Student who wrote about school shooting allowed to return for senior year

WASHINGTON — A student found with writings depicting a school shooting returned to school this September after administrators invited him back to Northport High School in Washington state.

Lance Timmering’s brush with the law started in April, when two faculty members overheard the student, then a junior, tell his friends, “If you chained two or three exits, you could shoot the students as they came out of the cafeteria.” The teachers found a notebook with the word “Assassins” scrawled across the front in Timmering’s possession. Inside were writings that, according to court records, described how to kill 20 to 30 people.

Lance Timmering’s father, Terry Timmering, said only one page of the notebook had writing on it, containing notes for a video game Lance was developing.

“There were no names, no specifics,” he said. “It was just a general plot for a shooter game.”

Terry Timmering, who owns a computer company, said his son, a natural born writer, realized that video games were making a lot of money and decided to combine his vivid imagination with his knowledge of computers. He said the reaction by the school was part of a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Virginia Tech shootings.

Lance Timmering did not respond to several messages left for him with his father last week. Administrators at Northport High School also could not be reached for comment.

Administrators placed Lance Timmering on emergency suspension in April while the police investigated. Prosecutors dropped the original charge, a felony threat to kill, to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct after he agreed to plead guilty in the Stevens County District Court on June 11. The judge ordered him to pay a $75 fine, complete mental health counseling, issue letters of apology to the community and serve one year of probation.

“He didn’t commit a crime,” his father said. “We still feel that way. But we didn’t want to gamble with his life.”

Terry Timmering said his family was afraid to fight the case because in juvenile cases only one judge, not a jury of 12 peers, decides the outcome. He said they were afraid to risk up to five years of their son’s freedom on the off chance that a judge ruled against him.

All five school board members — including Terry Timmering who serves on the board — voted to let Lance return for his senior year.

Terry Timmering said Lance is doing well back at school.

“On his first day back, he said it felt like the day he left. Like nothing had ever changed,” Timmering said.

Lance Timmering continues to write video game scenarios, but now only in the privacy of his own home. He does not bring his writings to school, his father said.

“He’s realized that society can really squash your rights,” Terry Timmering said. “The lesson Lance learned is that he has to hide in his closet to exercise his free-speech rights. He’s learned to be careful with his audience.”

For More Information:

  • Sensitive speech Fall 2007 Report
  • Student has charge reduced after notebook detailed school shootings News Flash, 6/18/2007