Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 17:58 GMT
Halloween essay puts boy in jail
Christopher Beamon's school essay was taken as a threat
A Halloween essay has landed a 13-year-old schoolboy in jail for five days, after his descriptions of a gun attack were interpreted as a threat.
Christopher Beamon, a pupil at Ponder High School, Denton County, Texas, wrote an imaginative account of an attack on his classmates that was so vivid that it put him into custody in a juvenile detention centre.
Asked to write an essay about coming home in the dark and hearing a noise, Christopher described a violent gun attack on his fellow pupils, with the story later being read to the class.
The local school district superintendent, Byron Welch, says that because "elements of a criminal act may have taken place" they were obliged to inform the police, who then took the decision to detain the schoolboy.
Defending the school's response, Dr Welch said: "It was the student's choice to use real people in a violent setting.
"When we receive a report that someone feels that they have been threatened by the written or spoken words of a student, we have to respond."
The schoolboy was taken into custody last Thursday and after the district attorney declined to prosecute, he was released on Tuesday.
The essay sparked concern at a time when schools in the United States are highly-sensitive to the threat of violence, following a series of school shootings including the gun attack at Columbine High School in Colorado.
All across the country anti-violence measures are being tested, including screening pupils for violent tendencies and setting up lessons designed to defuse aggressive attitudes.