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In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment For a Novelist 441

Posted by timothy
from the thought-crime-in-maryland dept.
An anonymous reader writes A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report — "taken in for an emergency medical evaluation" for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace's Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, according to news reports from Maryland's Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future."
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In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment For a Novelist

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  • Sue the bastards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @10:47AM (#47806917)

    Wow. Talk about a lawsuit that you are *guaranteed* to win.

    This guy is going to make millions.

  • by Jack9 (11421) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @10:48AM (#47806925)

    Let's hope so.

  • Prequel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @10:52AM (#47806963) Journal
    Well after this he'll have plenty of great material for a 900-year prequel that will tackle some different, but still very troubling, social issues.
  • Re:Prequel (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kruach aum (1934852) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @10:56AM (#47806991)

    Are school shootings really a social issue? I don't think it has either a hashtag nor a dedicated jezebel columnist, so how can we be sure?

  • Slow on the take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:04AM (#47807071) Homepage Journal

    As if the story itself could not be more horrible I can't believe the books were published in 2011 and 2013 and just now they decide to go after him. Either he pissed off someone high up and they just found a reason to go after the guy or some bored cop just got around to discovering fiction...

    Unbelievable!

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:08AM (#47807103) Homepage
    The schools are good at keeping people from teaching.

    But they do this by paying LARGE amounts of money.

    If the union backs him, he will probably get his job.

    If the union does not back him, he won't get his job, he will instead get a ton of money.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:18AM (#47807203)

    The police don't need to act on every tip reported in. If that were the case, they would need to respond to every 911 call that reported that the McDonald's teller gave them a medium fries and not a large like they ordered. You know, because it might possibly become a violent situation and if they don't act they might be to blame.

    Even if they did "act" on this tip, all it would warrant might be a visit to the guy's house to talk with him briefly and run some background checks on him. That would have shown that he's a fiction writer and not publishing some manifesto about how he's going to go berserk and kill everyone. Then the author and the police would go their own ways with as little fuss as possible. Forcibly taking him in for "an emergency medical evaluation", not letting anyone know where he is, and releasing statements phrasing everything he did as if he was an imminent threat isn't "acting", it's overreacting. Overreacting never takes down valid threats - at least, not without also taking down a lot of non-threats as well. If they actually, properly "acted", we wouldn't be reading about this because it would have been a routine interview and closing of the report.

  • Voltaire (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:19AM (#47807213) Homepage

    It's awesome that his pen name was Voltaer [amazon.com] which sounds like a reference to Voltaire [wikipedia.org] who was fighting for civil rights and had his books burned.

    It sounds like this guy is brilliant. He was smart enough to use a pen name to hide his writings from his students, and also smart enough to choose a pen name that mocks anyone who uses these writings to defame him. Clearly, Voltaire should now be required reading by Dorchester county students.

  • by Zalbik (308903) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:20AM (#47807219)

    you can't necessarily blame the police or the school

    Yes I certainly can; people who uphold bad laws are almost as bad as those who enact them.

    And more importantly, unless there was evidence that this teacher was posing an immediate threat to children, they had no authority to arrest / detain him, regardless of any potential future litigation.

    To put it simply, based on the current description of the situation, it appears the police did something both illegal and immoral and the school board did something immoral and possibly illegal.

    Note: Every news story I find on this is pretty vague on the details. I suspect there is more going on here than initially reported. The news agencies have quite possibly left out important and pertinent information as it makes a great click-bait story.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:22AM (#47807245)

    I've only read the Amazon precis, but it *seems* like the shooting is a plot device against which the author has characters act and react. Not all that different than Nevil Shute using a nuclear war as the backdrop for "On The Beach."

    I am, frankly, of two minds about this. On one hand, possibly support a glory seaking attention hound. On the other, be tracked and branded as someone who "supports violence in schools" by buying the e-book. On the gripping hand, just read the thing myself and make up my own mind...

  • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:47AM (#47807495)
    On the other hand, in my high school we had a teacher with whom a freshman became obsessed including showing up drunk at his house. Even though he never did anything with her and rebuffed her advances he was fired because parents were concerned about one of their daughters and a teacher.

    Meanwhile one of our other teachers, a woman, was known to sleep with students and married one after he graduated, nothing was ever done to her. The difficulty of firing a teacher pretty much comes down to how much PR is involved and if the union feels it will be better served getting rid of the person vs keeping them, either due to internal or external political concerns.
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:52AM (#47807549) Journal

    Think of the children is the battle cry of Tyrants everywhere. I won't vote for anyone, even if I agree 99% with them politically, if they make any statement similar to "do it for the children". I urge every slashdotter to do the same this election cycle, even if it means voting for the "other guy". AND let the Politicians know that hiding behind skirts and baby strollers is what terrorists do.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:52AM (#47807553)
    There should be a Do Everything Wrong Day where students and teachers alike do things like play dodgeball, cops and robbers, offer pats on the back and hugs, bring copies of Mad Magazine and Guns and Ammo to school, call each other names, walk to school, say they look nice today, and so on and so on. Then everyone lodges official complaints against everyone else, so administrators now will either have to either suspend everyone and then crawl through hundreds if not thousands of hearings, or agree that a lot of the rules against these things are ludicrous if not completely anti-American.

    The slogan for the day? "If everyone is in trouble, nobody is."

    .
  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:55AM (#47807591) Journal

    You CANNOT stop crime. And arresting people for "Pre Crime" is right out of Sci-Fi (Minority Report).

    A free society is messy. And often terribly so. We MUST accept being messy, sometimes nasty and ugly, if we are to truly appreciate the beautiful. Anything less is ugly, without any beauty to appreciate.

  • by Shatrat (855151) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @11:56AM (#47807593)

    Well, there was the Declaration of Independence, but those people followed up the petition with gunfire.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:00PM (#47807637)

    convicted of statutory and the school was forced to hire him back? i'm not believeing it until you link to a news article

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:02PM (#47807665) Homepage

    It would be useful to know if McLaw is under investigation for behavior other than writing two novels

    Yes, it would be very useful to know that before people go writing articles about how this guy has been locked up (if that) for (and only for, seems to be the implication) writing two novels. Oop, too late.

  • Habeas corpus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:07PM (#47807741)

    Seriously, where is he now?

    How is it possible for a person to simply disappear and have their whereabouts listed as "known to law enforcement".

    IANAL, but it seems to me that someone with standing should file a writ of Habeas corpus because people should not just disappear like this in a first world country.

  • by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:09PM (#47807761)

    The reports (the Atlantic article is an opinion piece about the local reports regarding the incident) are too sketchy at this point to decide if there's a good probable cause for the teacher to be arrested (besides his having written a presumably controversial book, which is not a good reason for somebody in a presumably democratic country to get arrested).

    What it does reveal is the attitude of the local reporters who appear to be somewhat supportive or at the very least neutral to the police action. I know, a news report is supposed to be objective. But I don't see any mention in the quoted parts of the news reports about the teacher's free speech rights. The "first ammendment" comment is in the Atlantic article not the news reports. Since these are local news reporters they probably also reflect local biases. Possible threats to safety are given more importance than any free speech rights.

  • UNION? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by srobert (4099) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:30PM (#47808037)

    That's exactly why we must destroy what's left of the unions. As usual they're the last thing standing in the way of a fascist state.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:35PM (#47808105) Homepage

    You are both right and wrong. The police yes....however the DA and Sheriff are often both elected positions, meaning that they do have certain "requirements" if they want to be re-elected, and often respecting civil rights is unpopular with the populace; and a LOT of people are willing to give them a pass for violating rights if they come up with even a flimsy excuse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:35PM (#47808107)

    Not, it is due to preferential treament of women in the law system.

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:44PM (#47808219)

    "Fascism" was a political system practiced in several Mediterranean European countries in the early part of the 20th century. It usually entailed economic and cultural coordination by the state, a personality cult around a leader, a single-party or sham democratic system, national idealism, and militant, expansionist foreign policy. It's applicability outside of this narrow context is hotly contested, you can start fights among historians by asking "Was Falangist Spain Fascist?" or "Was Nazi Germany Fascist?"

    Committing a guy for writing a book is many things, but it ain't fascism. It's people like you who apply it scattershot to every instance of emotive negativity toward the state that have stripped the word of its "rich meaning." You should know who said this:

    In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

  • by jlb.think (1719718) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @01:06PM (#47808461)
    Law enforcment is not bound by HIPPA, but are hesitant to divulge what may be considered private under HIPPA. I have had people close to me sent to psychiatric institutions and once they are there the staff won't tell anyone they are even there without a waiver being signed by the patient. This is very frustrating when the police show up and hall off your loved one, and they seem to disappear into a blackhole. A few days later I did recieve a call. But if a patient was sufficiently drugged and unable or not allowed to make phone calls they could disappear indefinitely, drugged-incapacitated and without the mental capacity to challenge their detention.
  • by pspahn (1175617) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @02:28PM (#47809385)

    Curious, I have seen on the ballot every single year everywhere I have ever lived there is always a measure to "support better education" by "allocating more funds". What I find so odd, is that despite these measures passing, and education getting more funds, next year there will be another measure that uses the same language.

    If we keep making schools better by giving them more money, why aren't schools exponentially better by now?

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:02PM (#47809695)

    Let's hope so.

    So we should hope that someone can collect millions in taxpayer dollars because they were placed on paid leave? TFA is a biased opinion piece presenting third and fourth hand information, and quotes with no context, in a clear attempt to generate outrage, and thus pageviews. I have no idea what the real story is, but maybe everyone should just calm down and wait for the facts to come out from a reputable source that doesn't use "Soviet-Style Punishment" in their headline. The Soviets didn't send their enemies home on paid leave.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @06:05PM (#47811447)

    So what you're saying is that rather than a story of "Over-reaction by elected officials and law enforcement", we instead have a story about "piss-poor and irresponsible reporting by the mainstream media"?

    I think the much more interesting story is "Why do presumably educated and internet savvy Slashdot readers repeatedly believe journalistic garbage that can be debunked with a 30 second Google search?".

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