Public post about middle school, NPR, more
Before I post about what happened, a good friend sent me a link to Peeking In on Teens' Private Web Pages. I ended up sending the following email to the "ethicist." He quite obviously has no clue:
"I agree with Mr. Cohen that the football players in question should not have been suspended for being in photos that showed them at a party where there was a beer can showing in the background. However, I disagree with him that kids/teen Facebook, Myspace, etc profiles are "off limits" to adults. That's burying your head in the sand.
If kids and teens *publicly* post information, photos, etc of themselves online where anyone, anywhere in the world can view it, then they need to face the consequences. If they don't want everyone to see photos of them drinking alcohol underage, smoking marijuana, doing drugs,being topless, writing in their blogs obscenities and/or creating hate groups about teachers they don't like, etc, then make them private so that the rest of us can't view them.
I am a cybercrime expert and I travel the country showing kids and teens why they can't put this stuff in their profiles. It *will* affect them when the go to university or college, or getting a job. And they need to be held accountable. As was said, the days of locked diaries under the bed are long gone, but you know what? If kids/teens need to express themselves that badly, they should go back to those locked paper diaries or know that they can and will get in trouble if they post it online."
I'll be surprised if I get a coherent reply.
Now to what happened at the middle school I spoke at last week. I have calmed down enough to write a public post of it:
I was booked to speak at Greely Middle School in Cumberland, Maine, just south of Freeport (home of L.L. Bean) last Wednesday. Fine and dandy, right? I spoke with the principal, Kim, about my talks for the students, which would be 6th-8th graders. I told her my talks are basically "the Internet 'Scared Straight'" and that I find Myspace profiles of some students who post too much info, compromising photos, etc and let them know if I can see it, then anyone online anywhere in the world can see it. She was thrilled and said it would probably shock them into shaping up.
So I did my homework and made my presentation for the 7th/8th graders just as promised; for the 6th graders, I just covered the online safety aspects and didn't get into profiles with them. The older kids need to know better.
I was scheduled to speak this morning; 7th/8th graders first; 6th graders second. Then it was lunch with some faculty, then a faculty presentation/training, then a talk for parents/the public tonight at 7 pm. If you can't tell by now, I'm home and have been since lunchtime.
So, I do my 7th/8th grade presentation and show these kids the profiles I found and why they needed to change them. Then I showed a public profile (which has since been made private, gee, I wonder why). But in the screen shot of it the last line in the "about me" section was to a group created by this one kid that was a "hate" group for a teacher some of them don't like. Sixteen students were members of this group.
I showed the students I found this, which means anyone could, because it was PUBLICLY AVAILABLE. They were shocked.
Afterwards, the kid who made that original profile told me it was marked private. I said it wasn't when I saw it (which was Monday when I took the screen shot). He was embarrassed and asked the vice principal if he was going to get into trouble for it.
On the break, the principal was concerned because the teacher who is hated by 16 students, was "devastated." I asked her if the school knew about this hate group? She said no. I told her they needed to know about it to stop it before it got worse. And what teacher isn't hated by some of their students? I mean, grow some balls, man.
So I did the 6th grade presentation, which went great.
Then I was called into the principal's office.
She handed me my check and told me my two other talks had been canceled. I was flabbergasted. She told me all the students were buzzing about my talks. Isn't that what they were supposed to be doing? She said the teacher named in the hate group was really, really upset and she was afraid parents would come with "pitchforks" to skewer me later. I told her I was a big girl. She was firm in not wanting me on campus any longer.
Talk about putting your head in the sand. This school did just that today. I found something they didn't want to believe could happen at THEIR school. I was ticked off and offended. And hurt. I still am.
I calmly told her that if she wanted me to come back in the fall to do a parent talk, I'd do it because it was already paid for.
I was summarily dismissed.
I drove back to the hotel, packed my bags and drove home.
I called my friend V2 and told her what happened. The first thing she (and my mom said) was that the kid must have rich parents. That area is a wealthy area, so it wouldn't be a surprise. And the school didn't want to get "mummy and daddy" upset. Tough.
My mom asked if I had called my lawyer to cover my ass. I said, from what? Everything I showed was PUBLICLY available at the time I viewed it. The purpose of my talks was to show these kids they were not invulnerable and needed to be careful about what they posted online. Then I showed them how to be safer. Simple, huh?
Let's see how long that group stays up.
I did get one email from a parent. Here's what they wrote to me and my reply:
At 01:55 PM 4/25/2007, you wrote:
email: (deleted for privacy)
comments: I want to know why you who are apparently so concerned with privacy had the audacity to parade not just one of my children but two of my children in front of their peers today at Greely Junior High School.
Your children were not singled out, there were others included - I merely pointed out that many kids are failing to take proper privacy precautions when online. Then I showed them how to stay safer.
Then I got this and my reply to her:
At 02:16 PM 4/25/2007, you wrote:
email: (deleted for privacy)
comments: Good afternoon,
My daughter is a student at Greely Middle School and has just informed me that your presentation is canceled. I would like to hear from you as to what you presented to the kids and why you think the administration canceled the presentation. Frankly, it sounds like what you showed the kids is exactly what we all need to hear about.
You will need to talk with the principal about this. If you want to get back to me after you talk with her, I'd be happy to give you my input.
I also got a call at 9 pm that night from one of the women who had helped book me for the Greely School fiasco. She wasn't there today due to personal reasons and she wanted to hear "my side" of what happened. Apparently, the principal and staff "freaked out" and called the administrator and although this woman didn't say it, made it look like I purposely used scare tactics and the hate group profile. Hello? I had talked with the principal beforehand, I told her what I do in my presentations - that I do my research and pull up any PUBLIC profiles students have to show them that if I can see it, anyone can.
The principal told this woman it was not what she wanted. If you don't want to hear the truth, the next time have McGruff come and do a "tame" presentation where the students will learning NOTHING.
Now she's backpedaling and also told this woman that I didn't fulfill the amount of lectures I was to do. I told this woman the principal handed me the check and said my services had been paid in FULL. I then made the offer to come back anytime to do the parent/public lecture talk. If there had been a problem with the amount paid to me, the principal should have said something then and negotiated a lower fee. She did not. I already cashed the check (thank goodness).
This woman is being put in the middle to see what happened. She said that the principal is going to be letting other schools in the district know about the talks and she is going to try to defuse it, because I *did* do what I said I'd do. But if this costs me speaking engagements, I may end up not only going to the media, but sue this school as well.
I was scheduled to appear on the local Fox News Morning Show on TV here in Portland, Maine before the Greely Middle School fiasco.
When I got to the studio this morning, I was talking with Ray, one of the hosts and he brought up that he wanted me to talk about Myspace. So, without naming the school, I gave him a brief account of what happened on Wednesday. He was apoplectic. He's the father of four kids - 9, 11, 12 & 16. And his high school kid had an incident happen at his school yesterday. Ray encouraged me to speak about what happened. So I did.
Ted Talbot, the cohost, was just as shocked. I did not mention the name of the school. I gave a very basic recount of what happened and that I'd found a "hate" group online that one of the students had created and had publicly posted it. Ray and Ted were both stymied as to why I'd been sent home by the principal and thought it was horrible for them to ignore an obvious warning signs of things to come.
Something great came out of it - I'm going to become a regular contributor to the show now. I wish I got paid for these appearances, but hey, I get to promote my book and my speaking engagements, so it's not bad. And it's less than an hour to drive to the studio.
I hope some of the parents saw me on TV this morning and will realize the school screwed up big time.
I also had an interesting reply posted about this - go check it out and then read my reply to it.
So the host of the morning news show here in Portland emailed, then call me later yesterday. We were on the phone for a good hour. He said they got so much feedback about what happened at Greely (even though I didn't mention the name of the school on air, mind you) and all but one was support for me.
A man who called in who said he was at my presentation and the reason I was told to go home was because the teacher who was the subject of the hate group was in the auditorium when I showed the screen shot. And?
What was I supposed to do? Say, "Mr. Teacher, you have to leave because I need to show something that has your name in it?"
I told Ray that quite honestly, this teacher needs to grow some new ones and he laughed and said, "You're my kind of girl - you say it like it is."
IMHO, I think it was the teacher who called in. I bet it was.
I am so sick of political correctness, fear the parents will sue or the ACLU will come after you (they used to be such a wonderful organization - why have they gone so wrong?). What has the world come to?
You know what? If you're a parent, be a parent. Don't be your child's friend. Don't let them get away with murder (figuratively, people, don't take me literally). Set rules and enforce them. Know what they're doing on the Internet. Use filtering and monitoring software until they leave YOUR house. You are the one paying the mortgage, the utilities and for the Internet connection. So YOU are responsible for what your children do.
And if you're a teacher, have some balls. Don't break down because a small group of students say they don't like you. For crying out loud, these kids put "We hate Mr. Teach With A Passion," not "We wish he'd die."
Not all students like their teachers. That's a fact. Before the Internet, students would whisper to each other, pass notes about teachers they didn't like, write about them on bathroom walls, and even post stupid posters of these teachers around campus. The Internet's the new bathroom wall.
If you can't deal with the fact that not all your students like you, then you need to find a new profession. Heaven knows I would not want you to be my child's teacher.
End of rant.
The great news is that Fox News here wants me to come in at least once a month to touch on various things happening online. They're going to basically give me more time so that I can take calls while on the air. Since they got so many calls from parents concerned about Myspace, that will be my first thing to tackle.
I am very excited about this. It's no pay, but I get to promote my book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd edition, and WHOA and WHOA-KTD. He gave me the choice of doing it over the phone or in the studio. It's only a 45 minute ride, and air time is air time, so I'm going to the studio.
Some good things have come from this whole thing.