Student suspended for writing Newtown poem
UNDATED (NBC) -- The tragedy of Newtown is being felt by people far beyond that small Connecticut town and moving them to respond in all kinds of ways.
For one high school student in California, it was writing a poem about the shootings. But while she says she was just expressing herself and wanted to start a conversation, her school considered what she wrote a threat.
Courtni Webb writes poems to express her feelings. Some are happy, some are sad. But one poem was considered a threat by her school.
"I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger,” read Webb from her poem.
It was enough to get Webb suspended.
"I feel like I have been made to look a monster by my school and I don't appreciate that at all,” said Webb.
Webb said she was trying to express her belief that tragedies like Sandy Hook happen because people feel helpless.
"I was really shocked and hurt at the same time that they would think I would even think of hurting anybody,” said Webb.
A teacher found the poem in Webb’s personal notebook and turned it over to administrators who told her stunned mother, Valerie.
Her daughter had been suspended.
"She wasn't threatening herself, you know. She didn't threaten school, she didn't threaten you know she didn't threaten anybody,” said Valerie Statham.
The Life Learning Academy hasn’t commented, but the letter they sent to Webb’s mom says her poem violates the school's zero tolerance policy toward violence:
“We discovered a note…that contained deeply concerning, and threatening language related to the recent school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
Our concerns are for both the safety of our school community and for Courtni herself."
While some may consider the poem's content too raw so soon after the tragedy, her mother said she has every right to express herself.
"I feel that it's actually a violation of her freedom of speech,” said Statham.
First amendment expert and attorney Jon Katz agrees.
"This is a bad civics lesson for students to see someone being suspended from school for her words especially these kinds words where she could not be sanctioned if she was outside the school house gates,” said Katz.
It's not over. The high school senior faces possible expulsion. Her mother said she is praying for a positive outcome.
As for Webb, said she's using this experience to become a better writer.
"You have to have to gone through things in your life to be able to express yourself in creative ways. This experience inspired me to speak my mind even more,” said Webb.
She's even written a new poem titled, “Judgment.”