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Back to Sept. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 152 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 1998

Fictional Poem Lands Teen in Hospital Psychiatric Ward
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KINGSTON, NY - Kingston High School freshman Robert Stango wrote a poem about suicide called "Rhymes and Reasons" for an after school club. He unknowingly left a page of the poem behind in one of his classes. When the teacher found it, she notified school officials, setting off a chain of events that landed him in a local hospital psychiatric ward for over four days.

School officials who interviewed Robert dubbed the poem "a cry for help." They persuaded his mother that he was "a danger to himself and to her," and urged her to allow him to be hospitalized for observation. She reluctantly agreed.

After discovering that the poem was fictional, and that her son had written it for an assignment from the viewpoint of a divorced adult male, Mrs. Stango was furious. She claimed the school's reaction was more in response to the recent spate of school shootings than to any threat posed by her son. She admitted that there had been some arguments between herself and Robert, but characterized the 15-year-old as "a normal kid."

Robert was admitted to the Benedictine Hospital psych ward on an "emergency order," which generally means a patient can only be kept for 72 hours. However, four days passed before hospital officials agreed that he was "normal," and released him into his mother's custody.

Mrs. Stango now says she wants to ensure that no one else will have to endure what she and her son went through. She has retained a lawyer, who claims that Robert's first amendment rights were violated by the school.


 
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