A Grade 12 Brampton student at Heart Lake Secondary School is facing an uncertain academic future after submitting a creative writing essay that depicted a student killing her teacher.
The essay tells the story of a Grade 10 girl whose hostility towards her science teacher, Mr. Adams, culminates in her cornering him with a bat and offering him a few “final words.” The scene ends with the girl saying, “Sorry Mr. Adams, but schools [sic] out!”
Seventeen-year-old Brendan Jones—who’s three credits shy of graduating—is currently not attending school. Last week, the boy’s father Ron Jones received a phone call from school principal Susan Turner, who said Brendan was “not welcome at Heart Lake and would never attend classes there again.” The school’s administration said officials are assessing the matter and there are plans for a psychologist to review the essay for any warning signs.
The problem with Jones’ situation lies not with his choice of characters or plotline, but with the school’s decision to hastily react to what they perceived as a serious threat. Jones’s creative writing assignment’s just that—a fictitious piece of work that doesn’t deserve the overreaction it has garnered.
The schools’ decision to ban Jones from attending classes temporarily is punishment unfit for what shouldn’t be considered a crime. It’s wrong to assume a work of fiction involving death indicates its author’s own homicidal tendencies. If the administration believed Jones posed a threat, it should have organized a meeting with him to discuss any motives behind his story’s depictions, rather than ostracize and isolate him.
The school and the school board effectively stifled this student’s creative boundaries. The school’s rigid definition of acceptable creative writing is counterintuitive and doesn’t do much for freedom of expression.
The school may have felt it had to react in some way. Tragedies such as those in Columbine, CO and Taber, AB, have shown it can be fatal to ignore troubled students.
But the steps taken were rash and merely isolated Jones when it’s possible all he wants is someone to talk to.
Jones wasn’t threatening to commit the act in his story and by stifling his freedom to think and express himself creatively, the school has essentially told its students to stay within the lines—or get out.