Douglas D.

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Date: 1998

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Douglas D., a 13 year old student at Oconto County Public School.

Confronting Bodies: Oconto County Police

Date of Action: October 1998

Location: Oconto County public school, Wisconsin, USA

Description of Artwork: For a creative writing assignment, Douglas D. wrote the following: "There one lived an old ugly woman her name was Mrs. C that stood for crab. She was a mean old woman that would beat children sencless. I guess that's why she became a teacher. Well one day she kick a student out of her class & he din't like it. That student was named Dick. The next morning Dick came to class & in his coat he conseled a machedy. When the teacher told him to shut up he whiped it out & cut her head off. When the sub came 2 days later she needed a paperclipp so she opened the droor. Ahh she screamed as she found Mrs. C.'s head in the droor."

The Incident: The 8th grade teacher, known to her students as "Mrs. C." assigned her students a creative writing exercise. She sent Douglas D. to complete the assignment in the hallway since he was being disruptive in the classroom. Mrs. C. was upset by her student's composition and reported it to the assistant principal.

Results of Incident: Douglas D. later apologized and said that he did not intend the story as a threat. He was given in-school suspension and then returned to a different English class. Then, on November 19, 1998, the police filed a delinquency petition against Douglas, alleging that by submitting a "death threat" to Mrs. C, Douglas had engaged in "abusive conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause a disturbance," thus violating the disorderly conduct statute. The circuit court ruled that Douglas D. was guilty of disorderly conduct. Accordingly, it ordered that he be placed on formal supervision for one year. Douglas D. appealed the ruling but the Court of Appeals maintained the circuit court’s decision. Douglas subsequently filed a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Ultimately, in 2001, they determined his essay was not considered a true threat and therefore ruled that Douglas D.’s essay was protected under the First Amendment. The court reversed the disorderly conduct conviction.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online, www.courts.state.wi.us/html/sc/99/99-1767.htm