Sunday, September 03, 2006

Buffalo Internet Predator Roundtable

Podcast version 4.2 meg

Well, I ended the previous blog with "So long from Buffalo", but I'm afraid I have to open this one with, "Hello from Buffalo."

I'm sitting here in the airport waiting for a flight that is being delayed because Ernesto is visiting NJ right now and causing delays at Newark. Compounding that is the fact that the flight before mine is being delayed because it has tire trouble and has to wait for another flight to arrive with new tires for the plane. We just got word that that plane is now airborne. Of course it is coming out of Newark.

...and it's kind of ironic that the reason I'm here in Buffalo is because I had a flat tire on the way to the first round table.

But enough of my travel saga and on to the roundtable discussion of Internet Predaors. Conducting the meeting were:
NY Assemblymen Jack Quinn, Jim Hayes, Joe Giglio, Steve Hawley, and Mike Cole.
Roundtable speakers were:
Art Wolinsky from WiredSafety
Ed Suk the NY Director of National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
Veronica, Robin, Jeff, and Lizabeth Block (a family impacted by a sexual predators)
FBI Special Agents Karen Ferguson
U..S. Attorney Terry Flynn
U.S. Attorney Witness Coordinator Sharon Knope
Child Advocacy Case Coordinator Candice Kopti
Erie County DA Sexual Assault Chief Roseanne Johnson
NYS Attorney General Senior Investigator Mike McCartney
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard
Erie County Sheriff's Office Dept. Police Services Chief Dennis rankin
Erie County Sheriff's Office Detective Sue Puma
Town of Amherst Councilmember Shelly Schratz
Buffalo Police Detective Lieutenant David Mann

After opening remarks by each Assemblyman the speakers took about five minutes to introduce themselves, their organizations, and what they do that works. The members of the roundtable were impressive in their credentials and their messages to the Assemblymen. For the most part they offered solid suggestions and advice to the lawmakers.

Two themes came across consistently, namely the need for a substantial increase in education and more teeth in legislation. While everyone agreed on the need for greater education, there was a mixed message concerning legislation, which we all know often impacts education.

A parallel thread in the conversation was the number of teachers involved in online sexual predation and inappropriate conduct. It was pointed out that in many cases teachers leave on district under a quiet cloud and surface elsewhere only to be exposed when an incident reaches the police. A number or participants called for stronger regulations concerning the reporting of sexual misconduct by schools, specifically private schools. There was also a call for legislation that moves sexual contact by a teacher from a misdemeanor to a felony.

A particularly poignant portion of the program was testimony from the Block family. During the conversation Victoria talked about The discussion
of social networking at that point made it clear that there was fairly wide range of knowledge of the subject on both sides of the panel.

Assemblymen, law enforcement, and social services people on the panel were all experts in what they do. They have forgotten more about their jobs than I know. On the other side of the coin is the fact that I was the only educator in the group and the perspective that I offered was one that needs to be heard.

The message I tried to get across is the fact that legislation is a double-edged sword. In their zeal to help protect children they sometimes created laws that hamper the ability of schools to educate the children in safe, responsible, effective online communication.

I cited DOPA as one such law that has the potential to undo much of the good that is being done by schools in the area of online publishing and journalism. On the other hand, the state level legislation they were trying to implement was aimed in the right direction. It was designed plug loopholes in laws that have prevented law enforcement from prosecuting predators.

Ultimately, it is the schools and the parents who will be primarily responsible for supervising and teaching children about safe, responsible netizenship. I urged them to keep that fact in mind when they draft legislation. I urged them to talk to teachers about how proposed legislation might impact their ability to make kids safer. Finally, I urged the to continue their legislative focus on the predators and assisting law enforcement in their job.

I was very glad I made the trip to Buffalo, even with my comedy of errors. The assemblymen were eager to listen and learn, I learned a great deal listening to the other members of the panel, and hopefully my message on behalf of education and the generation that will be leading us in years to come, did not fall on deaf ears.

When it comes to Internet and schools, education is the answer. Rather than legislate behavior, facilitate learning. That's the message we have to get across.

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posted by Art @ 10:32 AM   0 comments


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