It was a crude animation of one stick figure shooting another created for a school graphics class in Gloucester County last week.
But during the same week of a shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, officials at Williamstown High School in Monroe found nothing innocent about the sketch. As a result, the student says a vice principal told him he would not be allowed to attend classes again until he passes a mental-health evaluation.
In response, the 18-year-old, identified in court papers only as "J.K.," filed a lawsuit yesterday asking a federal judge to order school officials to allow him back to class and to pay for damages.
During a graphics design class on April 16 - hours before the world knew that Seung-Hui Cho had killed 32 people at Virginia Tech - J.K. said he was asked to make animations for a program they were learning.
J.K.'s sketch consisted of two stick figures, one with a raised gun that had dashes leading from it to the head of the other one.
The next morning, he said, he showed the drawing to a teacher, but told her he was not done with it. In court papers, he said he planned to show the victim deflecting or destroying the bullet. But, he said, the teacher did not listen to him further.
Two days later, he said, Vice Principal Paul Deal told him that he was not being suspended or expelled, but that he might be a threat to the school or himself. J.K. said he was told to leave and not return until being cleared by a mental-health professional.
Monroe Schools Superintendent Robert E. Terrill said that "the administration at the high school felt it was necessary to remove" the student until a threat assessment was conducted by a school psychologist as a precaution.
Terrill said that he had not seen the drawing, but that school officials described it as a stick figure shooting another figure in the head. There were no names or labels, he said.
Terrill said that the school's action was unrelated to last week's massacre at Virginia Tech, but that the "incident heightened everybody's awareness."
"On occasion, we have students that might do something like this where we might have a question as to what the youngster's intentions are," Terrill said.
Although J.K. has attention deficit disorder, according to court papers he was an honor student, a flight commander in his school's Air Force Junior ROTC program and took some courses at Gloucester County College.
According to his report card, he earned five A's and a B last quarter. One of those A's was in his graphic design class.
Whatever happened to creativity? Whatever happened to independence? Whatever happened to appropriate judgment? Why is everyone being held under suspicion? Has our Culture of Fear really driven us to this point?
Kids have fantasies of violence--we all do. People think bloodthirsty thoughts (and I'm sure a qualified psychologist could tell you why) but the overwhelming majority of people don't act on them! Creative outlets for aggression are therapeutic--violent crime in the United States is at a tremendous low. As Hollywood gore have gotten more sophisticated and first-person shooters have proliferated in the home, our country hasn't become an anarchic death orgy--it's safer than ever before. What are we all afraid of?