Creative expression is one of the most powerful ideas in our world. But sometimes, such expression can take us to dangerous places and cause us to be rejected by those around us. A teenage girl who wrote what was in her heart is now being punished by her school after she refused to write the kind of Sandy Hook poem that her teachers wanted. She wrote something that her teachers defined to be too dark to be acceptable. As a result, the girl might be expelled.
While we may not agree with what Courtni Webb wrote, we have to wonder if we want to live in a world where a child can lose their right to an education because of what they think and write. She didn’t do anything wrong, so maybe this decision is one that the school should reconsider. This is not the first time that freedom of speech has been in jeopardy during a time of national crisis. Shortly after September 11, residents were being sent to jail for things they said or wrote, even if they didn’t actually say them. Neighbors were turning on one another, and most would agree in hindsight that this was one time period when our nation failed the test of liberty. Freedoms are easy to preserve when everyone feels safe and comfortable. The greatest test comes when we feel unsafe.
On Dec. 30 the “Today Show” reported the story about San Francisco high school senior Courtni Webb. Webb, 17, is facing “possible expulsion” for writing a poem about the Newton, Conn., Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Courtni wasn’t trying to be dark and depressed in her poem, but she didn’t write memorials to the victims either.
Instead, Courtni wrote a poem about Adam Lanza and what she saw regarding his drive to a mass murder in a children’s classroom. She didn’t write about flowers and rainbows. She wrote, “They want to hold me back……I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger…. society won’t take the blame. We’re full of a society of haters and blamers”