More Fun than a PS2

Student essays frequently used as profiling tools

Remember Cook County teen David Riehm, whose creative writing essay on blowing away his creative writing teacher landed him (involuntarily and mistakenly) in a psychiatric hospital last year? He's got plenty of company, according to USA Today.

States contract with testing companies whose evaluators, often ex-teachers, read and score the tests, usually administered to students around spring. As part of procedure, scorers are instructed to flag an exam that contains disturbing images or language. That information is usually forwarded to the state or the local school district, which decides whether to notify parents and recommend counseling.

Officials with testing companies say they believe every state has some system in place to identify a child's problem and make sure it's addressed.

The story quotes several experts talking about the need to listen carefully to teens, as well as a Wisconsin educator noting how distressing essays written by victims of persistent bullying can be.

Here's a little extra something to think about: If these experts are right--and I imagine they are--that adults need to do a better job listening to teens, what does it say that the creative writing teacher who apparently inspired Riehm's fantasmagoric paper didn't get around to reading it for more than three months?