My Photo
Location: Sitting inside a TV truck, Somewhere, more then likely in the Southeastern region, United States

I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The tragic case of Julie Amero

Ft. Myers, FL - Julie Amero will be sentenced next week for exposing children in a classroom where she was substitute teaching to pornographic images. Under the law she could get up to 40 years in prison.

I'm sure that some of you out there are now cheering, thinking she deserves all that and more. But before you mentally hang Ms. Amero read Andrew Kantor's column on the subject.

Imagine you know next to nothing about computers. You're a substitute teacher for a seventh grade class. There's a computer in the classroom and, knowing you're going to be sitting there for a while, you ask a fulltime teacher if you can use it. He logs you in with his password and tells you not to shut it off because you couldn't get back on.

Not that you have a clue about this stuff, but that computer is running Windows 98 and the outdated Internet Explorer 6.02. Its filtering and anti-virus software have expired, and it has no anti-spyware software.

You step out of the classroom for a moment. When you get back the kids are clustered around the computer, checking out hairstyle websites. But one is actually a link to porn sites, and it loads a Trojan onto the unprotected computer.

Suddenly, pop-ups start appearing — X-rated popups.

You start to panic. You're not supposed to shut the machine and you don't realize you can just shut the monitor. You try to block the screen, but — like normal seventh graders — the kids are curious and pushy.

You run to the teacher's lounge for help. Finally you get some and the crisis ends. But the kids have seen the porn. They tell their parents. The parents tell the school.

You tell the school administrators what happened, but they don't bother (or don't know how) to check the computer for the adware you described. Instead they fire you.

And soon you're arrested and charged with four counts of "risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child." You're facing 40 years in prison.

USAToday: Cyberspeak - Police, school get failing grade in sad case of Julie Amero

He follows that column up with this one: USA Today: Cyberspeak - Case against Julie Amero needs to be deleted

This case has truly brought about a comedy of errors that demonstrates just how bad things can get when the computer illiterate pass judgment on computer related issues.

But what bothers me is the level to which the Norwich Bulletin sank in covering this case. There is now overwhelming technical evidence that:
  • The computer in the class room had a scorching case of computer clap.
  • The schools IT professional is profoundly lacking in the most basic of computer skills.
  • The police had even less computer knowledge.
  • Testimony that Amero tried to get help with the popup storm from regular school employees.
  • Her legal council was only slightly less useful on a computer related case then a trained chimpanzee would have been.

But the Norwhich Bulletin apparently sees itself as judge jury and executioner.

Check this column out:
Amero has many supporters, which should not sway the court, as most of them have formed opinions based on limited knowledge of the facts of the case, or simple hearsay. At the heart of this international debate is whether Amero was responsible for causing the pornography to be on the computer screen for an entire school day, when seventh-grade students were able to view it. Many in the technology field have suggested she was the victim of a "porn storm," which were frequent problems in 2004, when the incident occurred. Some suggested the computer was overtaken by malware or spyware, technical parasites that will plant unwanted images, pop-ups, etc., onto a computer. Some have suggested Amero was the victim of a conspiracy by students.

Read the transcripts of the case and many of these arguments become moot. Read Amero's own words. Yes, there were victims: the children in the classroom who saw the graphic images. Six of them testified to the events of Oct. 19, 2004. Whether Amero was purposefully exploring pornographic Web sites, or was the victim of a technological assault, is irrelevant. She was the adult entrusted with the safety of those children, and she failed.

The Norwich Bulletin: Our view: Porn was Amero's burden (I really think you should read the whole thing.)

So how do you protect yourself when the one last watchdog that is supposed to shine a light on government incompetence and maybe keep the wheels of government from rolling over the innocent decides to join the lynch mob calling for your head?

Journalism used to mean printing the facts and only the facts. And if you are wrong, correcting that as soon as possible. I'm not certain what it means now.

More links:
Network Performance Daily: The Strange Case of Ms. Julie Amero: Commentary by Mr. Herb Horner (This is the expert witness for the defense, well worth the read.)
Andrew Kantor's Blog: The Norwich Bulletin’s Sunday editorial — why it’s so wrong
Andrew Kantor's Blog: The Norwich Bulletin on Julie Amero
Andrew Kantor's Blog: New Julie Amero Column Up
Andrew Kantor's Blog: Proof of bad testimony in the Julie Amero trial

A full transcript of the trial was on line, however that site quite working.


Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.
- Plato

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home