Stories' content scares parents Taneytown school magazine has violent images pupils created

June 05, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Heightened sensitivity nationwide about violence among schoolchildren is focusing attention on an unlikely source: a literary magazine from a Carroll County middle school in Taneytown.

Several stories depicting violence were published last week in Northwest Middle's "1998 Literary Annual." In one, an 11-year-old girl writes about stalking and killing another pupil. In another, an 11-year-old boy tells of "Grim Reaper" murders in Chicago.

Some parents are concerned about the violent pieces, but the school's principal said yesterday that the stories are not the works of seriously disturbed youngsters, but a reflection of a youth culture saturated with violent images.

"I think you need to look at what kinds of reading a lot of these kids do," said Principal Rolland Kiracofe. "They read the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine, they read Stephen King. These are thriller, stalker and murder stories, and when they write, they write what they see on television, they write what they see in the movies and they write what they read about."

Kiracofe said the sixth-grader's story focuses on the stalking and shooting of a classmate, whom she names in the piece.

"This little girl is devastated; she's in agony," the principal said of the reaction to her story. "She is probably the meekest, mildest sixth-grader at Northwest Middle School."

The girl begins her story with, "One night I was home trying to find someone to kill." She goes on to describe choosing a classmate, finding out where he worked and sneaking up behind him. Then, "I hit him on the head and SHOT HIM!!!"

When school officials became aware of the story, Kiracofe said he and a guidance counselor met with the girl who wrote the story, the pupil/murder victim in the story and their parents.

Collection of stories

He said the girl and the boy mentioned in the story "had an agreement between them. she was to write a story to kill him off. It's a typical middle-school adolescent scenario."

Kiracofe said the sixth-grade literary magazine is a collection of works written by pupils during the school year. The publication, which came out last week, is supervised by teacher Diane DiTullo.

'Something slipped through'

He said the submitted stories are subject to teacher review, but apparently the piece by the 11-year-old girl was overlooked.

"Mrs. DiTullo is looking at the work of 160 kids from the whole year," Kiracofe said. "She is a very conscientious and excellent teacher, and she makes good decisions and good judgments. This is a case where something slipped through."

DiTullo declined to comment.

In another story in the magazine, an 11-year-old boy writes about returning home to find his mother with "a fatal stab to the back." Later in the story, he finds a sheriff "locked up in a jail cell with a knife shoved down his throat."

More lighthearted subjects

But other pupils tell stories of pets, travel and teen romances. Several imagine was it was like to be a passenger as the Titanic sank or a resident of Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

The pupil who wrote about the Grim Reaper also included a poem in which he dreams of working with animals and being good at sports. The girl who imagined stalking a classmate also included a poem in which she says she "loves shopping loves horses whose one wish is to have a car."

Sharon Clinton, whose 12-year-old son is in seventh grade at Northwest Middle School, said she was unnerved when she heard about the girl's stalking story.

"I'm concerned that a sixth-grade child would write that type of story and the school would not find that it warrants checking into," said Clinton.

When she first learned of the story, Clinton said she immediately thought of school-related shootings this year, most recently in Springfield, Ore. Two weeks ago, a student opened fire in a school lunchroom there and killed two classmates.

No danger, says principal

"That's the first thing I think most concerned parents would think of," Clinton said. "What makes us so different from anywhere else? I don't think we are."

Kiracofe said he understands parental apprehensions, given the recent wave of violent incidents at schools. But in his opinion, the sixth-grade girl who wrote the story is not a danger to other schoolchildren.

"I understand the anxiety of parents, but as it relates to this student, if there had been a concern, it would have been identified and taken care of long ago."

Pub Date: 6/05/98

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