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Who's Twisted?

Bullied teen on 3 new charges: Read story to class

A Cornwall-area teen picked on by classmates and later charged with uttering death threats has found a new bully in Canada's justice system, his lawyer says.

Three new death-threat charges will be laid against "Storyboy," a young offender charged and jailed last December after he read a violent story to his Grade 11 drama class.

Clayton Ruby

The 16-year-old will face a total of six charges. An earlier charge was dropped.

Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby (right) said he was told the new charges, which involve threats against individual students and an entire math class, will be laid at trial in September.

"Eighty civilians have been interviewed by police to give evidence in this very minor case. That's equivalent to what (police) do in a major murder case," Ruby said.

'INTENT IS TO BULLY'

"If the intent is to bully him into pleading guilty, it's not going to happen."

An OPP spokesman said additional charges were pending but refused to discuss them.

"Storyboy" was suspended from Tagwi secondary school in Avonmore, north of Cornwall, after he read aloud a fictional essay, in which a bullied boy blows up his school.

He penned the short story, entitled Twisted, a week after he was allegedly beaten by classmates. Six Tagwi students have since been charged with assault and another is charged with assault with a weapon.

Those students are named with the school board, principal and drama teacher in a $600,000 suit filed by the boy's family.


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How do we teach English?

In a betrayal of trust teachers are encouraging students to write imaginative stories and then punishing them for doing so.

In 2001 the Canadian literati rallied behind the unnamed author of Twisted, in an event that was televised on a Sunday afternoon. The impulses were genuine but went hardly far enough.

The videograb at the right shows the back of the boy's head. I guess someone advised that to show his face or tell his name would be breaking some law. That is there for the protection of youth.

Duh?

The boy was scheduled to read his story but the reading was stopped after writer Tim Wynne-Jones decided the boy was not a hero. It would have been kind of nice if the public had been allowed to make its own judgments.

The writer's trial is scheduled for September.


Jailed teen author to sue

An Ontario teen who was jailed after writing a story about blowing up his classmates, is suing over his ordeal.

The 16-year-old from the Cornwall area, who can't be named, is going after his school board, and some kids charged with beating him up.

The teen was charged with four counts of threatening death last December. He spent 31 days in custody, including Christmas and his 16th birthday.

Wilson says the boy can't go to school, even though no formal expulsion hearing took place.

The teen's lawyer, Jeffrey Wilson, says his client is being denied an education. He also says the school board has blocked the boy's attempt to attend school elsewhere.

The case made national headlines after freedom-of-speech advocates expressed concern that he had been arrested because of his essay called Twisted The story written for his drama class, was about a boy who plans to take revenge on bullies who torment him.

Authors such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje took part in a January fundraising benefit in the teen's honour.

The Crown insisted the charges were not about the essay but stemmed from death threats he allegedly uttered against three students at his school.

Students at his school also suggested the teen had a hit list and bombs. When police searched his home, they found nothing suggesting a revenge plan besides the school paper.


Calling this 16 year old author a "young offender" should offend all writers: we want to know his name so we can tell him how unjustly he has been treated

As a show of solidarity with young writers everywhere, inJusticebusters publishes Words are weapons. Does it make you sick? Want to run to the censorboard? Think again. Did you see Scary Movie? Natural Born Killers? Kalifornia? If not, maybe you should. And if you don't like it, use words, not the weapon of the state to express your dislike. That's what we developed our cerebral cortexes for! See also the story of Greg Parsons who was wrongly convicted of killing his mother, based mainly on a song he had written.


Freedom of expression forum held for teen writer

OTTAWA - Some prominent Canadian writers, including Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, attended a forum Sunday to show support for a teenager who ended up in jail after writing a class essay.

The 16-year-old boy, who lives near Cornwall, Ont., was arrested last month after writing a story about a teen who tried to blow up his school as revenge for bullying.

The boy faces four counts of utter death threats - including some that were allegedly directed at other students at his school.

He was released on bail Jan. 11, after spending 34 days in detention - a period that included Christmas, New Year's and his birthday.

Sean Wilson, artistic director of the Ottawa International Writers Festival and the organizer of the benefit, said what the student needs is support.

"This boy has been a victim of the system and has been on every major newscast and in all the newspapers already," Wilson said. "What we're trying to do is bring it back to the central issue, which is freedom of speech and the story he wrote."

Plans for the teen to read his work of fiction, called "Twisted," at the event were cancelled. Organizers said the boy is under enough pressure already.

But the two-hour fundraising benefit went ahead as scheduled at Ottawa's National Arts Centre.

Michael Ondaatje told the audience how the ability to write out his feelings provided a vent for his own teenaged angst.

"I see myself as someone who's been saved by writing," he said. God knows what I would have been, become, or how I would have ended up without it."

Margaret Atwood presented the boy with a book of childhood writings by famous authors. In her speech, she called for more understanding of the troubles of youth.

"One reason childhood can be hell is that as a child you can have no power, and you can have no recourse, and you can have nobody who actually believes you," she said.

Some students at the school, including three who attended Sunday's forum, said the facts of the case are being overlooked. George Bonkowsky, 16, was in the drama class when the teen read his story last November.

"It wasn't made a big, big deal," Bonkowsky said. "Afterwards, the alleged threats were made. Then it was made a big deal, because people tied the monologue in with the threats."

Author Tim Wynne-Jones was supposed to speak on the boy's behalf, but changed his mind. He feels all of this attention isn't a good idea.

"I bear nothing against this kid. . . but he's not a hero," he said. "And I was very afraid of seeing him become a martyr."


Authors rally behind teen

OTTAWA - A teenager charged with uttering death threats after writing a high-school essay sat wide-eyed Sunday as a parade of Canada's literati sang his praises and defended the right of free speech.

But a classmate from Cornwall, Ont., who was present when the youth read his essay about a bullied student who blows up his school sounded a note of caution, saying the case has been sensationalized.

"The whole case has been blown out of proportion," said George Bonkowsky, 16, who attended the forum as part of a three-member group calling themselves Voice of Reason.

"Everybody's concentrating on the monologue. It should be about the alleged threats he made. They have been misinformed."

But the facts of the case weren't discussed by more than a dozen writers who took the stage at the National Arts Centre to impart their opinions and writings to about 250 supporters.

Acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood, who presented the boy with a book of childhood writings by famous authors, said she was attending to bear witness.

"One thing writers do feel they know how to do is ... they know how to read and they know how to read between the lines," she said. "And reading between the lines of this story is quite another story.

"I think that is why we are here."

The teen, who cannot be identified under the Young Offenders Act, faces four charges of uttering death threats. Three relate to statements he allegedly made to other students more than two weeks after he read his drama essay, entitled Twisted.

Those charges were not laid until he had spent more than a month - including Christmas, New Year's and his 16th birthday - in detention on a single charge, which some claim is related to the essay itself.

The boy did not read his work or appear on stage with the authors as scheduled Sunday after lawyers were consulted and others expressed concerns over whether he was being exploited for a cause he may not even understand.

However, the softspoken youth and his parents held a news conference before Sunday's event, at which they expressed thanks to the sponsors, the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

His father said he stood by his son, who has apparently been mentally and physically bullied for years. "What he wrote was a good story, a story that was taken out of context," he said, adding he hopes talks with the school and prosecutors can resolve the situation.

He said he understands the concern expressed about the story, in which the protagonist plants explosives in the school cafeteria after he'd been "harassed and tortured all his life until he was at the brink of insanity."

"I felt that it's very possible that they could have dealt with those concerns differently. I think the steps that they did take to deal with it just gave rise to more problems than they solved."


Student arrested after drama monologue Teen writer charged with death threats gets bail

CORNWALL, ON - After spending more than a month in custody, a teenager accused of threatening to kill students and staff at his Ontario high school has been granted bail.

The youth was arrested after writing a story about a tormented teen who plans to blow up his school to avenge abuse from bullies.

Crown prosecutors say the charges of uttering death threats arose not only from the fictional story, but also from alleged comments directed at three other students.

Writers' groups say the case raises serious questions about freedom of expression.

On Thursday, Justice of the Peace Basile Marchand ordered the boy released into the custody of his parents on a $10,000 bond.

He said that the Crown had not convinced him that the boy represented a substantial risk to anyone in the area.

But Marchand did impose bail conditions, including an order that the teen stay away from school and not try to contact certain classmates.

The justice of the peace also turned down a prosecutor's request giving police the right to enter the family's home at any time to check up on the boy, saying those powers would be too intrusive.

The boy's 14-year-old brother remains in police custody, accused of threatening to blow up two schools. He was arrested just before Christmas, after some students claimed that he made verbal threats when they teased him about the older teen's case.


Original story

CORNWALL, ON - A high school at Avonmore, Ont., near Cornwall, has beefed up security after police say a student threatened classmates.

Last week police and a dog swept the Tagwi Secondary School looking for a bomb.

This was after a student gave a monologue, in his drama class, about a harassed student blowing up a school.

Police say he later threatened students.

On Friday, police arrested the 16 year old and charged him with uttering death threats.

Mary Mayer, the school's principal, says most doors now are kept locked all day and security cameras are running all night. Staff have also been asked to be extra vigilant.

The student from North Stormont cannot be identified because of terms of the Young Offenders Act. He made a brief appearance in bail court Monday and his case was adjourned for a bail hearing on Dec. 19.


School suspends boy over Mohawk-style haircut

WINDSOR, ON - An 11-year-old boy was suspended from school Wednesday for his teacher's order to flatten his Mohawk-styled hair because it was a distraction in class.

"He's missing his education for his hair," said Katherine Muzzin, whose son Jordan was accused of disrupting his Grade 6 class at F.W. Begley public school in Windsor, Ont., with his new hairdo that copies a style worn by his idol, soccer star David Beckham.

"They made a big issue out of a little thing," Muzzin said. "It's not hurting anybody."

The vice-principal issued the suspension Tuesday under the Education Act for "persisting in opposition to authority."

Jordan said he refused to comply with the vice-principal's request to wash out his hair.

"I think I should be able to wear my hair the way I want to."

The meting of a harsh suspension only serves to reinforce Jordan's bad attitude about school, Muzzin added. She said she has taught her son to stand up for himself, but "don't disrespect (teachers) and he didn't disrespect anyone."