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Student Banned From Minnesota Campus Over Facebook Comments 806

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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  • Re:My god. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:25PM (#30461984)

    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.

    Oh? When exactly did they say they look forward to stabbing someone in the throat? If someone says it (not a character in a story or philosophical dilemma), it's called a death threat. Death threats on the internet are the same as death threats on the phone, in person, in writing, etc. 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.

  • Mortuary student (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:06PM (#30462846)

    The mortuary industry is very, very, very conservative. They take a dim view on anything that could tarnish their reputation. If it was any other industry, I would find this a ridiculous over reaction.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:15PM (#30463022)

    this bad stuff happens. ... far more rarely than freak bathtub accidents with deadly outcome (which are actually several hundreds in the US alone per year).

    it can be prevented? ... most effectively by not engaging in mass hysteria. The media coverage and guaranteed instant stardom of rampagers has certainly created an attractive platform for unhinged attention seekers.

    I would much rather a student be banned from 1 school for Emo behavior

    Right, people become much more stable by being required to consistently bottle any emotions up. It's all the rage in counselling these days, therapists are taught to start up with 'please stfu about your feelings'.

    1 Person is inconvenienced. ... and a couple of dozen others learn not to vent anger or any other emotions and go on a rampage out of the blue instead.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:20PM (#30463094)

    While depending on context it will likely be ignored, if you say "I'm GOING to kill x" then that legally IS a threat. You can say "I want to kill x" just fine because it expresses merely a desire - wanting to kill something isn't against the law. Saying that you ARE going to do it is.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:20PM (#30463112)
    No, that's wrong. Perhaps you should choose your words more carefully. :0)

    You can be responsible for your words. But it is not possible to hold someone responsible for how others react to those words, simply because there will always be unreasonable and crazy people out there.

    You can choose your words such that most reasonable people will not react to them adversely. But that is the best that can be expected of anybody, morally or legally.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:33PM (#30463344)
    I know this is only peripheral to the subject at hand, but since you brought it up, there was another lesson that should have been learned from Columbine: that unarmed people cannot defend themselves.

    The shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Killeen, and Fort Hood were all in "gun-free zones". What good did the law do? All it did was prevent the innocent from defending themselves.

    Spend 6 valuable minutes listening to Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, survivor of Killeen, testify before Congress [].
  • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:00PM (#30463782)

    No, if I were a student or teacher, I'd write it off as angry venting, nothing more. See, most people are perfectly reasonable, and also vent in this manner (maybe more privately, but they do it).

    When someone says "err on the side of caution" I interperate that as "I'm scared of my own shadow and the booggy monster and have to have mommy and daddy check under my bed for monsters each night, and I don't think there's anything wrong with a nightlight even though I'm 40 years old."

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:11PM (#30463930)

    Its amazing to me how supposedly freedom loving Americans are really quick to try and use non-government methods to limit other's freedoms.

  • by LandDolphin ( 1202876 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:44PM (#30464492)
    I was pointing out that that is what people wil lsay if she did end up killing someone down the road. While I agree that what she wrote does not equal "obvious signs that she was unstable", if it turned out that she was unstable, people would look back and call what she wrote an "obvious sign".

    Because of situations like that, the school has to cover itself.
  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:26PM (#30465338)

    Actually, no, it hasn't.

    When I was in High School, the campus had an open layout. DOZENS of entrances to dozens of buildings. Completely impossible to put metal detectors in every entrance because every classroom was a separate building.

    We also had a smoking section.

    In short, the school trusted their students, even to the point of allowing them to make their own informed decisions regarding smoking.

    Now, with Columbine in the mix, would I have felt safer with all the metal detectors, cameras, etc in place?

    FUCK no. If something similar had happened at my High School, I would have had dozens of EXITS to get away from any danger. Instead, today, we have High Schools that are basically a trap for anyone caught inside during such an attack. Now, attackers only have to cover a couple exits to keep their victims from escaping.

  • Anyone remember... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:07PM (#30466104)

    ... back when a conversation would simply "die" after whatever dumbass comment was made on impulse during a brief moment of frustration?

    Nowadays, we're all expected to bottle our emotions, letting them slowly fester into a mental illness that could eventually result in a random explosion of violent behavior toward anyone who might rub you the wrong way at just the right moment.

    Knee-jerk reactions to off-color commentary made to a completely unrelated audience are likely going to be the cause of several future columbine-like incidences. And why? Because you can't give anyone even the slightest bit of breathing room to themselves.

    The internet may have brought the world closer together, but perhaps that difference is starting to make a number of us feel claustrophobic.

    Also, how do such comments reach such seemingly unrelated audiences? Is it just coincidence, or is someone constantly watching this person for some specific purpose?

  • by Marful ( 861873 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:27PM (#30466358)
    IANAL but, after the settlement for the civil suit goes through, she won't need that piece of paper and will be set for life.

    Seriously though, what were the police thinking? The police should have specifically known that acting on these comments would place them and the college into a bad position. The fact alone that the comments lack immanency mean that they cannot take action as the "threats" are without credibility.

    Second, the school cannot just ban access to it's campus based upon words that a student made that are not illegal. Not only is her speech protected speech, there is no excuse to single out this woman over the thousands of other women who express opinions of equivalent displeasure.

    Does the university go into lock down every time someone mentions "far bomb"? Do people get arrested when talking about shooting up another person in counterstrike? Does the bomb squad come out when someone says "thats the bomb!"?

    Again IANAL, but the "Terry Frisk" prior to entering the classroom by the police, like wise does not seem legal to me as well. First off, Terry v. Ohio limits the terry frisk to a non-invasive brief external frisk for hard objects that could potentially be weapons, for the purpose of officer safety.

    Given the lack of immanency of the "threats" and the complete normality of such statements being made by individual whom were in a deep intimate relationship that turned into a deeply dissatisfied relationship, there lacks any "reasonable suspicion" for an officer to place himself in a position to deliberately detain in such a fashion as to create a non-consensual encounter that also allows the officer to terry-frisk when they otherwise would not be allowed either.

    Terry vs. Ohio states that the limitation on when a Terry Frisk is exceptable when

    "...the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate?"

    This of course begs the question, was the alleged intended victim of the woman at the class room? What articulable reason did the officer have to believe that the woman posed a danger to the occupants of the class room?

    Personally, I hope she financially rapes the police department and the school. These "zero tolerance" policies are absurd and allow for great harm to come to innocent people due to out-of-context innocuous comments or a vindictive person who wishes to harass another.

  • Re:My god. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PylonHead ( 61401 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:48PM (#30467814) Homepage Journal

    This is clearly incorrect. Intention can be implied.

    For example, if I walk up to you in a bar and say to you, "That smug smile on your face makes me want to break this bottle over your head," I have just threatened you.

    You don't even have to express desire: If I walk into your store and I say, "You've got a nice store here, it would be a shame if it burned down," I have just threatened you.

    As to the target, depending on how much context you have the person is either identifiable or not. If you know she was just dumped, you know she's talking about her ex. If you don't she could be talking about anyone... a teacher for example. This does not improve the situation.

  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:23PM (#30468152)

    "Really? You don't think cutting the number of entrances/exits and the placement of the metal detectors and cameras at all reduces the chance of a successful attack?"

    No, I do not.

    I am realist. There is no way in hell we are going to be able to entirely stop attacks on schools, so we might as well focus on limiting the damage they might cause rather then put all the eggs in one basket.

  • by FiloEleven ( 602040 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:52PM (#30468774)

    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...

    Your last sentence is the most important one. What has changed most is the medium. Before people felt the need to express themselves at near-strangers using text, a medium notoriously bad at correctly conveying emotion without a lot of hard work, talent, and luck, the sort of outbursts unearthed from TFA by DJRumpy would have been delivered passionately, in person, amongst friends. The friends, seeing the outburst delivered in such a rich medium, and having a good working knowledge of this woman's personality, would in the vast majority of cases easily discern whether she was seriously disturbed and dangerous or only blowing off steam.

    Contrast that with a Facebook post that shows little more than text on a page. Facebookers are willing to friend just about anyone they barely recognize, and that goes double for college campuses. These people, and the teachers and authorities later alerted to the post, have little to no frame of reference in which to place the comments made. We as a whole tend to be cautious when it comes to strangers, and when the only data are a few notes threatening attack, the stakes are high.

    I'm approaching my late twenties and like many of you grew up online. To me those posts barely register because I've seen and used such expression enough to understand the medium and the likelihood that she's just blowing off steam. Still, by posting that content in that context, it's also obvious to me that her risk of bringing the wrong sort of attention to herself is also high. This looks to be just another case of someone who doesn't understand the privacy ramifications of putting her information online.

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