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A 17-year-old Wichita, Kansas, high school senior will appear before
a federal judge today to pursue her lawsuit against the school officials
who expelled her after she posted a drawing in her classroom that
included the words, “I’ll kill you all.” Bluestem High School’s actions
against Sarah Boman are being called an “overreaction” by the student’s
“Clearly, this is an overreaction to the Columbine school
shootings,” said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director for the
American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas
City, Mo, whose organization is filing the lawsuit on Boman’s behalf.
Indeed, the killings of 12 students and a teacher by two teen-age gunmen
in the Colorado suburb last April has prompted schools across the nation
to tighten security.
Boman earned art scholarships to two local colleges she recently
visited with her portfolio. While there, one of the college art
professors suggested to Boman that she expand her portfolio to include
unexplored forms of artwork. In response, Boman created a conceptual
drawing which, she said, was designed to illustrate the deranged
thoughts of a fictional madman. Two phrases used in the picture were,
“Who killed my dog?” and “I’ll kill you all.”
The picture was posted on a classroom door — a practice school
officials admit is common among students. Bluestem’s principal examined
the artwork and investigated its origins, and one day later, Jan. 5,
According to Kurtenbach, the principal admitted he knew the artwork
was not a threat once Boman was identified as its creator. However,
expulsion proceedings continued.
Boman appealed the expulsion and subsequently was allowed to return
to classes upon two conditions — psychological examination and
immediate expulsion upon any infringement of any school rule. The
“perfect student” who has had “no problems at all in school” found the
conditions to be unacceptable and sued Bluestem’s principal, the school
board and the district superintendent on Tuesday. She claims the school
violated her constitutional right to freedom of speech.
School attorney David Hall said school officials had little choice
but to expel Boman, because the unsigned, unframed drawing appeared to
be a potentially valid threat of violence.
“In the climate that we have in schools right now, you can’t joke
about killing people in high schools,” Hall said. “Administrators don’t
want anything like Columbine to happen here. Imagine if they had done
nothing and it was a serious threat.”
Kurtenbach said the school was right to investigate the drawing, but
he contended officials went too far in expelling her. Boman’s record
should have alleviated concerns, he said.
“What’s important about this case,” Kurtenbach told WorldNetDaily,
“is that when she made this particular piece of artwork, it never
crossed her mind that she would be expelled from school.”
“If we are going to expect our public school students to consider in
this creative process, ‘Is this going to lead to my expulsion?’ then we
have done serious damage to the creative process for students in public
schools,” he continued.
Public schools have been the setting for an inordinate amount of
violence in recent years, a fact that certainly influenced Bluestem
officials’ decision to expel Boman. Yet violence prevention efforts may
have gone too far, as evidenced not only by this and similar cases, but
also by a new computerized screening program designed to anticipate
threatening or violent behavior by students.
MOSAIC 2000 “is an advanced computer assisted assessment system that
provides guidance in the evaluation of situations that might escalate to
violence,” according to Gavin de Becker Inc., the security firm that
developed the controversial system with the help of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The system rates each child on a violence scale of 1 to 10 according
to their answers to such questions as gun ownership or access and family
Field trials began last month in about 25 school districts across the
Larry Pratt, president of Gun Owners of America noted that even the psychiatric profession
admits predicting violence in individuals is uncertain at best.
“A principal will do better flipping a coin than using this program,”
to determine who is prone to violence, he said.
Pratt added that he believes the purpose of the BATF involvement is
to “gather more information about guns and gun owners out there.”
Were MOSAIC 2000 used in Wichita, Kan., college-bound and scholarship
recipient Boman might now be labeled as “violence prone.”
Julie Foster is a staff
reporter for WorldNetDaily.
Computer to identify violence-prone students