by Lucinda Roy Book
Compelling Reflections About Virginia Tech Tragedy   (2012-12-10)
When Nikki Giovanni went to her department chair to discuss a creative writing student whose poetry was so filled with rage that it frightened her and his classmates, that chair was Lucinda Roy. Removing Seung-Hui Cho from the class, Roy tutored him herself for the rest of the semester. As well as working with him on his writing, she repeatedly encouraged him to see help at the university's counseling center. She also wrote to the counseling center, the campus police, and others to say that she thought Cho was disturbed and possibly dangerous.
After she stepped down as chair and took a leave of absence, Roy thought that Cho had graduated. He had not, as she learned with the rest of the world when he shot two students in a dormitory and then killed 30 more people and himself in a classroom building.
Roy's book draws from her personal experience, as well as news accounts, the report of the state committee that investigated the shootings, and other works on student violence. As a teacher, an administrator, a writer, and a grieving human being, she offers a nuanced view. Although she was very frustrated by policies that prevented sharing information about this young man (because of privacy concerns) and a counseling center that would only talk to students were went in voluntarily, she does appreciate the values of privacy and autonomy. Cho's writing was scary and was a warning sign, but she knows that the great majority of students who write about violence are not themselves violent. She would like a way for high schools to share information about troubled youth with the colleges they go to -- but doesn't want young people labeled for life because of one minor incident. (She gives examples of schools throwing the book at students under policies that allow zero tolerance for violence -- e.g., a small boy who pretended a chicken wing was a gun.)
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