September 4, 2014
Maryland teacher suspended for writing sci-fi, or maybe not
by Liam O’Brien
In this unfolding story, involving school shootings and possible first amendment infringement (two things which are certain to provoke no controversy or crosstalk whatsoever), a few things are certain: Patrick McLaw is a teacher in Maryland, has written two science fiction novels under a couple pen names, and last last month was suspended from his middle school teaching position and placed under involuntary mental health evaluation.
The two novels were initially reported by local news as the reason for McLaw’s abrupt suspension; the reason being that the books depict a massive school massacre set 900 years in the future. The school district’s press release is evasive at best, and the sequence of events following McLaw’s suspension and involuntary commitment is still unclear.
However, the state’s attorney was later quoted in the Baltimore Sun stressing that McLaw hasn’t been charged with a crime and that the investigation is not about books, but about McLaw’s possible mental illness, mentioning a few vaguely incriminating details as he went.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matthew A. Maciarello said the news media has mischaracterized the case as McLaw’s being persecuted for writing fiction. Rather, those books “in aggregate” with a letter he wrote and complaints police received about him convinced officials that he needed to be evaluated. “I think this was textbook,” Maciarello said. “You have to do your due diligence. You cannot risk the safety of the students. You cannot risk the safety of the teachers.”
McLaw’s residence and the school have been searched, turning up nothing, and McLaw’s attorney recently downplayed the speculation surrounding the case. Seems like there’s still no such thing as bad publicity, though.
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.