Dark poetry

A 15-year-old student spent 100 days in juvenile hall for making threats after he showed his “dark poetry” to a classmate. The poem included the line, “I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school.” George T. had been kicked out of his previous high school for non-violent disciplinary offenses. Instead of calling a counselor, Santa Teresa High officials called the cops. The case of George T. will be heard Thursday by the California Supreme Court. From the San Jose Mercury News:

Even prosecutors who deal with juveniles concede they will welcome some direction from the Supreme Court. Kurt Kumli, a deputy district attorney who supervises juvenile prosecutions in Santa Clara County, said he believes the law supports the conviction against George T., but he wonders whether it was the type of case that belongs in the criminal system.

“As a legal issue, it’s there,” Kumli said. “That having been said, I’m not sure in retrospect if the behavior is really the type of behavior that requires a juvenile justice response. A line being drawn, regardless of where it is drawn, is going to be to everyone’s benefit.”

George T. is finishing high school at another San Jose area campus. He has not committed any acts of violence, and says he never intended to. He was having a “bad day.”

Certainly, students who write and talk about killing should be taken seriously. A small percentage of kids who express violent fantasies may act out if they’re ignored. They need to talk to a counselor, not a cop.

Update: Zero Intelligence has a copy of the poem.

Who are these faces around me?
Where did they come from?
They would probably become the
next doctors or loirs or something. All
really intelligent and ahead of their
game. I wish I had a choice on
what I want to be like they do.
All so happy and vagrant. Each
Original in their own way. They
Make me want to puke. For I am
Dark, Destructive & Dangerous. I
Slap on my face of happiness but
Inside I am evil!! For I can be
the next kid to bring guns to
kill students at school. So Parents
watch your children cuz I’m BACK!!

It’s clear why the girl who read it, the teacher and the principal were worried, but it reads a lot more like a plea for help than an “imminent” threat.

Note that George T. (aka Julius) was in honors English yet spells lawyers as “loirs” and thinks “vagrant” means care-free.

About Joanne


  1. Walter Wallis says:

    I do not think it offends the first ammendment or the teacher’s oath to tell students up front on writing assignments that “dark” writing will get them flunked and reported.
    Further explain that schools are obliged to take perceived threats seriously.
    And can the Zero Tolerance, A.K.A. zero judgement.

  2. Fuzzy Rider says:

    It still seems somewhat strange to me to punish words in advance of actions- too much like “speech codes”, I guess. Talk to the kid, sure- but to punish him for words that were not a direct and immediate threat to anyone doesn’t seem reasonable.

  3. Look at the desperate attempts to find someone, anyone, to punish for Columbine. Harris and Klebold telegraphed their intentions but no one acted; pre-Columbine, they really couldn’t. I can’t fault the school. They don’t know in advance which kids who make these threats are going to act on them.

  4. Richard Heddleson says:

    We should be vigilant in teaching children the things for the utterance of which they will be punished by the the government. Speech like this is a threat to us all. I know I live in fear of what I will hear from the teenagers in my own home. I rest more securely knowing the state protects me from the thoughts of adolescents.

  5. Cousin Dave says:

    Was this an assignment, or just something the guy wrote on his own? Joanne says the school took action after he “showed it to a classmate”; that implies to me that it could have been a personal diary and not an assignment to be turned in. I wonder what words were said while he was showing the poetry to the classmate, and whether or not a threat was made in conjunction with that.

    If so, then yes, the school has to act, but what they did isn’t going to help. As Joanne says, these kinds of cases belong with counselors (real counselors, not touchy-feely overgrown kids), not with police. If there was no threat, and the writing was private… well, I think nearly all teenagers have violent and/or suicidal thoughts at times; it comes with the territory. If this is the case, then what lesson did the school teach? I can think of several possibilities, and none of them are good.

  6. Robin Maxwell says:

    If you tell someone they will be punished if they say certain things then you will likely not hear of those things.

    Which one do the schools want: 1) hear of such things so they can help/stop students 2) not hear of them so they can’t be blamed for taking the wrong action?

  7. Richard Heddleson says:

    Clearly the later.

  8. Rita C. says:

    This kid has a history, though. If he’s been expelled from another school, he must have “issues” of some sort. It is really, really hard to get expelled. I suspect that may have had something to do with the decision.

  9. Richard Heddleson says:

    What does getting expelled have to do with 100 days at Juvy Hall? That’s JAIL for kids.Throw him and many others out of school by all means, but don’t prosecute and imprison them for their thoughts. Especially when the law requires prosecutors to show a threat was “unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific.” “I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school” meets those tests and is sufficient to send the guy to jail for 100 days?

    What would be happening if this had happened pursuant to the PATRIOT Act?

  10. Rita C. says:

    Richard, the laws covering juveniles are different than those for adults. I don’t know the whole story, so I don’t want to conjecture about what led to the decision, but it sounds like this kid has a LOT of “bad days.” Maybe he should have just been expelled again in order to move on to the next school. Third time the charm?

  11. Richard Heddleson says:


    I agree that I am sure I would not want George for a next door neighbor.


    We know from the article that court records indicate he was bounced “from another high school for non-violence-related disciplinary problems” so it seems likely he does not have a record of violence in school.

    The Merc article continues “School officials received an e-mail from a 15-year-old girl who told her English teacher that she’d been frightened by the poems from George, also 15 at the time. William Rasmussen, the teacher, previously told the Mercury News that he did not consider George’s writing a form of poetry, but rather a threat of “coming back to school and killing somebody.””

    No one is alledging that George did anything other than write out his thoughts; “Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Laurence, who is defending the conviction, declined to comment. But in a court brief, he disputed the argument that George’s threats were artistic expression. To the state, they were just brazen, dangerous — and real — threats.”

    Generally the laws for juveniles are different becasue they give the kids a break, not because they hold them to a higher standard. If you or I, presuming you too have reached the age of majority, wrote this on our desk blotter, the worst that would happen is termination. But this kid gets over 3 months in the slammer. For doing nothing but writing down his non-threatending thoughts. I wonder what he learned in his semester in the slammer.

    This is a great example of what is wrong with public schools. Could you imagine this happening in a private school? But the public schools work hand in glove with the Police to see that children are incarcerated in school or jail till they are broken.

  12. Walter Wallis says:

    Suppose the lad wrote, in the vein of recent rap, “I gonna drag that Ho in my english class behind the bleachers and bang her” and the teacher took no action?

  13. Richard Heddleson says:

    So the only choices are 100 days in jail or no action?

  14. Rita C. says:

    I don’t know what the choices were. I wasn’t there. But I don’t have time for this conversation now; there are teenagers to incarcerate before summer, darnit, and I’m behind schedule!

  15. Richard Heddleson says:

    Rita, it was juvenile court, remember? They can do a lot short of 100 days. From everything I’ve heard, it takes only 2 nights in Juvy Hall to qualify for future criminals of America. While this guy may have been borderline qualified, I’m sure he’s a master instructor by now.

  16. Rita C. says:

    Actually, the laws for juveniles are stricter in some cases. But I’m sure you have all the facts of the case, Richard, and know better than anyone who was involved with the case.