Sep 03 2014

Teacher on Leave, Under Investigation After Writing Book About Fictional Shooting

classroom desk

Last month, a South Carolina student was suspended and arrested for writing a fictional story about shooting a dinosaur. Last week, in similar zero-tolerance fashion, the school board and police of Cambridge, Maryland, placed an eighth-grade language arts teacher on administrative leave and began an active investigation. Police are slow to release details but officials state a major cause of worry was that the teacher happened to have written a book about a fictional school shooting set 90 years in the future.

23-year-old Patrick McLaw has penned two books under the pseudonym Dr. K.S. Voltaer, which for some reason already makes him suspect despite the fact that using pen names has been a common practice among authors for hundreds of years. Police and school officials state, however, that using pen names is suspicious when the content of his stories are “concerning” and “questionable.” Despite his supposed suspicious character, McLaw was nominated for Teacher of the Year and made national headlines when he helped a student self-publish a book on Amazon.

Patrick McLaw

Patrick McLaw

A summary of McLaw’s book, The Insurrectionist, found on Amazon.com lays out the plot: the largest ever school shooting occurs in March of 2092, and when another nearby school begins getting threads, the government and a gang of friends work to catch the shooter. The sequel, Lilith’s Heir, hints at government conspiracy in its description, but so do lots of popular books in today’s mainstream.

The timeline of events keeps shifting, and police are only now stating that the books weren’t the real reason for their reaction, only that the books were relevant to their reaction. In a statement made a week and a half after the original events, the state’s prosecution claims that McLaw was removed due to harassment complaints and the possibility of an inappropriate relationship with a (non-student) minor, though prosecution also reports that those claims have not actually been confirmed or proved. Prosecution does admit, however, that McLaw’s books largely influenced the county’s decision to send McLaw for an “emergency medical evaluation” and consider his situation as a “mental health issue.”

Regardless of the reason – an inappropriate relationship or “concerning” fiction – police used K-9 units to sweep both the school and McLaw’s home for firearms and explosives. Finding nothing, a secondary search was conducted by both police and school personnel. That search, too, was negative. A search of the state’s databases also revealed that McLaw does not have any weapons registered to him.

Immediately after McLaw’s removal, Dorchester County Sheriff James Phillips made a statement that the school, its students, and their families have “nothing to worry about” and that the situation is “under control” but that police will patrol the school for “as long as necessary.” He also assured families that police are investigating “McLaw’s activities leading up to his removal from Dorchester County Schools” and that he was somewhere “with the inability to travel.” More than a week and a half later, McLaw’s attorney states that McLaw is being held in a mental health facility and is “receiving treatment.”

Such a reaction seems grossly disproportionate to both the books and the possibility of an “inappropriate relationship.” Prosecution has stated that the claims, while unproven, regard a young woman who would have been over the age of 16 at the beginning of the relationship. Regardless of the truthfulness to the claims or the age of those involved, such cases do not normally incite emergency mental health evaluations and hospitalizations. Is this another case of zero-tolerance policies careening into the realm of the ridiculous? Or are there other details yet to be released that would explain what seems to be a crazed overreaction?

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