for once, poetry is in the news

The California State Supreme Court is in the process of deciding about a case in which a 15 year old boy was prosecuted by the state for writing a poem in which he described himself as "dangerous" and referred to a recent high school shooting. Teens these days have very few rights, it seems, and apparently the First Amendment doesn't cover them in California.

I'm no lawyer -- but as a literature teacher, I just have to point out what seems obvious. Many, if not most, teenagers feel alienated or confused or depressed some or most of the time. That's part of the transition to adulthood and separating from the root family. Art of all sorts and creative expression are really helpful for people (like teenagers) who feel things intensely. That's part of the reason why it's so important to 15-year-olds to find out who else listens to the music they do, etc.

Reading or writing dark poetry doesn't in my mind constitute in and of itself criminal intent. I know that school administrators are overworked and overcautious these days, but there's got to be some room for kids to express themselves. That's what helps prevent tragedies.

what's next? banning Sylvia Plath from school libraries?