Public schools

Update: Officials Still Silent About Mandatory Psych Eval for Teacher


Question mark
Alexander Henning Drachmann / Wikimedia Commons

I reported earlier that Dorchester County, Maryland, police brought a public school teacher in for a mandatory psychological evaluation. This was seemingly prompted by officials' discovery of his fiction novels, published under a pseudonym, which depict a mass shooting at a school. The book in question is obviously science fiction and is set in the year 2902.

So far, the police investigation has turned up nothing—no weapons hidden at his school, Mace's Lane Middle School, nor at his home. Still, the teacher—identified as 23-year-old Patrick McLaw—is suspended from teaching and barred from school property. None of the local reporting on this story suggests that he is actually under arrest, however. McLaw has not spoken out about what's happening; it's not even clear where he is being held.

I emailed Dr. Henry Wagner, superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools. He sympathized with press confusion over the McLaw situation, but said that he couldn't comment beyond what was already reported.

"Mr. McLaw has rights as an employee that I cannot further discuss this personnel matter," Wagner told Reason.

I also called two agencies involved in the investigation: the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office and the Wicomico County State's Attorney. Neither were immediately available for comment on the case.

Weird, huh?

NEXT: If You Want to Help Poor Workers, Give Them Money, but Don't Make It More Expensive to Employ Them.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It’s funny how they use his right to privacy to keep what they are doing to him secret….

    Of course, if they had found child porn or something that justified their behavior they would be trumpeting it from the rooftops.

    1. I’m not gonna lie, but trumpeting child porn from the rooftops seems even more embarrassing to the school than just saying :we probably shouldn’t have suspended this guy.”

    2. Of course, finding child porn still doesn’t mean they can fire him. Since, upon conviction, he can’t come within 1,000 feet of a school, he’d just have to be put on permanent paid suspension. A lifetime vacation at taxpayers’ expense. Wally would be envious.

  2. Better to make up new powers for ourselves than have to deal with jittery nerves!

  3. “Weird, huh?”
    Actually, NO! We’re not quite full Soviet Union style yet, but we’re trying.

  4. What sort of judge would sign a warrant to search a home over a novel? What legal basis even allows for the cops to detain this guy over ANYTHING written in novel form?

    1. It’s right there in the Constitution. Books have to be written. Writing is labor. Therefore Commerce Clause! QED!

      1. Consequently under the obamacare ruling, forebearing from writing the book is regulated under the Commerce Clause as well, meaning that the government could have forced him to pay a “tax” for NOT writing a book about school shootings.

        1. Does his evil know no end? God Lord, man!

          1. Errr…..naw, leave it.

    2. This!!! WTF!!!

  5. If we are going to have Mandatory Psych Eval’s for Teachers should we first have Mandatory Psych Evals for Officials, Police and most importantly Psychiatrist and Psychologists? I bet there are some real crazies among those groups.

    1. A double blind study of people across several professions would be fascinating. To see cops, teachers, dmv workers, etc. be evaluated by psychologists without the psycs knowing what professions they are in and without the subjects knowing who or what is evaluating them…I think the results would be startling. I think if you have the psycs recommend professions and which to avoid THAT would be truly revealing.

    2. When I was a psych major in the 60’s, it was common knowledge that the real weirdos on campus were in the Behavioral Science Department. That’s scary weird, not “Architecture major girls painting their boobs to match their boots” weird.

      1. God I miss the 60’s!
        Actually, I think I miss not being 60.

    3. Compulsory education is Milgram’s experiment writ large.

  6. “Mr. McLaw has rights as an employee…”

    HAHAHAHAHA…yup, have the police whisk him away for a ‘mandatory psych eval’ by all means, but to talk about it with the media would be in violation of his rights.

    1. Land of the free, and so on.

    2. Civil rights don’t have a union.

  7. Do you have the pen name or the book title? I want to check the book out.

    1. They are noted in the earlier post on the story.

      1. $14.95 for an eBook?! Fuck you, Mr McLaw! You’ve lost all my sympathy now.

        1. Think of it as $2 for the book and $13 for his defense fund.

  8. So Dr. Henry Wagner got his doctorate from a school that only offered (past tense) an MS. It would be nice if this stupidity ruined his career.…..40/757/27a…../index.cfm

    1. Holy shit! Is the guy lying about his degree on his Linkedin page?

      Wilmington College
      Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Leadership and Innovation
      2008 ? 2011

      1. Three years for a MS!

        Someone needs to check his “credentials” out.

      2. Looks like he’s a liar. Good catch.

      3. Wilmington College of Ohio doesn’t offer an Ed.D.; Wilmington University of DE does.

        As the link on his Linkedin goes to Wilmington U., despite the text being “Wilmington College”, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

        1. It makes way more sense that he would get a degree in Delaware, instead of Ohio. But still, if you actually attended the University would you call it College? Nobody who went to Boston University would call it Boston College. And nobody who went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania would call it UPenn, or IU. Nobody that went to California University of Pennsylvania would call it UPenn or Cal.

          Still smells fishy.

          1. Three years to earn a PhD seems very fast.

            The usual time here in the US is five years plus.

            But who knows for a “Dr. of Education”.

          2. Well, it seems it was called Wilmington College until 2007. He did start his studies a year after, so who knows. But if he is lying, it’s a hell of a lie as it’s public record and anyone can just call up the registrar to ask if he earned his doctoral degree there. Besides his other degrees are from Loyola and John Hopkins. It’s not as if his previous degrees were from Diploma Mill U. While he is certainly a douchebag, my Spidey sense isn’t tingling for fraud.

            1. Yeah, it seems a lot of institutions previously called “…College” have become “…University” in recent years.

    2. Hey! “Dr.” Wagner has rights, too!

  9. I guess freedom of speech no longer exist in this country either

  10. Reminders of “The Minority Report”.

    Guilty before it happens.

  11. On what legal justification was a warrant to search issued?

  12. For a while I was a release of information clerk at an acute care hospital. I served the same function at a mental health hospital.

    I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but there’s this thing called HIPPA.

    “PHI is any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual.[17] This is interpreted rather broadly and includes any part of an individual’s medical record or payment history.

    Covered entities may disclose protected health information to law enforcement officials for law enforcement purposes as required by law (including court orders, court-ordered warrants, subpoenas) and administrative requests; or to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person.[20]”…..ivacy_Rule

    1. I’ve refused to confirm for FBI agents whether a wanted suspect was in the hospital at the time. I’ve refused to even bother to look if the suspect had ever been there.

      Information can be disclosed for continuing care to other care providers, to the insurance company or other entity for payment, or to the patient himself or herself–all without a subpoena.

      But if you’re in law enforcement, you have to go get a subpoena or a warrant–and how hard is that? They’d threaten to arrest me on the spot when I’d tell them that, and then I’d tell them that they’d get their records a lot sooner if they just called in for a subpoena instead.

      I’ve rejected subpoenas for misspelled names or having the hospital’s address wrong.

      Employers, hospitals, the police, etc. can’t simply confirm that someone is being held in a mental institution or confirm any other details. It doesn’t just open them up to slander suits, it’s specifically against the law.

      1. Exactly, I’ve had to take those HIPPA courses as well. WTF!

        1. I think people assume that because arrest and conviction records are public information–and being able to access those is both easy and more of a reputation-buster–that it must be just as easy to get someone’s medical care information.

          Personally, I think we’ve taken this right to a public trial thing, too far. People should have the right to waive the public nature of their trial, just like they can waive their right to an attorney, their right to remain silent, their right to a jury trial, their right not to testify against themselves, etc.

          I think it’s become especially ridiculous now that employers and anyone else interested can look up your arrest record–mugshot included–, what, regardless of whether you were actually convicted of anything?

          It’s like putting people in the stockade.

          Anyway, I don’t know why people think it would be a good idea for employers, law enforcement, or healthcare providers to be free to release whatever information about you they thought might be interesting or fun for people to hear about. If the patient wants that information released, he can release it himself.

          If that information is used to convict or defend the patient, it will become part of the public record at trial.

          Seems to me that this is as it should be.

        2. Excellent discussion, folks, and I have nothing of any value to add…except the law is HIPAA, not HIPPA. Nails on a chalkboard.

          Now you may return to the previous conversation. Thank you.

      2. Someone should call the cops on these guys!


    2. Yeah, but no one is asking for his medical information other than to know if he is currently in the loony bin. What everyone wants to know is what other evidence do they have that he was a danger beyond the fact that he wrote a 2 bit sci fi novel that included a school shooting.

      Stating that he made specific threats, was behaving erratically, or was found bathing in the blood of a virgin he had just sacraficed to Gozer is not PHI or subject to hippa laws.

      1. “Yeah, but no one is asking for his medical information other than to know if he is currently in the loony bin.”

        That’s protected information.

        Why wouldn’t it be?

        I could not confirm or deny that a patient was or ever had been in our facility without an authorization or something like a subpoena.

        Even if it were for continued care, I’d need a signature on an authorization to release that information from either the patient or whomever was acting on the patient’s behalf.

        If you got sent to the loony bin after a bad breakup in college or something, is that information you’d want people to be able to find out with a phone call?

        Hi my name is Ken. I’m thinking about hiring Rasillio. Can you tell me whether he’s ever been a patient in your facility?

        Thank you, that’s all I need to know.

        P.S. Once again, your medical information is your property. It’s like intellectual property. And no one has a right to use it without your authorization. This is as it should be. The fact that you’ve been in a mental institution is your business. Not everyone else’s.

        1. If Robbie wants this information, this is what he should do:

          1) Obtain a release of information form from the hospital where he thinks the patient may be.

          2) Fill out the form with everything except the patient’s signature and date–releasing whatever information to Robbie.

          3) Overnight the packet to the attention of the patient with instructions to fill out the form and give it to his nurse.

          After a couple of days, call the HIM department daily to find out whether a release of information form has been processed on that patient to release information to Robbie.

          But hammering on these people until they finally violate this patient’s rights in the name of libertarianism? Is a stupid strategy.

  13. Weird, huh?

    I think I’ve got it figured out: “Patrick McLaw” is a time-traveller from the year 2902, see, and ….

    Seriously, Robby, please run this to ground. “Patrick” says you will win a Pulitzer Prize!

  14. Reason and the media needs to find out what the hell is going on here.

  15. This is how we know HyR bloggers get paid by the word. It’s less than 3 hrs. & we get a follow-up saying nothing add’l has been learned. It’s like one of those all-news radio stns.

    1. Look, they’re doing original research – let’s encourage that. Don’t just link to possibly-flawed stories in other outlets.

  16. “Mr. McLaw has rights as an employee that I cannot further discuss this personnel matter,” Wagner told Reason.

    Who could have seen that coming?

  17. Here’s the thing.

    If they really cared about his privacy, why did they talk to the press about him? Look at the original article:

    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.

    [Dorchester County Sheriff] Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation. The sheriff would not disclose where McLaw is now, but he did say that he is not on the Eastern Shore. The same day that McLaw was taken in for an evaluation, police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns, coming up empty.

    “We have advised our community that the gentleman has been placed on administrative leave, and has been prohibited from entering any Dorchester County public school property,” Wagner said.

    The 23-year-old language arts teacher had already taught at the school for a year.

    With school starting Tuesday, some parents tell WBOC they are concerned about safety, but both Wagner and Phillips said there is nothing to worry about.

    “There will be a Cambridge Police Department presence at Mace’s Lane middle school for as long as we deem it necessary,” Wagner said.

    1. So they are hinting broadly that he is a dangerous nutjob that has been involuntarily committed, but that they respect his privacy.

      Fuck them. If they really cared about his privacy they wouldn’t have talked to the press at all.

      1. One of the things I’d like to get across to you guys is that the patient’s employer may not even be able to get any of the information you’re looking for.

        Just because I call to have you locked up for being a threat to someone or yourself doesn’t mean the psychiatrist that evaluates you is going to send me a report.

        They may require him to provide an evaluation from a psychiatrist for reinstatement (check with his union), but just because his employer has the right to see what they paid for doesn’t mean they’ll get the diagnostic information.

        If your boss gets information from your medical records without your authorization, your boss could be in trouble. And we don’t even know if the school district is the one paying for this–it’s probably the union that’s getting the information.

        And the union doesn’t have any right to release that information to the public without the patient’s approval either.

        Some of you seem to imagine that getting access to someone’s psychiatric medical records should be as easy as a reporter calling up and asking for the information–and I don’t understand why.

        Call up the last hospital you were at, tell them you’re someone who’s interested (not the patient) and tell them you want the results of your last blood test (or whatever). Tell them you don’t have an authorization from the patient–and see how far you get.

        I doubt they’ll even confirm whether you were ever in that hospital.

        1. No, Ken, you misunderstand my point.

          I am saying that if these fuckers truly cared about the man’s privacy, THEY WOULDN’T TOLD THE PRESS THAT HE WAS A DANGEROUS NUTJOB THEY’D HAD LOCKED UP!!!

          They already violated the spirit of HIPAA.

          1. “Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation.”

            Yeah, they’re reassuring parents that this guy won’t be a threat to their children, they’re explaining why they did the sweeps of the school, and even then, all they said was that he was undergoing an emergency “medical” evaluation.

            Meanwhile, I understand your argument if you’re saying that they aren’t really worried about this guy’s reputation in their heart of heart’s. But that doesn’t mean they should release his psychiatric evaluation or definitively confirm that he’s in a mental institution–if that’s where he is.

            They’re actually following the law on this, and I think it’s a pretty good law–from a libertarian perspective. The idea that the information contained within a medical record is the property of the patient–and only an authorization by the patient or a judge’s subpoena can force the release of that information–is an excellent way to look at this.

            And the thought of Robbie barging into a medical records department naively demanding to see some third party’s psychiatric records without an authorization–in the name of libertarianism–is a pretty silly picture.

            1. Yeah, they’re reassuring parents that this guy won’t be a threat to their children, they’re explaining why they did the sweeps of the school, and even then, all they said was that he was undergoing an emergency “medical” evaluation.

              Kind of like a pilot in mid flight coming on the intercom and reassuring passengers that the wings are not coming off, right?

              I’m sure the parents were wondering what was going on with that teacher, and the cops going to the press was merely a reaction rather an instance of the cops and the school admin planting the seeds of panic.

              1. CYA stuff.

                With the public, with the school board, with the parents, with the law…

                Isn’t that the entirety of a superintendent’s job description?


  18. A forced medical evaluation (after arrest or under threat of arrest?), placed on administrative leave, forbidden from Dorchester County public school property, belongings subject to search presumably via a search warrant though god knows under what legal reasoning and all previous information released to the media by authorities supposedly concerned over privacy issues. And all for writing a novel.

    Unless there is something missing here, there appears to be multiple civil rights violations.

    He needs to lawyer-up fast.

    1. You can’t lawyer up when they have you locked up in the psych ward.

  19. And there must be signatures on the documents required for such a draconian action. If he has a lick of sense he stops talking other than “why am I being detained, am I free to go, and I want an attorney”…. repeated over and over and over and over and over……….again.

    1. You call up a local P.E.T. team (the guys with the nets) and tell them you know somebody who’s a danger to himself or others, and the next thing they want to know is if he has insurance.

  20. Mr. McLaw has rights as an employe

    Apparently his rights as a citizen don’t mean jack shit though.

    1. That’s seditious talk.

  21. This has to have been done under the “emergency detention” law which allows the temporary detention of people for psych evals.

    The only problem is, that requires a finding that the person is an imminent risk to himself or others.

    Who the fuck signed off on this guy as an imminent risk?

    He has a big payday waiting for him when this is done.

    1. “He has a big payday waiting for him when this is done.”

      Damn, I hope so and big.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.