Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Students Expelled for Humorous Movie

A group of 3 high school students made a movie where an evil teddy bear attacks and tries to kill a teacher and are fought off by the teacher’s students. A teacher in the school with the same last name as the teacher in the movie decides that this is an actual threat to him and the school expels the three students. Yes, this is a true story. Seems like a serious overreaction to me. The movie was clearly meant to be funny, not threatening – unless the teacher really thinks that there are evil teddy bears roaming the plains that might be hired to do him in. Indeed, one could just as easily interpret the movie as endorsing the opposite. After all, the students in the movie did fight off the evil teddy bears, suggesting that they are protective of this teacher rather than seeking his destruction. Get a sense of humor, folks.


  1. #1 Markus
    November 27, 2006

    Hope they post it on Youtube.

  2. #2 kehrsam
    November 27, 2006

    We had a case earlier this year where a student at our local fundy college was hounded by the Secret Service and had his computer seized because he had posted lyrics to a song about the Kennedy assassination on his MySpace page and changed the name to Bush. Welcome to the new reality in America.

    I note that in the news report there is no mention of whether the teacher who “felt threatened” had ever met the students or had them as students. Generally, there is a reasonable person standard for assault (which is essentially what the school system is arguing that the kids did). The local DA failed to charge, presumably because no reasonable person would be threated by a teddy bear going all Chuckie.

  3. #3 Raging Bee
    November 27, 2006

    After Columbine, a lot of school districts started making rules aimed at identifying “troubled” teen behavior before the “troubled” teen exhibiting it picked up a gun and killed somebody. A lot of those rules specified reacting not only to violent behavior or explicit threats of violence, but also to any other statements or actions that enough adults deemed wierd or “troubling” — in other words, anything rebellious or non-conformist that “troubled” the adults, whether or not the kids in question were themselves “troubled.” I suspect that this is an instance of a lighthearted student expression triggering one such rule.

    Hey, it’s better than keeping guns out of kids’ hands — that’d be un-American!

  4. #4 bioephemera
    November 27, 2006

    It’s paranoid, disproportionate behavior like this that is making our public schools a laughingstock, taking resources from actual education, and prompting anyone who can afford it to send their kids to private schools. I’m the child of a public school educator and went through the system myself, and although it left me somewhat unprepared for college, I always thought I would send my own kids to public school as well. But lately I’m just not so sure. I don’t want the school board policing their private lives. I kind of want them to learn about evolution. Oh, and if they’re girls, I’d like them to learn math.

    I know, I know, it’s so much to ask.

  5. #5 Skemono
    November 27, 2006

    Actually, I’m not sure the teacher is even in the same school. The article says:

    Knightstown Principal Jim Diagostino and Superintendent David McGuire don’t see the humor, and note that the teacher who is threatened in the movie has the same last name as a real teacher in the district.

    Emphasis mine, natch.

  6. #6 Skemono
    November 27, 2006

    And I would appear to be right. From The Indianapolis Star:

    A homemade horror-movie parody about evil teddy bears led to the expulsions of four Knightstown High School students who produced it, two of whom are suing to get back into school.

    In particular, a teacher in the movie who is threatened by the teddy bears shares the same last name as a teacher at the district’s middle school.

    The boys, who are sophomores, spent a number of months on their project, working on the video from the fall of 2005 through last summer.

    In a letter to School Board members Nov. 3, Superintendent McGuire said teacher Daniel Clevenger, who teaches seventh grade at Knightstown Intermediate School, felt threatened.

    There should be some limits to students’ freedom of expression, McGuire wrote, citing a phrase familiar to First Amendment students: “Your freedom to swing your fist ends at the point of my nose.”

    And apparently some of the movie was posted on MySpace.

  7. #7 Alan B.
    November 27, 2006

    Get a sense of humor, folks.

    I’d settle for a smattering of common sense.

  8. #8 ThomasHobbes
    November 27, 2006

    What galls me most is that these sort of zero-tolerance policies don’t bother to discriminate between actual threats and teenage pranks like this one. Instead, an incredibly wide net is cast over anything that has the appearance of containing any violence at all, the result of which is actually a decrease in the effectiveness and safety. There is only so much time available, after all, and whenever some of it is taken up with bullshit like this, it takes away from time that could be spent on evaluating real dangers.

    Let’s get real here–most of the kids who have gone on to become school shooters have displayed clear signs of their intent long before the actual incidents. And by that I don’t mean that they made movies about a killer teddy bear. They threatened and bullied fellow students (or were threatened and bullied themselves), intimated (and sometimes stated outright) to friends that they would kill others, and displayed a fascination with violence and death that they were all too ready to share with others. If that didn’t set off some alarm bells, then expelling students over a humorous video won’t do a thing.

    I’m reminded of a George Carlin act that touches on our obliviousness to actual signs of danger: “They always say that the quiet ones will get you. But let me tell you something–I’ve never been in a bar and been worried about the quiet guy sitting alone and drinking his beer. I’m worrying about the guy who’s waving a machete by the door and shouting, ‘I’m gonna kill the next motherfucker that walks in here!'”

  9. #9 Raging Bee
    November 28, 2006

    I agree with Hobbes on this. I’d also add that part of the problem in detecting (or rather, admitting) signs of danger, is that most of those signs aren’t even considered unusual or noteworthy until it’s too late. Kliebold (sp?) and Harris were bullied by the school jocks? So what — no one saw that as unusual OR bad, it was just “part of growing up;” and the society in general admired the jocks too much, and the quiet, bookish nonconformists too little, to recognize that anything bad might come of the former treating the latter like shit all year. Then when something bad DID come of it, the adults said nothing at all about the jocks-uber-alles culture, and instead turned their attention to those suspicious oddballs and their disturbing ideas. Add to that our complete inability to keep guns out of the hands of unsupervised minors for fear of miffing the NRA, and it’s no wonder school officials obsess on silly home-movies about killer teddy-bears — it’s all our society allows them to do, and they HAVE to do SOMETHING.

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