Monday, April 14, 2008

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

If there is any doubt about the poor state of online safety and appropriate netizenship in this country, it should be erased by the two latest incidents. We are all aware of the Florida teens who brutally beat another teen for postings she supposedly made on MySpace. There was no remorse and little understanding of the consequences of their actions. I'm sure they had little or no idea of how serious their actions were.

Whose fault is that? Obviously, there is no easy answer, but I do know this. I began teaching Internet basics in 1995 and even at that early date, every one of my students knew the ramifications of that kind of action. I recognized that this was the world that they would be in habiting and I wanted to make sure they lived by a set of rules and guidelines that would keep them safe and out of trouble. Schools need to develop cyber citizenship!

Compounding the problem is schools that make the situation worse by not acting responsibly when things happen. This week, Jolita Berry, a teacher in Baltimore was attacked by a student. The majority of the class stood by and watched or cheered the girl on. One student went for help. One filmed it with a cell phone and then posted it on the Internet.

Apparently, before the video surfaced, the school's initial reaction was to blame the teacher for using a "trigger word". The student threatened to hit the teacher and the teacher said she would defend herself. Is saying you are going to defend yourself tantamount to inciting a riot?

Of course, once the video surface and word of this hit the media, the school's response was that they take the incident very seriously and it would be investigated thoroughly. Too little, too late. What measures were put into place to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

What should happen here? I don't know what the school will do, but personally I would expel the student and take serious action against the student who posted the video. How is it possible that someone can witness a crime and then post that video on the Internet without passing it on to the authorities? It would be interesting to find out whether there is a school policy about use of cell phones. If there is, certainly using it to film a crime in action and turning it over to authorities would be reason to excuse breaking the school policy, but not turning it over and then posting it to the Internet creates a serious breech of policy, if not a violation of law.

We have to stop turning a blind eye to this sort of physical confrontation. The more we ignore it the worse it becomes. We have to stop making people folk heroes for posting this kind of outrage.

What will happen to the person who went for help. I'm guessing he or she is worrying about becoming the victim of the next beating. It is a sad, sad day when brutality is perceived as not having serious consequences and acting against it results in fear from one's own safety. It is just so wrong on so many levels that it boggles the mind.

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posted by Art @ 3:19 PM   0 comments


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