Does this have something to do with scripting?
Are you seeing this on multiple machines? Assuming not, first step is:
Trash, Replace, Reset, or Restore the application Preferences: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/526990
Also, you just installed CS4? CS5.5 is current, it's a rather odd time to move to CS4. What's going on?
I have no idea why our school thought this was a good idea. I am at a lost. Also, we are seeing this problem on multiple machines. Suggestions?
Honestly, I recommend you figure out why you're not using CS5.5.
Try trashing your preferences though.
When you say the place "button" what do you mean?
It's either File > Place or the keyboard combination, I don't believe there is a button.
Does it work with a trivial text file from Notepad/TextEdit?
(What OS are you using?)
Does placing imges work?
And again, why are you posting in the scripting forum? Your question seems to have nothing to do with scripting.
In case it was not clear, your question doesn't sound familiar, no, and this is not normal behavior.
Is the Word document you are trying to place saved as .docx? If so, open it with Word and re-save as .doc or .rtf.
InDesign CS4 can import .docx files from the first release of Word that saved it natively, but I guess "they" changed just enough of the file format in a newer version to make some files import empty into ID. On ocassion I get this as well: you select a .docx file to place, you get the Loaded Gun cursor, and then nothing is imported. Re-saving in an older file format usually makes it work again.
I'm sorry I posted to the scripting forum. I know nothing of any of this and this sounded like a place to ask a question.