A 23-year-old middle school teacher in Cambridge, Maryland was placed on administrative leave and “taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” after the Dorchester County Board of Education and Sheriff’s Office discovered he had written a novel about a school shooting — that is set 900 years in the future.
WBOC reports that English and Language Arts teacher Patrick McLaw wrote a novel called The Insurrectionist under the pseudonym “Dr. K.S. Voltaer.” According to its official description, novel begins “on 18 March 2902, [the day] a massacre transpired on the campus of Ocean Park High School, claiming the lives of nine hundred forty-seven individuals — the largest school massacre in the nation’s history.”
McLaw was suspended by the Dorchester County Board of Education pending an investigation and is no longer in the area. He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere.”
A schoolteacher is whisked away by the authorities and held incommunicado because he has written a sci-fi novel about a mass school shooting? His home is searched for weapons and bombs; he is “placed on leave” by the school board, and the police will not disclose his whereabouts, he is “not able to travel anywhere,” although he is not under arrest?
Yikes again! What is the country coming to? Jack-booted thugs swooping down on a poor novelist and middle school teacher based on some book he wrote when he was 19? Yep! Sounds like a clear case of hysterical overreaction, and a gross violation of the teacher’s civil rights — to wit, freedom of speech, unreasonable search and seizure, habeas corpus and possibly, since he is black, there is more than a hint of racism.
At least, so we are advised by “Raw Story,” a general news blog covering everything from trendy diets to the latest outrages of the NYPD, whence came the quoted section above.
Well, maybe not.
According to the LA Times:
Over the weekend, various reports stated that a middle school teacher in Dorchester County, Maryland, was placed on leave because he wrote two science fiction novels about mass school shootings. But according to information received by the L.A. Times, Patrick McLaw was placed on leave because of mental health issues.
“It didn’t start with the books and it didn’t end with the books,” State’s Attorney for Wicomico County Matt Maciarello told The Times. “It’s not even a factor in what law enforcement is doing now.”
Concerns about McLaw were raised after he sent a four-page letter to officials in Dorchester County. Those concerns brought together authorities from multiple jurisdictions, including health authorities.
McLaw’s attorney, David Moore, tells The Times that his client was taken in for a mental health evaluation. “He is receiving treatment,” Moore said.
Because of federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations mandating privacy around healthcare issues, he was unable to say whether McLaw has been released.
McLaw’s letter was of primary concern to healthcare officials, Maciarello says. It, combined with complaints of alleged harassment and an alleged possible crime from various jurisdictions led to his suspension. Maciarello cautions that these allegations are still being investigated; authorities, he says, “proceeded with great restraint.”
We shoulda known better. It now appears that Mr. McLaw has sadly encountered some difficulties that are at this point his own business, that he is receiving medical care, and that the police are behaving properly in respecting his right to privacy.
Of course, these days, given almost daily reports in the media about law enforcement overreach and overreaction, not to mention the scant regard sometimes shown for the rights of citizens (and non-citizens), it’s easy to assume the worst. In this case, however, we had some suspicion at the outset that all was not as Raw Story claimed. Raw Story, after all, is now edited by one Tony Ortega, whose history is studded like a diamond tiara with nuggets like this one.
In the past, Tony’s inventions have ranged from fake stories to fake people, from outre claims to impossibilities, and this load of buffalo chips is only the latest in his long and inglorious trail of #heylookatme journalism. He didn’t write the article himself; he generally doesn’t, preferring to hang a subordinate reporter with the blowback when the facts come out and these contrivances inevitably boomerang. But he gets what he wants — lots of clicks on the web, and hang the consequences.
Tony specialized in this kind of effluvia as editor of the Village Voice, where he admirably and eloquently defended his employers’ online child prostitution website backpage.com by remarking that “the kids don’t have to hand out on the streets or in back alleys.” After getting the elbow at VV when he had outlived his usefulness, he landed at Raw Story, where he has now left his indelible imprint.
His tenure at Raw Story thus far has hardly been distinguished. There Ortega specializes in clickbait headlines about non-stories, most recently about two women in Florida who were caught red-handed trying to steal someone’s beach tent:
What next, Tony? We have a suggestion: “Secret cabal boils animal embryos alive, paints them bright colors and secrets them in the gardens of a national monument every spring!” Get on it. (Hint: It’s called the White House Easter Egg Roll.)