According to CBS DC (where all of the information and quotations come from), Patrick McLaw was removed from school by "Members of the Dorchester Sheriff’s Office, the Cambridge Police Department and the Dorchester County Public School board" because he "allegedly penn(ed) two books under the alias, 'Dr. K.S. Voltaer,'” one of which "depicts 'the largest school massacre' in history." (UPDATE: It is WBOC that is reporting that police said McLaw was being investigated because of the books.)
The school district says McLaw "has been placed on a leave of absence pending an ongoing investigation 'due to significant matters of concern brought forth by law enforcement.'"
Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips told WBOC that McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation but the sheriff declined to disclose the current whereabouts of McLaw. Police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns on the same day McLaw was taken in for the evaluation – coming up empty in the search.It is a troubling piece of news -- mostly because it appears to criminalize the creation of art. Have we gotten to a point when writers have to worry that the product of their imaginations might land them in the cross hairs of the authorities? Absent other information -- such as a more detailed explanation of "the information" alluded to by Phillips and a detailed explanation as to why McLaw may have posed a threat -- this is the only conclusion I can come to. If all police and school officials are going on are two novels penned (allegedly) by McLaw, then they are conflating thought and action. They are saying that the products of his imagination are the same as his actions or, at the very least, that his thoughts must automatically lead to real-world action.
“The information we received caused us to return to Dorchester County and immediately take the following steps,” Phillips said, according to My Eastern Shore MD. “A K-9 sweep was conducted at the Mace’s Lane School looking for explosive devices and other weapons. A secondary search was performed by police and school officials looking for suspicious packages or other items. Both of these searches were negative.”
“The residence of the teacher in Wicomico County was searched by personnel,” Phillips said, with no weapons found, reports WBOC.”A further check of Maryland State Police databases also proved to be negative as to any weapons registered to him. 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.”
It is an assumption that is dangerous to a functioning democracy that is supposed to value free speech and thought. While all actions might start in the imagination (as Barbara Grizzutti Harrison said -- also quoted on Criminal Minds, of all things), not all things imagined result in actions, not all art is evidence of an intention or is representative of the world. There is distinction between what we think and what we do and the law -- and the government -- needs to respect this.
By the way, there is a petition drive going on asking that the district apologize and reinstate the teacher.
Here is the press release from the district. It doesn't mention the books directly. This story from WBOC says:
Early last week the school board was alerted that one of its eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace's Lane Middle School had several aliases. Police said that under those names, he wrote two fictional books about the largest school shooting in the country's history set in the future. Now, Patrick McLaw is placed on leave.***
Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale. Not only was he a teacher at Mace's Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: "The Insurrectionist" and its sequel, "Lillith's Heir."
Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County. "The Insurrectionist" is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country's history.
UPDATE: The Harrison and Criminal Minds attribution after writing this.
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