A 17-year old high school student has been suspended for writing a poem about her take on why Adam Lanza shot dead 27 people, 20 of them children, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger,” wrote Courtni Webb, referring to Lanza.
“Why are we oppressed by a dysfunctional community of haters and blamers?” she continued.
Webb’s personal notebook was later found by a teacher and handed in to school officials at San Francisco’s Life Learning Academy, where Webb — a senior — is one of 60 students, the Huffington Post reports.
By way of explanation, Webb, who routinely writes poetry, told NBC News that she was simply “expressing herself” and believes that tragedies like Sandy Hook happen because “people feel helpless.”
She added, “never in my life have I heard that you couldn’t mention a tragedy that happened. I didn’t say that I agreed with it, I said I simply understand it.”
NBC revealed that the school’s letter informing Courtni’s mother about her daughter’s suspension read (in part):
“Her poem violated the school’s zero tolerance policy towards violence. We discovered a note that contained deeply concerning and threatening language related to the recent school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Our concerns are for both the safety of our school community, and for Courtni herself.”
But Courtni’s mother, Valerie Statham, told NBC that her daughter didn’t threaten anyone and that her right to freedom of speech has been violated. First Amendment and constitutional attorney, Jonathan Katz agrees.
“This is a bad civics lesson for student to see someone being suspended in school for her words, especially these kinds of words where she could not be sanctioned if she was outside the school house gates,” Katz told NBC.
ABC7 News reports that they spoke with the principal of the Life Learning Academy Thursday night, but were told they would have to contact a district official and would be called back. To date, a return call has been received.
Meanwhile, Courtni’s mother is expecting to hear from the district when the school opens again on January 7th. More of the poem can be read here.
Do you think the school overreacted and infringed Webb’s freedom of speech, or do you think they were right to take precautions in light of the Newtown tragedy?