Public schools

Answers! Teacher Was Not Given Mental Exam Because of Sci Fi Novels


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Here is an important update in the story of Patrick McLaw, the Maryland teacher who was the subject of a very strange investigation last week. Local reporting claimed that McLaw was suspended from his job and forced to undergo a mental evaluation, all because he wrote novels about a fictional mass shooting set 900 years in the future.

That report left out key details, according to a source who is knowledgeable about the situation. McLaw's novels were not the initial or prime factor that led to his suspension. Rather, McLaw submitted a letter to officials at the Dorchester County school district where he worked that raised concerns about his mental health. Wicomico County health department personnel then stepped in.

Officials have several other concerns about McLaw, apart from his letter. He was formerly accused of harassment, and may face charges for a separate allegation of wrongdoing. Privacy laws are keeping everyone vague about the details, since nothing is official yet.

The Los Angeles Times corroborates:

Concerns about McLaw were raised after he sent a four-page letter to officials in Dorchester County. Those concerns brought together authorities from multiple jurisdictions, including health authorities.

McLaw's attorney, David Moore, tells The Times that his client was taken in for a mental health evaluation. "He is receiving treatment," Moore said.

Because of HIPPA regulations mandating privacy around healthcare issues, he was unable to say whether McLaw has been released.

McLaw's letter was of primary concern to healthcare officials, [Wiccomico County Attorney Matt] Maciarello says. It, combined with complaints of alleged harassment and an alleged possible crime from various jurisdictions led to his suspension. Maciarello cautions that these allegations are still being investigated; authorities, he says, "proceeded with great restraint."

I spoke with Maciarello as well, and he told me that McLaw isn't charged with a crime right now and he's not under arrest.

"There were many circumstances that led law enforcement to come together wholly unrelated to the books," said Maciarello. "He was not under the radar initially because he wrote books."

Again, the specifics are being kept out of the media for now. But based on what I've learned, it looks like this local reporter—who identified McLaw's books as the reason for his arrest—jumped the gun, not the police.

Expect to hear more as the details become public.


NEXT: Appeals Court Takes on Legalities of NSA Snooping

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  1. “He was not under the radar initially because he wrote books.”

    This use of the word “radar” is disapproved.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

    2. The problem is not with the word “radar” or “RADAR”, it’s with the preposition.

    3. Imagine, a governemnt attorney who doesn’t know the difference between “on the radar” And “under the radar”.

  2. As long as he was forced…

  3. nothing is official yet.

    Why? Who has to get their stories straight?

  4. Unfortunately, the phrase “trust no one” comes to mind.

    Et tu,

    1. I do not hold Reason responsible for not fact checking this. Either every single news outlet fact checks every single fact in every single story, or you default to trusting the root reporter and put them on a blacklist when they screw up.

      Innocent until guilty, etc. It’s not like the story was particularly unbelievable in today’s zero tolerance bureaucracies.

      1. I did work to fact check it from the very beginning. Unfortunately, officials did not answer my questions until today. This is why I noted in the initial post that the story was, at the very least, very strange, and that it was quite possible we didn’t know everything.

        I think it’s better to write, “Local media is reporting this, it’s getting picked up nationally everywhere, sure seems awful, weird though, bear with me as I investigate,” than to write nothing at all.

        1. But it’s not better to write a few hrs. later, “Story still strange, still no clarif’n.”

  5. You mean to tell me a “news reporter” (Tyler Butler) actually sensationalized a non-issue just to boost his readership, and people actually ran with it based on his unsubstantiated story? No fucking way.

    1. Popehat did a pretty good article on this little kerfuffle.

      1. But it is not at all surprising that people would leap to that conclusion. Two factors encourage it.

        The first factor is law enforcement and government overreach. When schools call the police when a student writes a story about shooting a dinosaur, and when law enforcement uses the mechanism of the criminal justice system to attack satirical cartoons or Twitter parodies, it is perfectly plausible that a school district and local cops would overreact to science fiction.

        The second factor is very bad journalism. The Patrick McLaw story blowing up over the long weekend can be traced to terrible reporting by WBOC journalist Tyler Butler in a post that was linked and copied across the internet. Butler reported McLaw’s pen name as a sinister alias, reported as shocking the fact that McLaw wrote science fiction about a futuristic school shooting, and quoted law enforcement and school officials uncritically and without challenge. Faced with the bare bones of the story, any competent reporter would have asked questions: is this only about the two books he wrote? Was there a basis, other than fiction, to think he posed a threat? Are there any other factors that resulted in this suspension and “mental health examination?” Was the examination voluntary or involuntary? Is it reasonable to suspend and “examine” someone and search their home over science fiction?

        1. From the comments:

          K. Kaprow
          September 2, 2014 at 5:11 pm

          “Though I am generally receptive to believing the worst about law enforcement and local government, I was skeptical?”

          “You may have been skeptical, but the anarchist rubes at swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Well after the story blew up in the beaks of the gullible parrots who repeated it, Reason’s Robby Soave was issuing “updates” (never retractions, because libertarian “journalists” never, ever make mistakes!), and the ever-loyal commentariat was ready to forgive and forget, because the propaganda ? if not technically accurate ? was in keeping with the confirmation-bias racket at Reason.

          Welcome to blog journalism, where ethics and integrity go to die.”

          I have to agree with the “confirmation-bias” part; it’s pretty obvious.

  6. “Good evening. Here’s an update on last week’s nursing home expos? Geezers in Freezers. It turns out the rest home was adequately heated; the footage you saw was of a fur storage facility. We’ve also been told to apologize for using the term ‘geezer.’ Now, coming up next, The Case of the Cantankerous Old Geezer.”

  7. What was in the four page letter?

    1. Four pages of poorly typed ‘All work and no play makes Patrick a dull boy”.

    2. Who cares? Anyone who’d write a four-page letter bears watching. Think of the example that it sets for the children!

  8. “Privacy laws are keeping everyone vague about the details…”

    Unfortunately for McLaw, his name seems to be the only accurate detail.

    1. Funny the privacy laws don’t seem to be doing too much else.

    1. Wasn’t he the guy who wrote the really bad science fiction?

      1. Yes. I think Mary Stack drove him away, his artisanal shit-flinging was lost in her industrial high-flow jets of shit, like tears in rain.

  9. “He was not under the radar initially because he wrote books.”

    Nobody ever asserted that. The question is, was he under the microscope/on the radar (I assume he meant one of these) because of the content of the books he wrote? I think it’s a safe bet he wouldn’t have been investigated if he wrote a series of books titled Why I Love Big Brother.

    1. Now, if he had written a series of books called “Why You Should Let Big Brother Love You” . . . .

  10. At least he didn’t write a novel about shooting his neighbor’s dinosaur. If he had, he’d already be in jail. Unless he was a cop in the novel, in which case nothing else would happen.

  11. This whole “under the radar” discussion is getting untracked.

  12. The source for the LA Times article is the original complainant. “The concerns regarding Mr. McLaw were originally brought forward by the Wicomico County State’s Attorney last week. They have advised that an investigation is ongoing but the details may not be released, as it may compromise that investigation.”…..ca631.html

    Maybe be a little critical of these sources.

  13. Interesting. I won’t be too critical. Robby DID caution, as I recall, and I wanted to believe it was getting this weird. Cause we’ve seen it get even weirder before. (they DID dump all those schools for the plastic, toy hand grenade, including schools where it was not, sooo….)

    So some of this is on me, as is always the case.

    Anyhoo – thanks for the followup, Robby, and I appreciate everyone’s thoughts!

    Hope Mr. McLaw – IF THAT’S HIS REAL NAME – is OK.

  14. Cripes, even the LA Times used “HIPPA” when they meant “HIPAA.” It fact-checkers and editors all the way down.

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