Boy who wrote scary tale is out of jail, but not out of trouble

Friday, November 5, 1999

A Texas seventh-grader whose class assignment landed him in juvenile detention for six days is now facing a school disciplinary hearing. That is, if his parents pursue his return to the high school.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 10 to decide if the Ponder school district will take any disciplinary action against 13-year-old Christopher Beamon. The hearing, however, will be unnecessary if Christopher’s parents decide, as expected, to pull him out of the public 7-12 high school.

The family’s attorney, William Short, said Christopher most likely would be enrolled in a private school or be home-schooled. “Why should (the family) continue to sludge through this if they can just change directions now?” Short asked.

Short says the family is considering taking legal action.

Christopher was detained last week at the county juvenile facility after writing a story for an English class that described shooting two classmates and his teacher. He was released Nov. 2 after the media began highlighting the case and the district attorney decided not to prosecute.

Short said Christopher didn’t return to the school after his release because Superintendent Byron Welch made it clear that if the boy did, he would be placed in some type of in-school suspension.

“I asked [Welch], ‘Are you going to let this young man come back to school?’ ” Short said. “He finally admitted that if [Christopher] had come back today he would be in some type of ostracized condition. He wasn’t going to be allowed to come back and attend classes with other students.”

But Welch says the school district is trying to find the best possible solution.

“We will go over the matter, hear both sides and shake some of the media play out before making a determination,” Welch told the Denton Record-Chronicle. Christopher “will be allowed back in school no matter what, but we must determine if he will be placed in an alternative setting for a while considering the appropriateness of the paper and the student’s prior disciplinary record.” Welch did not return calls from the First Amendment Center Online.

Short, however, believes the hearing would be “a complete and total sham.”

District officials are “just going through the motions of this dog and pony show for cover,” Short said. “They have already decided that they won’t let (Christopher) back in the school — it just hasn’t been revealed yet.”

Short said district officials originally scheduled the hearing for today, although Christopher would have been in juvenile detention until Nov. 12 if Short hadn’t pushed for his release.

“If I hadn’t come along he’d still be in jail on Nov. 5. He’d still be in jail on Nov. 10. So what’s the hurry about Friday? [School officials] said, ‘We need to do it as soon as possible.’ And I said, ‘Baloney, we need to do what’s convenient for the family.’ ”

Short also takes issue with officials’ claim that Christopher is a disciplinary problem.

Christopher “is no more a problem case than I was (at his age). … That same story written in 1956 when I was in junior high would have been considered funny. And his class thought it was funny and so did the teacher.”

When the trouble over Christopher’s paper arose, he had just returned to school after being suspended for passing an inappropriate note to another student in the hall. The note, which was intercepted by a teacher, read: “Here comes that (expletive) Mr. ____.”

Short insists that this and other offenses on Christopher’s record are minor. “We’re not talking about violent acts. We’re talking about words on paper,” he said.

Short says Christopher’s parents are considering placing him in a different school because of the administration’s apparent lack of concern for his well-being.

“It is a strong possibility that he will not return to that school — not because he doesn’t want to, but because it’s not in his best interest,” Short said. “That administration does not have the best interest of that child in their corporate heart.”

Placing Christopher in another school, however, raises other problems, Short says.

Christopher’s mother “is apprehensive that he will either be viewed as a threat from the beginning or his celebrity will be isolating in the sense that he won’t be normal,” Short said. “He’d be ‘that kid [who] was in jail.’ “