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And Yet Another Teacher is Punished for Writing a Novel

91EkRRhGseL._SL1500_[1]Update: It looks like this story might be a tempest in a teapot caused by really bad local reporting. The LA Times followed up and reported that the teacher had real mental health issues, and not because of his novels.

The Atlantic reported earlier today that a Maryland middle school teacher was involuntarily committed for nothing more than writing a book:

From the Dept. of Insane and Dangerous Overreactions to Fictional Threats:

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.

According to The Atlantic, the police have also searched the school and the victim’s teacher’s house, with no weapons found. "The residence of the teacher in Wicomico County was searched by personnel," Sheriff Phillips said, all without finding signs that he owned a time machine which he planned to use to commit the crimes described in his book.

And yes, it is that ridiculous.

There are just no words to describe that level of nonsense.

Sadly, this is not the first time an author has suffered from the over-reaction to gossip that they have written a novel with unusual themes, and thanks to the rise of self-publishing it will almost certainly not be the last.

As you may recall, in 2011 an English teacher in Pennsylvania was the focal point a national media storm, simply because one parent realized that this teacher of 25 years also wrote racy romance novels:

When parents discovered that an English teacher at Midd West High School had a second job as a novelist, they weren’t impressed.

What’s causing criticism is the content of the teacher’s writing — a subject matter that is strictly for adults.

Judy Buranich, an English teacher in Middleburg, Penn., is also a published romance novelist. Local parents say she should choose between her writing and her profession, as her second career detracts from her role as a teacher, AP reports.

Fortunately for this teacher it had already been common knowledge that she wrote romance novels under a pen name, leading many in the community to take to her defense when a few parents started saying things like:

"It’s unbelievable … I can’t even imagine someone would write such stuff… And I don’t want my son sitting in her class thinking, is she looking at him in a certain way…"

I just don’t know what to say to that, or to the nonsense going on this week in Maryland.

Coincidentally, that county in MD is just on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay from Manassas, VA, that infamous city with a police force so dedicated to fighting child porn that it created child porn. (Given my often strange view of the world and the fact that I live in between Manassas, VA, and Shaw, MD, I think it’s time to start asking whether there is something in the water.)

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Sunny September 1, 2014 um 9:43 pm

a language-arts teacher writing a novel!! no joking, these parents should be happy with their kids learn writings from such a teacher.

this is just stupid, those teachers are adults, nothing wrong with them if they think or write a piece of adult content.
do i have to think like a kid , act like a kid and also lower my intelligence in order to become a school teacher?

LoganK September 2, 2014 um 12:59 am

Why do you have to throw in that obnoxious comment about video games? Do you really think that a young person enjoying someone else’s creation, something which a large percentage of that age group engage in, is more likely to hurt others than a person writing about hurting others? I agree with your supporting the teacher, but dragging out obnoxious, decades-old parental fears of new technology doesn’t support your case.

I do think if someone is writing fantasy about harming others in their environment, then it is worth checking out. Suspension and public ridicule isn’t the appropriate way to go about that, but it’s not ridiculous to ask the principal if it’s worth further investigation. The tone (it’s likely the book is about an event rather than encouraging this behavior) and the similarities (sci-fi is pretty far removed) should also be taken into consideration.

Despite living in such a safe time, though, our news media has people living in fear, and a few lights are sufficient to halt a city. I’d say that people might stop sweating the small stuff if we had real security problems, but people might take that as a threat and I don’t need my name in the headlines.

rashkae September 2, 2014 um 11:34 am

And now the books have been pulled from sale.. this just gets crazier.

rashkae September 2, 2014 um 11:50 am

However, after reading the report on the star, I don’t think this is about the books at all. There was some other investigation that brought this individual to the attention of lots of law enforcement.

Timothy Wilhoit September 2, 2014 um 1:12 pm

The professor strode into the room to address the group seated around a conference table. "Good news, everyone! I’ve invented a time machine and I’m going to visit 21st century America so I can make fun of the primitives!"

The one-mutant mutant pilot seemed troubled. "Say professor, wasn’t there a terrible school massacre 100 years ago and the perpetrator was a psychotic, murderous school teacher who time-traveled from the 21st century? It turned out that he won the time machine in a rigged poker game when he was playing against an idiot professor who time-traveled from the 31st century."

The professor dismissed the statement with a wave of his hand. "Oh, pshah! You can’t swing a cat these days without hitting an idiot professor! What are the odds that I’m the 'idiot professor' they were talking about?"

The sociopathic robot hit the table with a metal fist. "Hey! That psychotic murderer from the past sounds like a pretty great guy! He had the right idea…KILL ALL HUMANS!"

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