29PM (#30462072)

    Typically I'd agree with you, but this statement here...

    "Tatro said she was 'looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy"

    Is reason enough to be concerned. When some kind of school shooting happens, there is typically a message before hand. Sure, you can shrug off the "I wana cuta bitch" but when you make statements like the one posted above, there needs to be some kind of action.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:30PM (#30462076)

    For every few thousand cases where some dumb student posts an angry comment and it means nothing, there's the next case where the student then stabs their professor in the throat. Where do you draw the line?

    Either we say freedom of speech is important or we say any threat is to be taken seriously.

    Now, if the students want to protest this action, I recommend that thousands of the students at the university ALSO post "I also want to stab the professor and the chief of police in the throat with a mortuary knife". When confronted with a massive civil unrest protest of this kind, the police and authorities usually fold. The university will quickly ban one student but would never ban 100 students, much less several thousand students.

    As with ALL civil unrest, you have to be prepared to take the punishment tho. It's always possible the university would indeed ban several thousand students.

  • by Kyrene (624175) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:32PM (#30462120)
    Exactly. You can argue "freedom of speech" all you want, but freedom means responsibility for how people react to what you say.
  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:33PM (#30462152) Homepage Journal
    See, this is just a matter of weeding out the less fit. You don't say "I am going to kill you". You say something along the lines of "You are going to die". The first one is pretty clear on your intentions. The latter can be a "misunderstanding" when things like this happen:

    "No sir. I had no intentions of killing this person. I was just stating fact that they were going to die. After all, we all are! There was just some miscommunication, that's all!"
  • Re:Pathetic... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:34PM (#30462172) Journal

    Yeah, but you don't say that kind of stuff publicly.

    Would you say "I want to kill him..." If there were 3 police officers right beside you?

    The only ridiculous thing about this is her actions. Free speech or not, Fake death threats or not, what she did was just plain stupid. Cry to yourself, not the world. Because only the government listens.

  • Re:My god. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:34PM (#30462180)

    Wait, tolerance is what's caused the paranoia and not the years of constant refrain of "the terrorists are coming?" I think you're confused to what the "state of paranoia" refers to. The teachers were worried about violence not about a joke.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:35PM (#30462194)

    What the fuck is it that you american's live in such state of paranoia?

    Better question: what the fuck is up with everyone else besides Americans assuming that one or two school officials in isolated incidents means ALL americans are paranoid? I'm not paranoid. Had I been a school administrator, I wouldn't have done shit about this. Maybe I would have e-mailed the dude and told him that no matter how cool his ex said she was, he should not come to her embalming class "just to practice."

    I happen to not be the administrator though.

    Some parents are irrational about school safety, but that's a universal. Every country has parents overreacting to isolated incidents. Japan is one of the safest countries, school children can ride the subways on their own many places. I remember hearing about a suicide at shinjuku subway station, and reading opinion articles by parents saying they were thinking about not letting their children ride the subway anymore because they might see someone commit suicide. Based on one incident. That's overreacting. These weren't American parents either.

    If americans are paranoid more than anyone else, it's about lawsuits. The administration in question was probably being overly cautious in this case not because they suspected the woman would do anything, but to cover their own ass on the extreme off chance that she did, they wouldn't want to get sued.

    Speaking as someone who has been sued for $300,000 for a skiing accident involving nothing more than a torn ACL, THAT fear isn't completely irrational.

  • by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@@@gindulis...net> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:36PM (#30462198)

    Yes, but how do you know the difference?

    At Columbine and Virginia Tech the perpetrators had made public statements like this and it was blown off by the authorities.

    What if had happened in THIS case? I'll tell you what, "The Authorities", would have been publicly eviscerated for "ignoring the clear warning signs that this student was disturbed and homicidal".

    So if you're in Authority you're damned if you do and damned if you don't! In the end the only safe way is to err on the side of caution and have the situation checked out.

  • Re:My god. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:38PM (#30462256) Homepage Journal

    The IRS already causes everyone to live in fear. What's one more thing?

  • Look... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AdamTrace (255409) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:38PM (#30462266)

    If she actually DID the kill the poor sap, and we find out that she posted about it beforehand on her FB page, everyone would be up in arms... "Why didn't someone do something about it? This could have been prevented!"

    We can't have it both ways.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hijacked Public (999535) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:41PM (#30462338)

    Certainly more than 1 person is inconvenienced, since events like these further discourage expression of similar thoughts.

    From my perspective the question is whether or not these types of actions actually make anyone safer. Since we've implemented zero tolerance policies; started kicking students out of school for expressing darker thoughts;began monitoring their activities outside school...are students any safer than before?

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dagamer34 (1012833) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:42PM (#30462368)
    Despite the addition of two words, there is a HUGE difference between these two statements:

    "I am going to kill you" - theoretically can be said in jest

    and

    "I am going to kill you on Monday" - very scary, as setting a date implies much more than joking.

    And yeah, after Virginia Tech, school administrators would rather not be caught as "ignoring warning signs" even though stuff like this goes on all the time and only hindsight is 20/20 as to the real problem makers.
  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:42PM (#30462374)

    C'mon bro, I watch american news all the time, I know what you are saying. But this is no crazy bitch making an "Im going to kill you" threat. This is a stupid almost teenage brat attempting to look interesting and venting. I mean yes, bring the student forward personally, question her, then if the threat seems real, go for it and call the cops. But calling the cops beforehand and banning the student for a post?

    What comes next? Mandatory public personal diaries, or surrendering your personal diary upon request of the school authority?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:44PM (#30462412)

    I wonder why the guy broke up with her...

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tony Stark (1391845) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:45PM (#30462418)
    So yes, Americans are paranoid. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. This wasn't a generic comment like "oh I just hate him so much I could kill him." This was very specific: day, time, place, weapon of choice, target. I'd be a little concerned too. We do this all the time. There's a threat, no one takes action, people die, people kick themselves for not heeding the warning. But kicking yourself can't undo the tragedy. Preventative action can make sure it doesn't happen. And I find most people are a little too moronic to use Facebook. I mean seriously, you post your business all over the internet. That's pretty dangerous.
  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 (1100441) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:45PM (#30462428) Homepage

    Americans are a bunch of knee jerky reactionists that really are about as dense as a brick of lead, and that's coming from an American

    Self & group deprecation won't win you friends across the pond. Also, piling on isn't constructive.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:47PM (#30462454) Journal

    I can understand that you didn't RTFA, but not even reading the summary?! Really?! From the top:

    The 29-year-old mortuary science student ...

    Secondly, perhaps this is an example of stupid people with a knee jerk reaction, or perhaps these people who actually KNOW the woman in real life have a little more reason to be concerned? You and I know absolutely nothing about this woman or the teachers (beyond what's in the article...oh wait) and it's just so easy to make kneejerk reactions without knowing the facts.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:47PM (#30462458) Homepage

    You draw the line at the moment that student picks up a dangerous instrument and makes a threatening movement in the direction of the professor...and NOT EVER before.

    Its as simple as that. Unless there was an actual threat, and actual statement of intent to actually drive a real implement into a real person, then the state has no reason to be involved. The reason is that we are talking about the use of force against a person (thats what law is). Force should be reserved for a last resort.

      If there is even a question that it may be used against an innocent person, we should ALWAYS err on the side of letting the guilty go free because punishing the innocent is so abhorrent as to make the state no better than the criminals which is claims to protect us from.

    Frankly, I think the value statement of "It is better to let 10 guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man" is too lenient on the use of power. Its better to let any number of the guilty go free, than to convict one innocent man.

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:47PM (#30462470)

    Come on bro, it isn't that simple. Not ALL Americans think that this is ok. Id say most educated people in the world, including America, could question this kind of behaviour by the school, at least, as a knee jerk reaction.

    Im just saying it how it looks from the outside. Believe me, I love america.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alexborges (313924) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:49PM (#30462494)

    I apologize for the generalization. Its wrong on my part, as you justly point out.

  • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:49PM (#30462498)

    You are clearly wrong, in general. Most adults take no responsibility for anything, much less words.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:49PM (#30462508) Journal

    I'm not paranoid. Had I been a school administrator, I wouldn't have done shit about this. Maybe I would have e-mailed the dude and told him that no matter how cool his ex said she was, he should not come to her embalming class "just to practice."

    You know, maybe the people who actually knew the woman were concerned because they actually knew the woman? As I said in a different post, nobody here knows the woman involved nor the teachers involved. But everybody is assuming that it is a stupid kneejerk response? Maybe the teachers believed based on past behavior that the woman was a threat?

  • Re:My god. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:50PM (#30462516)

    What the fuck is it that you american's live in such state of paranoia?

    Even more fucked is that if she does go crazy and actually do those things, the school will take shit because they knew about it. Either way they lose but by banning her, they lose less.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:52PM (#30462554)

    Tatro said she was 'looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy

    Is reason enough to be concerned.

    A mortuary science student looking forward to her class on Monday is reason enough to be concerned?

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:56PM (#30462646)

    Who the fuck are you to determine the intention of the writer on their OWN facebook portal?

    You see, "prevention", when understood in the way you approach it, turns out to be nothing more than a way to make people who dare to think and say and write different, shut up.

    Careful. There is a thin line between being "thoughtful" and preventive and just being a nutcase for the status quo.

    The hypocrisy in you telling me to be careful about what I say when I am saying the same thing to this student is more than humorous, thank you for making my day.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:57PM (#30462660) Homepage

    Yes, I understand that you guys have had some gruesome stuff happen at schools and all, but some dark and frustrated writing on a wall is no threat at all.

    So you acknowledge this bad stuff happens.

    Can you acknowledge that it can be prevented?

    I would much rather a student be banned from 1 school for Emo behavior then having them run amock and killing several students.

    Seriously, get you're head out of where its stuck. People could have been killed. 1 Person is inconvenienced.

    Outlined are two scenarios. Which of these two is MORE likely to cause a violent incident at school?

    1) A girl was dumped then had a private meeting with school administrators showing genuine concern
    2) A girl was dumped and then kicked out of and humiliated by a school

  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by denton420 (1235028) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:01PM (#30462736)

    Holy shit. Said it way better than I ever could. Nail =>> head

  • by WCguru42 (1268530) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:02PM (#30462760)

    ... or more like a journal where you'd just write for yourself.

    Then get a damned journal. No matter how much people want Facebook to be their own personal and private journal, it is not and never will be. You can expect to have a fairly high degree of privacy with a paper journal (keep it in your nightstand, lock it away in your desk). Facebook (and the internet as a whole) is a public place and expecting your violent venting not to be seen when you post it on Facebook is simply delusional. Even writings in a private journal can come back to bite you if the police have a warrant for your house and find it.

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:02PM (#30462768)

    The teachers were worried about violence not about a joke.

    The teachers had nothing to do with this. the administration was worried about getting their asses sued if that 0.1% chance that the student acted on the stated impulses. It looks very bad in this political climate to advocate a reasonable position like "it did not seem like a credible threat." That statement does not protect a person or group from millions in lawsuit damages, or in legal fees. It's easier to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    It was a joke-- A morbid joke, a joke in bad taste, and possibly it could even be said that the person who made the comment had a serious lapse of judgement, but it was still a joke. Why? Because I've said things like that during finals week, which is exactly what this poor girl did! It's not like she's sitting at home polishing her gun and muttering "the time of purification is at hand" over and over again and has a date circled on the calendar or anything. She is a young adult who was frustrated with academic life. zomfg.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chaos Incarnate (772793) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:03PM (#30462784) Homepage
    Nowhere did she say that she was planning on taking out her aggression on anything but a corpse.
  • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:03PM (#30462786)
    Which is why it's sad that no one learned the real lesson of Columbine. The lesson wasn't "listen to angry music" or "dress a certain way" and you'll kill people. The lesson was "if you're an asshole to people, eventually someone is going to shoot your ass -- so just be nice".
  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:06PM (#30462838)

    nineeleven

    nine... ... eleven...

    NINES AND ELEVENS!

    Go back a little further: Columbine. That's when much of the school related hysteria intensified.

    I was in high school when that happened, and I remember directly after that my school installed metal detectors, cameras, banned back packs, and started running the school even more like a prison.

  • Re:Crazy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:09PM (#30462910)

    You don't like puns, do you?

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by merreborn (853723) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:11PM (#30462942) Journal

    Typically I'd agree with you, but this statement here...

    "Tatro said she was 'looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy"

    Is reason enough to be concerned. When some kind of school shooting happens, there is typically a message before hand. Sure, you can shrug off the "I wana cuta bitch" but when you make statements like the one posted above, there needs to be some kind of action.

    Let's take for granted that "When some kind of school shooting happens, there is typically a message before hand". That does not, in any way, imply that every time you encounter such a "message", there's a statistically significant chance that a violent act will follow.

    In fact, most people will agree that most "threats" of this nature do *not* result in violent acts. There thousands, if not millions of "threats" like these, uttered idly every day -- a simple hyperbolic expression of frustration. Meanwhile, school shootings happen a handful of times a year, at worst.

    Similarly, I can guarantee that almost every school shooter will have imbibed some form of liquid before committing their heinous crimes. It does not follow that everyone who has a drink with their breakfast is going to shoot up their school.

    "A usually precedes B" does not necessarily mean "A has occurred, therefor B MUST occur."
    It doesn't even necessarily mean "A has occurred, therefor B is even 1% likely to occur".

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:12PM (#30462952)

    School has always been like a prison, they just removed the gilded part. Why AC? Your post was insightful.

    I think the issue here is that people would rather err on the side of caution. You can't walk up to someone on the street and say "I'm gonna kill you" without consequences. They are illegal and a felony. Why would anyone think the same thing over the phone, or via e-mail would be any less so?

  • by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:12PM (#30462966)

    Unless she was banging the professor, the statements were clearly aimed at her ex.

    She didn't say "jeez, life isn't worth it, I'll go on a killing spree monday", she said "I'm looking forward to embalming class"(subtext:because then I can pretend the corpse I'm exsanguinating is the bastard who dumped me)

  • by Fred IV (587429) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:13PM (#30462988)

    She said that she "wanted" to do something, not that she had any intention of following through with it. An unrelated post said she was looking forward to class.

    There's a world of difference between wanting to do something and actually doing something.

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thebheffect (1409105) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:14PM (#30462998)

    Saying that you're going to stab someone in the throat with an embalming instrument sounds like a 'I'm going to kill you' threat to me.

    She wrote a threat in a public forum, directly relating violence to her classroom. There are no First Amendment violations here, there is no lurking Big Brother.

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:16PM (#30463042)

    From the actual news piece, I doubt the instructors actually feared for their own safety, at least, I hope not.

    From an instructor's perspective (in physics), it's not cool to joke about using lab equipment in dangerous ways because I am not your friend, I do not know that you are joking, and I am assuming responsibility for you while you're in my class. I don't want you to hurt yourself (what I really worry about), particularly under my supervision. I have sent students home who were too immature to handle dangerous lab equipment (high voltage power supplies, radioactive materials... no one has done anything dangerous with the blocks on an inclined plane--no one has tried), I have not had anyone I felt was too depressed or angry (yet). I hope I would make make such a student take a visit to a school counselor before going to the police!

  • Re:Downhill (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:21PM (#30463116)
    Where are you getting your facts? I'm quite certain I was never taught religion as science. I guess that only happens down south. I also don't know of any ban on blogging. I can pretty much say whatever the fuck I want as long as I'm not threatening anyone. The DCMA was not one of our better moments. I'll give you that. Still, I think you need to check some of your facts. Or are you just pissed that Saab is going under? I'm a Volvo man myself...
  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:28PM (#30463228) Homepage
    and started running the school even more like a prison.

    Dont worry, It hasnt occurred to anyone that running a school like a prison in the FIRST place, might be a problem.

    The adults who make these rules honestly believe every problem has something to do with anything but themselves.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .999mahoj.> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:28PM (#30463230)

    But doing it on a right wing radio talk show is a-ok?

    Where are cops in that instance?

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:31PM (#30463304)

    "Oh? When exactly did they say they look forward to stabbing someone in the throat?"

    When did they study mortuary science where stabbing bodies in the throat is almost customary?

    "If someone says it (not a character in a story or philosophical dilemma), it's called a death threat."

    Not.

    Context is all. Would you call the police against Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel because they are killing softly Roberta Flack with their song?

    When a mortuary science student says publicly on a blog that she is "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" it's obvious she is talking about her monday's class.

    "If your country is fine with people running around threatening to kill people, I don't care. It's not artistic, it's stupid and may cause some people to live in fear."

    Well, I think we agree: it's certainly stupid live in fear because some girl is saying some mild nonsenses after a bad love affair.

    And it's criminal making pay such woman because of your (the University's) own stupidity.

  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tacvek (948259) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:32PM (#30463326) Journal

    I'm not sure that people are not jumping to false conclusions here.

    Given that she was a student of mortuary science the first message which read "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy. ... Give me room, lots of aggression to be taken out with a troca", sounds reasonably harmless, assuming there was some sort of embalming practice or lab on Monday. It shows signs of pent up anger/agression, which she feels would help be relieved by said exercises. I'm sure most people would rather she take out her frustration on a corpse then on a living person.

    Nothing at all wrong with that message. The concerning message is "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm ... perhaps I will spend the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code ...".

    Checking the message carefully I can see that it was not an actual threat. The first half was standard venting, and the second half was dark humor she hoped would help cheer her up. (She almost certainly posed this during the overlap between the anger and depression stages of the grieving process). (The Kill Bill reference really gives it away as dark humor, but it can still be detected even without knowledge of that).

    Conclusion: The profs misinterpreted the message as a threat, and over-reacted as a result of the misinterpretation. Nobody was ever in any danger. Either the school will conclude that nothing was wrong and let her return to classes, or she will tansfer to some other school which realized there was never any danger and go from there.

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:37PM (#30463398)
    I can understand not being able to say "I'm going to kill you." I'm not so sure that "I would like to kill you," is the same thing.
  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlamedaStone (114462) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:37PM (#30463408)

    She told her Facebook friends she wanted to stab a "certain someone in the throat" with an embalming instrument."

    That's a threat.

    If you say that to a close friend who can see your face and judge your affect, they would understand that you are not going to follow through.

    If you post it up on a web page without any context, people are forced to consider the possibility that you're about to go postal.

    And the only responsible thing to do at that point is call the police and ban her from campus.

    Oh wait. That's insane. Make a phone call, have a counselor sit down with her. Lesson learned, and they aren't giving a student a criminal record for blowing off steam by shooting her mouth off.

    This shit really gets under my skin. The school had every "right" to do what they did, but the actions they chose were the most destructive ones they had available to them.

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:39PM (#30463440)

    "She wrote a threat in a public forum, directly relating violence to her classroom."

    Are you aware that the very class agenda she looked for attending next monday includes stabing (death) people in the throat, do you?

    "There are no First Amendment violations here, there is no lurking Big Brother."

    I'm not keen to firearms but I expect my country mates not to become so dumbass as to take legal actions against somebody just if he dares to say "next monday some people will see some nice shots from my gun" when he is known to go to a firefield by monday.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tonyreadsnews (1134939) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:43PM (#30463520)
    But it would be OK if a football student said they were looking forward to cracking heads in Monday's practice.
  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:43PM (#30463526)

    The 29-year-old mortuary science student ...

    Just because someone ages, doesn't mean they grow up.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:47PM (#30463592)

    Understandable, but the information in the second link (yes I know I should never read TFA) seems a bit more threatening.

    "told her Facebook friends that she was "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy. ... Give me room, lots of aggression to be taken out with a trocar [a sharp surgical instrument used in embalming]."

    Now she's banned from campus because three instructors in the mortuary science program felt threatened after being made aware of her Facebook posts, prompting a police investigation.

    According to the police report, Amanda Tatro, 29, followed her first posting with one that read: "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm ... perhaps I will spend the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code ..."

    If you are a student or a teacher at such a university, wouldn't you rather they err on the side of caution? At least until an investigation is completed?

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donaggie03 (769758) <d_osmeyerNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#30463736)
    That's all fine and dandy when the two people in the situation are the guy and the jackass, but what about all the other situations, where the strong guy IS the jackass, and some random person gets those punches in the face?
  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:02PM (#30463804) Journal

    It doesn’t.

    People who know you very well may be able to tell what to take seriously and what to not take seriously. The typical Facebook “friend” does not know you nearly well enough to reliably make this distinction. Making a statement like she did on Facebook was about as wise as yelling it from a street corner. No special rules are needed, only the same common sense you’d use to restrain yourself from making such comments in public.

  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:02PM (#30463808)
    Imagine if the Teachers did not do anything and she actually did kill someone. Everyone would ask why they did not do something when there were obvious signs that she was unstable.
  • by savi (142689) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:16PM (#30464022)

    I work in education. If I had a student say they were looking forward to killing someone in my class, I'd be concerned. And if they DID kill someone in my class, everyone would be posting here saying, "Jeez, didn't you all see the clear signs posted on the internet? Why didn't anyone do anything?"

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:21PM (#30464104) Homepage

    You're totally right. The absolutely had a legal right to do what they did.

    It doesn't change the fact that it was the stupidest, most counter-productive action they could have taken. It was perfectly legal, and also completely stupid and unjust.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:23PM (#30464146) Homepage

    Duh. We expect morticians to be dour, unhappy people. Looking forward to anything is a class A violation of stereotypes. Lock 'er up!

  • Re:My god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:26PM (#30464200)

    This will serves as an example to others. She doesn't own the campus and getting tossed therefrom isn't different than being fired for cause by an employer.

    First, I'm not sure it's the example we want to set. Second, unlike being fired -- she's got thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of student loans now that she owes and possibly no way to complete her degree. She may need to start over if those credits aren't transferable. Also, she didn't say this in the classroom. She said it in a semi-public forum, and if it was a credible threat, where are the police?

    Because if she isn't charged with a crime, she's being punished for something that is apparently completely legal to do in public -- and being punished for doing so. Is that the lesson we want to teach? That someone merely needs to be offended to visit personal hardship and grief on their head?

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.manNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:27PM (#30464222)

    Context is all. Would you call the police against Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel because they are killing softly Roberta Flack with their song?

    When a mortuary science student says publicly on a blog that she is "looking forward to Monday's embalming therapy" it's obvious she is talking about her monday's class.

    The context is there as well. Her other posting says "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmmm ... perhaps I will spend the evening updating my 'Death List #5' and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code ..." Suddenly the context can be seen to shift from simply about class, to referencing her desire to do violence.

    Keep in mind that earlier this year we had a mentally unstable student charged with murder. The offense? Poor lab protocol. So, a college student going off the rails isn't unprecedented. I see no harm in a little additional caution when an already stressed (by nature of university) college student is having violent thoughts or fantasies and is looking forward to their next classroom time with sharp instruments. She has the chance to appeal, as well.

  • by honkycat (249849) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:30PM (#30464256) Homepage Journal

    I think it's reasonable for a professor to prefer that his students not be taking out their aggressions on the cadavers while in his classroom... She is training to work in a position where it's very important to be respectful and professional---it is, after all, a dead human being she'll be working on.

  • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:37PM (#30464376)
    there were obvious signs that she was unstable

    Which obvious signs are you referring to? We are inundated as a society with killing. Movies, TV, news, video games, music, even the fucking opera is usually about killing. So now we're unstable when we parrot all these horrible things that we see every/hear day? You're not unstable if you watch killing, but you are unstable if you write about it...
  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:40PM (#30464426)

    She just learned a useful life lesson, not to show emotion.

    Fixed that for you.

    Only inhumans with no emotions have a place in Corporate America, as you said. Cogs don't get upset over anything, after all, and no human is anything but one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:57PM (#30464760)

    I was going to post a well worded and thoughtful response of all the simple things administrators could do between ignoring them and expelling them - but I'm as lazy as they are and can't be bothered to put forth the effort for the benefit of others.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:59PM (#30464796)

    Making a statement like she did on Facebook was about as wise as yelling it from a street corner. No special rules are needed, only the same common sense you'd use to restrain yourself from making such comments in public.

    On this we agree. If someone I did not know had yelled 'I am going to kill him!!!' on a street corner, I'd assume they were angry first, and homicidal second, and I'd consider this common sense.

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:02PM (#30464856)

    I think people need to realize that when they post stuff online, that it is the 'real world' and not a virtual world where actions don't matter.

  • by TheLostSamurai (1051736) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:20PM (#30465202)

    As is noted, this was posted on facebook for all the world to see. If it were truly a threat it would either be in a much more personal venue or you would likely be able to see a pattern of other such public statements.

    Oh, that's right. People would NEVER post legitimate threats on a a publicly-readable site [nbcphiladelphia.com].

    FTA you linked: "Detailed Horrific Slay Plot on Web Diary"

    I believe a detailed description of how someone was going to horrifically slay a person/persons is a slight bit different from an ad-hoc remark venting frustration.

    Here's the main problem, yours and the university in question:
    People are so afraid of their own damn shadows that they refuse to apply critical thinking to even the most simple of circumstances.

    Seriously, try actually processing information before reacting with reckless abandon.

  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:22PM (#30465254) Journal

    Actions have consequences.

    But threats are not actions. We Americans really need to back off from all this "pre-crime" bullshit. It's natural for people to become angry, and to say angry things. This is a normal way to let off steam, to use words instead of actions.

    Wishing doesn't make it so.

  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:32PM (#30465456) Homepage

    Relentless public announcements that we should accept our neighbor and be considerate of each other's differences. It's to the point now where people can't even make self-deprecating comments about their own race or sex without being fired for being racist or sexist. Jokes have become illegal.

    Really? Where do you live that you hear relentless public announcements advocating tolerance? Here in the U.S. I hear the loudest voices calling for fear of gays, immigrants, Muslims, humanists, and socialists.

    Where do you live that jokes are illegal? Insults in the workplace may be a tort, and threats are illegal; and perhaps people can no longer cover their insults and threats by saying "hey, just a joke".

    We've made it illegal to cry tears, and so... some have started to cry bullets.

    Very eloquent, but where exactly is it "illegal to cry tears"?

    A few more fuck you's and honest brawls between people would do us all a lot of good.

    A little bit of emotional maturity, where people learn resolve conflict without violence, and to deal with anger and frustration in more constructive ways, would do us all a world of good. There are alternatives besides lashing out at any provocation or bottling it all up until you explode.

  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:03PM (#30466048)
    That is what they are doing. They only "banned" her so that they could do a review of her situation. upon being cleared, she will be allowed back to class/campus.
  • Re:My god. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:09PM (#30466132) Journal

    Outlined are two scenarios. Which of these two is MORE likely to cause a violent incident at school?

    1) A girl was dumped then had a private meeting with school administrators showing genuine concern
    2) A girl was dumped and then kicked out of and humiliated by a school

    Of those two scenarios, in which one does the school have liability for her potential violence?

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:46PM (#30466580)

    I think people need to realize that when they post stuff online, that it is the 'real world' and not a virtual world where actions don't matter.

    Good point. And I will develop that point further that I think people need to realize that when they READ stuff online that it may not have been intended in the tone or purpose to which the reader may immediately assume.

    You will notice that people often classify statements as (sarcasm) on the internet to ensure they are understood, though many do not think to do so (and are often misunderstood as a product).

    I've spent my whole reading of this topic under the assumption that it was akin to the common exaggerated expression "...I could kill xxx..." where xxx is some frustrating or disliked thing in life. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they were wrong. I do think it would have been more effective to attempt communication and explanation before taking such serious action.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:46PM (#30467794)

    Umm....

    Just to clarify - girl talks about stabbing someone in the neck and death lists, and we're best off ignoring her?
    Options:
    a) It's hyperbole, she doesn't mean anything, has to miss a few classes (makes them up later, gets let off coursework, etc) and the school spends a few grand getting someone to talk to her for a while.
    b) Outside, tiny chance she's unhinged and intends to hurt someone, and eventually does.

    From all the people I've spoken to (lots - I'm in a medical field), a phrase always comes up "I'm glad I did it [counseling], everyone could do with a bit of it..."
    If she's not homicidal, she'll probably still benefit...

    Logically, if we can afford the counseling, why not do it? Cost is literally the only downside, and the avoidance of that tiny risk, along with mental support for her is a huge upside!

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:57PM (#30468378) Homepage Journal

    "I have it on good authority that there are only two kinds of people who spend their time thinking about killing people, and only one of them is mystery writers."

    Citations?

    Allow me to cite Grand Theft Auto, and dozens of similar games. And, I'll cite the entire list of Hollywood releases since 1900.

    People being killed, mutilated, and horribly tortured sell movies by the billions. All this violence ranks right behind sex.

    I'll wager that there isn't a single human being who does NOT fantasize violent endings for people they dislike.

    I'll also cite history. "Peacetime" has been defined as interludes between wars, and I'm convinced that definition is more accurate than what dictionary publishers have to say.

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