The Secret Service on Thursday said it was investigating a Rhode Island
student who wrote a rambling essay advocating violence against President Bush
and major U.S. corporations.
A homework assignment asked 7th-grade students at John F. Deering Middle
School in West Warwick, Rhode Island, to describe their perfect day. The boy
under investigation wrote it would involve unspecified violence against Bush,
Coca-Cola Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives, and TV talkshow host Oprah
Winfrey, school officials said.
The boy turned in the single-page assignment on Tuesday, and his teacher alerted
The essay has not been released, and the student has not been identified. Seventh-grade
students are typically aged 11 to 13.
Daniel Burns, Jr., chairman of the West Warwick School Committee, called the
student's essay a "stupid act" and said he had never seen a situation
like this in the more than 20 years that he's been involved in the school system.
While it did not include any specific plan for an attack, "anyone that
writes what's on his mind, where he wants to do away with or kill people, it's
something you've got to pay attention to," Burns told Reuters.
Threatening the president is a felony, said Thomas M. Powers, Secret Service
resident agent in charge in Providence, the state capital. He said the agency's
investigation is ongoing but declined further comment.
The student faces no charges from local police, Detective Sgt. Richard Ascoli,
spokesman for West Warwick police, said. The department has handed over the
case to the Secret Service and is no longer involved, he added.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Rhode Island criticized law enforcement's
involvement in the case.
"The student was engaged in a rhetorical, if angry, exercise of speech,"
the organization said in a statement.
"Although it may have been appropriate for the teacher to share the essay
with the school social work staff, the decisions to also involve the police
and the Secret Service marked a significant and inappropriate intrusion on the
young student's First Amendment rights."
Burns, who was briefed by the West Warwick school superintendent on the essay
but had not read it, described it as bitter. "Obviously, this individual
needs some kind of help," he said.
He questioned whether the boy had help composing it.
"Someone in the 7th grade just doesn't gather this information by themselves,"
he said. "I was concerned where that came from."
The student is undergoing counseling, Burns said.
(Additional reporting by Jason Szep in Boston)