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When Students Become Informers

JonKatz posted more than 13 years ago | from the -making-schools-unsafe-for-democracy- dept.

United States 325

Student informing, encouraged and epidemic in American schools before, but especially after the Columbine killings, is an irrational, anti-democratic practice that upends the natural order of life among young people. And new technologies, from 800 numbers to e-mail, makes informing easier than ever. Consider a story in the Los Angeles Times this week focusing on this question: When a student helps a school investigate threats, who pays if the informant is sued? The question isn't rhetorical. (Read more).

The parents of a teenage girl, a high school freshmen in Lancaster, California, are facing $40,000 in legal bills because their kid did what school officials all across America have been urging kids to do for years: tell school officials if she saw or heard anything suspicous.

She did, quoting a classmate as saying: "We want to kill people; we're sick of them." (If I or anyone reading this called the police everytime we came across that comment online, a lot of teenage boys would be in jail.) She said the boy later threatened her for reporting his remarks.

He was immediately charged with making terrorist threats and intimidating a witness, and a juvenile court judge ordered him to serve six months' probation, according to the Times. But courts overturned his expulsion as unconstitutional and unjustified, and the boy and his parents then sued his accuser, her parents, school and Los Angeles county officials. The charges, said his suit, made him the object of ridicule, hatred and distrust.

A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge threw out his suit, but not before the girl's family had spent $40,000 in legal fees defending her. The school, which asked her to inform, refused to represent her after she did. So now her parents are suing them to recoup their losses.

Now, school and county officials are squabbling about whether they are obliged to pay her legal costs or not. In considering the implications of student informing, one has only to think about the fear, anger, and humiliation, the court, school and legal time expended, and the overall cost and implications of this single remark. Then multiply it by millions of kids informing on millions of other kids, as is now seemingly national educational policy.

School officials in California are arguing that it's going to be tough to get informers if schools won't defend them. You bet. But it's unclear whether insurance companies will pay such claims. The Times quotes the director of the Education Legal Alliance of the California School Board Association as saying schools do not have a responsibility to shield or indemnify students in that kind of situation. There's a legal difference between students and employees, said the official. That raises free speech issues on both sides of the student informing issue: kids who say stupid or ill-considered things are treated as terrorists, and kids who think they are doing the right thing aren't protected with they speak out either.

That suggests that neither of these high school freshmen should have landed in the position they did. Both deserve sympathy. As repugnant as informing is to many (me included), kids are told over and over that it's their job to protect themselves and their friends from dangerous peers, by turning them in. Adolescent boys have been saying offensive, profoundly stupid things -- even hateful ones -- forever, as everybody online knows. Are schools really creating safer environments, or instead institutions in which speech of all kinds is unsafe?

Turning kids into informers is viscerally anti-democratic. Student informing has been a hallmark of the worst political systems on record, whatever political labels have been attached to them, by bringing out the worst in human foibles, from fear to unchecked malice. Now it's easier than ever to turn a classmate in -- just make an anonymous call to an 800 number or, better yet, turn somebody in by e-mail. The target usually never gets to confront his accuser, unlike the student in California.

There's also the question of proportion. If a high school freshman expresses a desire to kill somebody, isn't there any educational response or remedy short of arrest for terrorism?

The story illustrates the dreadful position both of these people have been put in by the insane response to the Columbine tragedy. In a sense, the girl was doing what she's been asked to do. The boy -- there was never any evidence he planned to harm or kill anyone -- is threatened with jail for allegedly making a remark that would, in other times, be considered stupid or worthy of some suspension time.

In the months after Columbine, students all over America were asked to become informers by law enforcement authorities and educators. Companies like the Pinkerton Corp. under contract to state and local governments, even created sites like WaveAmerica.com, which urges kids to report the errant behavior of their friends and classmates, and provides toll free numbers manned round-the-clock by people who take and store reported information in a computerized system.

The chilling implications of student informing on social ties, civil liberties and free speech went largely unremarked-upon by the popular media in the national hysteria that followed the Columbine killings; by most parents, and by the people who really ought to have known better, educators themselves. Civil libertarians did sound repeated alarms, but they were ignored.

Definitions of dangerous behavior are wildly subjective and complex, and kids often had a tough time distinguishing between run-of-the-mill obnoxious and posturing behavior, and truly dangerous behavior worthy of being reported to the police. Trained psychologists disagree about symptoms and behavioral warning signs.

Lost in the Columbine mob scene was the fact that violent incidents in schools are rare in America, and getting more so by the year. Gamers, oddballs, Goths and geeks, kids who are bored, angry, alienated, or individualistic are naturally particular targets for kids-turned-informers. Anybody who's different or doesn't conform -- or who is angry -- can seem dangerous, especially given the wildly varying criteria applied in different schools.

Online, teenagers flame each other and everybody else all the time. If they do it in school, they can -- and do -- end up in jail.

But the bottom line seems as clear as it was after Columbine. It's the job of parents, educators and psychologists to watch our for and anticipate dangerous behavior. It should rarely be a legal or law enforcement issue, and it ought never to be the job of kids, students or classmates.

The message to kids isn't that schools are safer, but for everybody is to watch not only what they say, but what they hear.

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If the School Authorities Had Any Sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#446491)

They would pay at least as much attention to controling the jocks who routinely beat and rob other students. Actual assault and robbery are apparently OK with the adults who run the schools - but threats to the system rate an informant network. Oh well, at least the kids are learning first hand what it means to be an American.

The new police (1)

jjr (6873) | more than 13 years ago | (#446502)

Are the schools are going to take the responsibility of protecting there informents. Since the school are taking the role as police they must also take on the role in protecting thier sources. Now this child did what the school ask her to do. The suit agianst the child is stupid becuase she told the truth it is what the school did with the information that is the problem.

Psuedo-intellectual spew. (1)

FFFish (7567) | more than 13 years ago | (#446503)

"Student informing...is an irrational, anti-democratic practice"

Puh-lease!

Are you educated, Katz, or do you just play a liberal arts major on Slashdot?

--

Americans (1)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 13 years ago | (#446509)

I know I'm gonna get modded to flamebait for that, but I have to say it :

America is a sick country.

What about societal accountability? (1)

anomaly (15035) | more than 13 years ago | (#446511)

This is nuts! Calling people 'tattletales' for reporting negative behavior?

This is called accountabilty. When my neighbor is dealing drugs, I'm calling the police.

When my kid is bugging the neighbor's dog, I expect my neighbor to call me to discipline my kid.

Your rights end when they step on someone else's!
Holding each other accountable to certain behavioral standards is good for society.

Sheesh!

Informants need protection... (1)

macgeek (22429) | more than 13 years ago | (#446516)

But only so much. Since they're usually minors (at least in these cases) wouldn't it be possible to make them "anonymous" and have the school protect their identity?

Another issue here: if the threats were investigated thoroughly before it was brought to court and whatnot, some of these troubles could be avoided.

Either way: if the school is encouraging children to rat each other out, they should be prepared to bear the cost of any and ALL legal bills that result from such activities. Set up a trust fund, cancel the football team and cheerleaders, have a bake sale, whatever - but if you're asking the students to step out on a limb, you should be there with an airbag, not a chainsaw.
-=-

Gee, Wally Lets Smoke Some Crack (1)

PantherX (23953) | more than 13 years ago | (#446517)

I think it's sad that the persons family has to pay all that money to lawyers *shiver*, but I also think that there is a valuable lesson in this - nobody likes a squealer.

They used to tell kids this in shows like Leave It To Beaver, or Ozzie and Harriet, in fact, I even remember an episode of Full House like that, but look at the sitcoms and garbage we have on TV now... are any shows on TV family oriented with good moral values? It's time to get rid of the TV folks, it's not the handy-dandy babysitter it once was. Television has turned into a whiz-bang-centric cesspool of garbage, while entertaining, is not for anyone under the age of 18 (Yes, there are always exceptions ex. PBS, Discovery).

I also find it interesting that if there is a big problem in society, I instictly blame television right away without even thinking about it... kinda makes you wonder.

Riiiight (1)

cancrman (24472) | more than 13 years ago | (#446518)

Blah Blah Blah, schools fascist, blah, blah, blah, society too litigious, blah, blah, blah slashdot readers unite against this new threat.

What we really need is a Katz madlibs. Now that would be fun.

Katz needs kidz (1)

daviskw (32827) | more than 13 years ago | (#446523)

There is a guy working for the U.S. governement who saw someone doing something illegal and then when he reported it, he was punished and eventually forced to leave his job. Okay, there's a lot of guys like that.

I never thought I would see the day when John Katz agreed with people in the U.S. government who retaliate against whistle blowers.

Okay, I know it's a stretch to say a hard core liberal like John Katz can be anything like a highly placed Republican official, but there it is. He hate's people who blow the whistle. He hate's people who turn others in for doing something wrong.

Did he ever even stop to think about what might if happened if the guy had said, "I'm going to kill a lot of people," and the girl who overheard him did nothing, and then the guy turned around and killed a lot of people?

I try to teach my kids two things on this subject. First, "I don't want to know if your sister bad mouths me when I'm not around." Second, "If your sister tells you she's going to strangle me in my sleep, I want to know about it." It's a very different thing to say, "This school sucks, you suck, the world sucks and I wish you would all just up and die real slowly and painfully," and/or "I'm going to kill you all and your little dogs too." See the difference. John Katz doesn't, but the girl who got sued did.

Granularity (1)

rufus t firefly (35399) | more than 13 years ago | (#446525)

Honestly, I'm not sure which is crazier: the idea of making life difficult for many to pacify a few, or the absurdity of the legal system.

Every time some kid does something stupid, every other kid that could possibly have any kind of similarity to them is immediately suspect. In World War II, we placed people of Japanese origin in "internment camps," merely for the crime of being from a certain place. I'm well aware that the measures being taken now against children to protect them against themselves are nowhere near as drastic as the Japanese internment camps, but the concept is the same.

Not a day goes by that you can open a paper and miss an article about some person or corporation suing another person or corporation. This case (either the court battle against the accused or the accuser) seems like it could have been resolved with a little thought and effort, and without expensive court battles.

We probably don't bother to give attention to things that are *actually* problems most of the time, in a vain hope that a "zero-tolerance" policy (read: zero-effort policy) will allow administrators and parents to avoid the difficult chance of having to clear away the amazing amount of ambiguity that is present in interpersonal relationships.

When a kid shoots another kid over a dispute, whose fault is it? Is it the owner of the gun's fault for not restricting access to the gun, or would the kid have found another way to obtain one? Is it the parents' or peers' fault for not imbuing the virtue of understanding or restraint, or is that up to the kid to learn? Is it the administrator's fault for allowing the situation to escalate or was it beyond their control? With no tolerance for anything, blame is not cast on some of the parties (i.e. administrators, parents) who would rather not be involved in such problems, even though they have more to do with it that they would ever want to admit.

With a little more thought, and perhaps some planning and attention, these problems would not be as big as people make them out to be.

As a side note, I wonder how many times things like this have happened in large cities, for us not to find out because the people involved aren't white-bread "average" americans that we can relate to and worry "will this happen to me?"

---

Informing made my brother sick (1)

winse (39597) | more than 13 years ago | (#446526)

At the Jr High school my brother attended there was a program for peers to patrol the halls looking for mischief. They had a little tag they wore around. Many of the students in the honors classes were asked to be "hall monitors" or whatever they called them, my brother didn't really want to but they specifically asked him, so he said yes. A few months later he had an ulcer, and school had become hard for him to deal with. My mother told him to tell whoever was in charge of the program that he couldn't do it anymore. He did and everything went back to normal. I don't think they kept this program (this was back in '96), but other schools might have this sort of thing still going on. I'm sure that in this case everyone meant well, but either way it sucked for my brother.

Threat (1)

Steppin Razer (41440) | more than 13 years ago | (#446528)

I am going to kill people, lots of them.
I cant sort out the good from the vile and the wretched. After watching Apocolypse Now last night
I have to agree with Kurtz. Judgement works on both sides, if I say you are good I have judged you, it is not my place to judge. Kill them all and let "god" sort it out.La blah blah .....
I hate all people.. . you all should die.
etc... etc...

Whoops did I say that out loud.
Guess when I go crazy years later and kill people someone can sift through data come across this and say "We should have seen this coming! Look at this message-board post, this man was obviously deranged."

Re:Jon [way-off-topic] (1)

prizog (42097) | more than 13 years ago | (#446531)

Depends where you go to school. But, yes, it's not only students that are homophobic. At a certain point, it is more effective to go to the media. And, sometimes, nothing helps, and you're just stuck, which sucks and causes tons of people off themselves every year. Fortunately, it's easier now than it ever was to meet people over the net who are like you and who will be understanding, etc. I think the next generation will have it easier, which is how I interpet Kafka's statement "there is hope, but not for us"

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (1)

mr.crutch (98516) | more than 13 years ago | (#446561)

This is the job of the school. The school has authority and responsibility "in loco parentis", in the place of the parents. The schools should encourage students to come forward and "inform" the authorities of any potential threats. It then becomes the schools responsibility to investigate all information thoroughly before making a decision. This is where errors often occur - schools rush to judgement and often trample the rights of others. There should be no liability for being a concerned citizen, only for being an oppressive authority.

It's a matter of degrees (1)

MrClear (103818) | more than 13 years ago | (#446565)

Katz makes this out to be an issue about turning kids into informants - it isn't. In fact, it's a good thing to have informants when the circumstances merit it. If someone is making serious threats of violence, why not have a system to alert authorities? Why not have a system where kids concerned about security can trust their warnings will be taken seriously? Kids want to be safe.

The only legitimate gripe I hear in this article is that casual threats are being taken too seriously. The fact that there are lawsuits are irrelevant - you get those from being too cautious or not cautious enough. Students should be able to relay factual information and faculty should make informed decisions about what's a real threat and what's not.

The fact is that if administration only reacted to serious threats and kids used good judgement in reporting incidents, there would be no reason to complain about such as system. That's certainly an attainable goal. So, it's an issue of poor judgement - not an inherently bad system.

As Flanders would say... (1)

Raymond Luxury Yacht (112037) | more than 13 years ago | (#446567)

It's a dilly of a pickle of a iddly of a problem.

She did, quoting a classmate as saying: "We want to kill people; we're sick of them." (If I or anyone reading this called the police everytime we came across that comment online, a lot of teenage boys would be in jail.) She said the boy later threatened her for reporting his remarks.

Now... let me ask you, what would you do? I don't know about anyone else and what their experiences were like, but I grew up in the Roxbury and Jamaica Plain areas of Boston. If a kid told me back in grade school that he/she was going to kill me, considering some of the hardware that I know was carried around, I'd take that really frikkin' seriously. In the 4 years I was in High School in Boston, there were 8 kids killed by other kids, one teacher threatened with a gun in class and another hospitalized after taking a nunchuku hit to the head. And that was just in my high school, I'm not talking about over all the schools.

"A pupil who cooperates as part of their responsibility as a student on a campus . . . should be immune from this type of lawsuit," Cook said. "A lawsuit of this type should not even be allowed to proceed."

See, this is just as big a problem as student violence. What about the times when it IS true, and when it ISN'T? If this kid DID make threats to her, you're damn right the school should pay for her legal fee's if the bastard sued her for turning him in. But if it's found that the kid wasn't a nutter, and he's exonerated, then that chick should be sued and sued hard for ruining his life. And the fact is, it isn't if he is "guilty" and she is innocent, it is who has the best lawyers and the most money.

Nevertheless, the suit did proceed for 11 months, and the girl should not be responsible for the costs of her defense during that time, Schutz [sic] asserts.

Not if the allegations were proven to be true and the boy convicted. But anyone who falsely accuses another and causes that person to be humiliated, degraded and abuse deserves what they get.

Civil libertarians did sound repeated alarms, but they were ignored.

That's because most, like Katz, tend to end up sounding barking mad. It's one thing to express free speech, but I'll bet my ass that if someone walked over to Katz and said "Hi John, I'm going to FUCKING KILL YOU!" he'd a) learn quickly a new use for shirt tails and b) call the cops likety split! And how is it wrong if a student does the same?

I see Katz's point about students ratting each other out and falsely accusing each other. But from reading this story I'd say he chose a poor example.


Abusing the system (1)

regen (124808) | more than 13 years ago | (#446571)

Now, school and county officials are squabbling about whether they are obliged to pay her legal costs or not. In considering the implications of student informing, one has only to think about the fear, anger, and humiliation, the court, school and legal time expended, and the overall cost and implications of this single remark. Then multiply it by millions of kids informing on millions of other kids, as is now seemingly national educational policy.

If schools say that it is their obligation to pay the legal costs for all cases, this would lead to potential abuse and fraud.

A lawyer and two students could conspire to abuse the system and get money from the schools. Student A acuses Student B of something and reports it to the school system. Student B sues Student A, and Lawyer defends Student A. School pays Student A's legal fees, Lawyer give kickback to Students. Settles out of court, with a gag order, no actual settlement need take place.

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (1)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 13 years ago | (#446578)

and also, besides that. Tipsters need a layer of accountability, otherwise people would lie about others they didnt like. Forcing them to be responsible for what they say can help limit the lies.

Wow, I agree with Jon Katz--sorta. (1)

gimple (152864) | more than 13 years ago | (#446599)

Generally, I err on the side of Civil Liberties (I have even been accused of being a member of the ACLU). So, I have to say that encouraging students to be rat finks is repugnant to me. However, in the aftermath of so many school shootings, the random violence in our urban areas, and the decline of civility in general, I would have to say that I am willing to forfeit some civil liberties in exchange for safety. This however is a slippery slope. Once some liberties are taken it is easy to revoke more.

I think what we are witnessing is a generation of children who have been raised by daycare centers and who are the victims--I don't use this term lightly--of divorce coming of age. The apologists for day care are beginning to recognize that day care is not as harmless as once thought, even though they still tell parents it not THAT bad. Same is true for divorce.

I would have to say that this generation of kids is turning into a pretty good group of nihilists. Maybe we can get our own October Revolution out of this. If they can do such supreme damage at 17, just wait until they are in their mid-to-late twenties.

Damn It! (1)

shepd (155729) | more than 13 years ago | (#446600)

I logged out and boom! A Jon Katz story on the homepage. Normally I keep him muzzled, but damn, I screwed up. So I read it. You never know when (or if) someone will buy a clue. After reading that article, I think he still owes me money.

So, on to the meat of my comment:

First off, anyone 15 and over (and living in North America, or another English speaking country) is, in my book, adult enough to 100% understand the English language, and more than adult enough to understand killing is bad. I'll assume they were both in the same class (and, the same age, the story is full of missing details). That would make them 15, going on what the LA Times says.

If the parents from Lancaster didn't want to spend the money, and the school didn't want to prosecute, then shit man, you aren't under a gun. Just don't prosecute. If you do and lose, TS! That's the way the pickle squirts!

Neither the stoolie, nor the nutcase (and anyone who suggests that everyone should die is a certifiable nut) deserve an ounce of sympathy. I didn't see anything about her insisting she be in the WPP, despite her claims that the nut threatened her. That's what it's there for. Use it. If she was denied, well, then I'd be angry.

If you are a nut and don't seek treatment, TFB. Although, one has to wonder if the parents of this insane man hadn't noticed this behaviour before. They need a little blame.

Why is it that anything that happens on school property makes it automatically 100% the school's job to deal with it? Heck, if I threaten the life of people at work it becomes (mostly) my resposibility to defend myself, and the victim's responsibility to prosecute me.

"Turning kids into informers is viscerally anti-democratic."

That's bullshit. Are you saying that because the police exist we therefore live in a police state? She had the right to not say anything. She also had the right not to personally sue the offender, and let the criminal courts take care of the matter. Take anything to civil court and lose, and you get no sympathy from me.

"there was never any evidence he planned to harm or kill anyone"

If I come up to you and say "I want to kill people." would you just toss that out the window? Which side are you on, anyways, Katz? The criminal's?

"[the boy] is threatened with jail for allegedly making a remark that would, in other times, be considered stupid or worthy of some suspension time."

In the Real World(tm) making death threats is serious. Very serious. It shows a plan to murder. Just plotting to murder is illegal, you know. If you think plotting to kill is just stupid and is for kicks then you need a check up.

Providing "snitch" lines is normal in Real Life(tm) too. Where I am, they have CrimeStoppers. And, if they use your evidence and the person goes to Jail, you actually get a cash bonus. *This* line is for anyone, not just teenagers. Most people think this service kicks ass. The criminals have a problem with it, I hear, though.

These snitch lines are needed. If they were easier for students to access before Columbine there's pretty good chance someone would have picked up the phone and gotten those muderers the help they needed before it was too late.

"Online, teenagers flame each other and everybody else all the time."

And adults don't? You've never seen people on AOL, have you?

"Anybody who's different or doesn't conform -- or who is angry -- can seem dangerous"

Total complete baseless bullshit. If you don't conform you aren't necessarialy dangerous. Look at Ghandi, he damn well didn't conform to being your average Indian. But was he a dangerous man? You're only dangerous when you start threatening other people.

"and kids often had a tough time distinguishing between run-of-the-mill obnoxious and posturing behavior, and truly dangerous behavior worthy of being reported"

Oh please. _Maybe_ there is a _little_ problem with distinction, but not understanding that to kill is murder? Like I say, if you don't understand that by 15, you need to be locked up for the good of society.

"It's the job of parents, educators and psychologists to watch our for and anticipate dangerous behavior."

No, we already employ people to do that. We call them the Police.

Just my 2 cents.

Informer ? here we call it collabo. (1)

olivieradam (162258) | more than 13 years ago | (#446604)

Here, France, we have had such a problem as germans occuped our country, in 40's. For a nation of 40M peoples, they get 120M letters from "informers", victims were not sued, but killed, in death-camps. I ask myself, as my gran'ma died of it, if it is a good principle anyway ...

Re:I was supposed to inform FBI of spies in Engr l (1)

JCCyC (179760) | more than 13 years ago | (#446611)

So, how many football-playing good-for-nothing piles of muscle did you turn in? ;-P

$40,000 Narc Tax (1)

gwjc (181552) | more than 13 years ago | (#446616)

Good a $40,000 fine is a small price to pay for a Narc. I honestly think the appropriate penalty for that kind of scum should be far worse. I can remember when I was a kid a friend of mine from South Korea would tell me horror stories about the North and how kids were encouraged to narc anything and everything to their teachers.. nice to know we've caught up North Korea.

Re:Your pain was all your fault (1)

junklight (183583) | more than 13 years ago | (#446617)

You really have completely missed the point haven't you.
However you should refrain from inflicting your ignorance and stupidity on other people.
mark

Re:Americans (1)

mizhi (186984) | more than 13 years ago | (#446618)

It's got its problems. But I don't think it can't be saved.

This actually good news.... (1)

TheOutlawTorn (192318) | more than 13 years ago | (#446621)

Because after this negative publicity, programs like Pinkerton's WAVE will have a much harder time getting buy-in.

This is why... (1)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 13 years ago | (#446624)

...I homeschool my kids.

Schools have become an ideological battlefield, with all sides of the political spectrum duking it out to see who can indoctrinate the kids the fastest. Children learn by example, an the example of school officials, parents, and society in general is quite poor.

Of course, pity the poor school official who can't win for losing. Ignore even the tinest threat -- perceived or actual -- and leave yourself open to a lawsuit. Ask kids to help you keep tabs on what's happening, and you're the Gestapo. Stop some kid from making violent statements, and have the ACLU on your back for violating the kid's rights to free speech. Give a kid a bad grade, and the parents sue for ruining their baby's self-esteem.

Yuck!

So schools have become paranoid, controlling, and generally ineffective. From grade inflation to enforced drug therapy, the schools have become a battleground, both psychologically and politically. It isn't just a matter of "evil" administrators -- what is wrong with the schools is a reflection of society as a whole.


--
Scott Robert Ladd
Master of Complexity
Destroyer of Order and Chaos

Re:Student Informing - The good side. (1)

guinsu (198732) | more than 13 years ago | (#446629)

I think the difference between your situation and the one of the kid in the story making the threats was that your peers/teachers/school administrators reached out to help you through your problems. Whereas the administrators of this kid's school just threw him to the wolves (i.e. the police).

Wave (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 13 years ago | (#446631)

Every /.er needs to go thru an anon. proxy server and show waveamerica.com what the slashdot affect is. Of course, at the same time filling out 2 or 3 false reports....make them loose time & _money_ and it will come to a screeching halt.

Jaysyn

Re:Americans (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 13 years ago | (#446632)

Your right....and it's getting worse by the day...I'm so glad I am not in school anymore. I'm pretty sure if I was, you would be hearing a story on the news about me....

Jaysyn

Re:Wow, I agree with Jon Katz--sorta. (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 13 years ago | (#446633)

Nothing wrong with the ACLU....or the LP for that matter

Jaysyn

Re:Jon (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 13 years ago | (#446634)

(Offtopic) The only problem w/that is that teacher is usually a bigger homophobe than the student who was picking on you...I had a couple of lesbian friends in highschool that had this happen to them. They could tell the teachers until they were blue in the face, but nothing would change.

Jaysyn

Re:SO we should just ignore it? (1)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 13 years ago | (#446635)

yeah.. maybe we should ignore it?

Perhaps. Should the school have been sued? Maybe. Should she? Hell no. For one, it prevents her right to free speech as well.

what about his right to free speach? Maybe if she had seen a couple of guns and some genades sticking out of the kids bag there is room for complaint.. but just saying something shouldn't result in actions like this.. I mean.. every time you verbally disagree with the government, do you think it would be fair if they took you to trial for suspision of being a terrorist?

This is the most hypocriticle thing i have ever heard considering all the free speach stuff that gets posted here..

BTW, I'm gonna kill you all (that way I get several thousand people to sue if any of you complain :) )

It was a bright cold day in April, (1)

ElVee (208723) | more than 13 years ago | (#446637)

...and the clocks were striking thirteen.

The idea of government schools encouraging students to rat out their peers just makes my skin crawl. Government schools seem to be taking on parental responsibilities at an alarming rate, with the hysterical reaction you could only expect from a bureaucratic institution managed by a popularly-elected committee.

Why not encourage students to rat out their parents for suspicious activities as well? This would certainly create a much safer home environment for government-educated students. You could create a special law enforcement unit just for this purpose. Just for kicks, we could call them the "Thought Police".

George Orwell may have only been off by a few decades, after all.

What If (1)

vinnythenose (214595) | more than 13 years ago | (#446641)

Okay, granted many high school students can't tell between when other kids are pissed off and just cursing and threatening to kill people for the sake of doing it, and when they actually mean it, but don't students have a right to feel safe as well? If I'm walking down a street and hear someone threaten to kill everyone on the block, and I can't tell if they're just angry and spouting off that anger, or if they're serious, I'm going to feel pretty damn threatened.

Nothing is wrong with informing the authorities if you feel your safety, or the safey of other is threatened. Then it's up to the authorities to figure out if it is a real threatening situation.

No on likes a tattle-tale, but they're is nothing wrong in protecting yourself.

That being said yet, yes, without schools willing to stand up and defend whom they get the information from, then they're going to see a lot less information about what goes on in their halls.

"Microsoft bought up another little company!! I'm telling the judge!!!"

Just my opinion, but don't let that stand in the way of the truth ;)

Re:Lawyers (1)

thaddjuice (235568) | more than 13 years ago | (#446657)

Real Fine Troll Magnet = RFTM, not RTFM.

Re:What about societal accountability? (1)

MarkLR (236125) | more than 13 years ago | (#446659)

I agree, after 100+ posts of people complaining about the rights of the person that made the threats it's refreshing to find someone that can understand the real issue here. A person made a threat and when reported they are complaining about the person that reported them, rather than taking responsiblity for their behavior.

Face it Jon, the government is responsible... (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 13 years ago | (#446662)

The government of that paticular school is responsible for the legal costs accrued during this episode. Flat out, they are the ones who took action, so they are required to ensure they do it legally, so they are responsible should the prosecution fail.

The real issue here isn't students reporting students, which is something they should do when the occasion warrants, its the fact that troublemakers like this kid can sue the people who report him.

Thats intimidation clear and simple, and its wholly helped along by the greedy lawyers that infect this land like a plague.

The kids must show the responsibility of being citizens by reporting people who are a risk to others. If we allow intimidation such as this to continue pretty soon we will end up with more Columbines because everyone looked the other way.

What in the hell do you think got us Columbine in the first place Jon??? Simple, pretending so-and-so wasn't serious... or we never heard..

Again, the real story is the fact the school proceeded with an unfit case, lost in higher court, and now refuses to pay legal fees for those who provided information to their case. Let alone the fact that the parents of this young girl should never have been sued in the first place... however lawyers being greedy souless bastards only want one thing, money. Justice is secondary

Who cares? (1)

DevilJeff (243585) | more than 13 years ago | (#446663)

Am I the only one that's sick of hearing about every issue with security in schools, lately?

Re:Americans (1)

DevilJeff (243585) | more than 13 years ago | (#446664)

Actually, if I had some mod points, I'd mod you up for "Couldn't have said it better myself"

Mess! (1)

LordArathres (244483) | more than 13 years ago | (#446665)

As the article points out, if everyone got reported for saying something stupid, there would be a lot of teenagers in jail. Now I do think that people should report things that they might find could be potentially dangerous. While this sounds good in theory it is not very practical, since it rely's on personal judgement. What one might think dangerous, somone might not. We have found a problem. Since the Columbine and other shootings at school, school administration is naturally worried about this problem. I do think it is overblown. The problem is that these occurances are very rare, the media will do its best trying to convince you that it happens everywhere, which is simply not true. Kids dont go around shooting up schools all the time.

The problem with this case is that the school refused to defend the girl who informed them of a potential problem. This was and is NOT a good idea. If I knew that by saying something which might not be true would land myself in court and cause a huge legal problem, not to mention cause huge problems for my family I would think twice, or at LEAST try to find out more information before saying anything. I look at this school as completely irresponsible and they should be sued for not backing up the girl.

It has always been a fact that if you dont fit in with the popular crowd and if you're not a jock, etc... that others will tease and make fun of you. I know for a fact that other /. readers have gone through that sort of thing as have I. Some kids also cannot deal with this sort of thing and go around shooting people or whatever which is sad. If I ever let and of that crap get to me, I know there would be several less people in the world today, the fact is it didnt get to me becuase I didnt care, I dealt with it and moved on. The kids that let teasing get to them should try to deal with it and move on, things will get better. I KNOW this seems simple and I KNOW it mostly doesnt work so chill.

The problem is not the kids that get so mad and depressed they start taking people out, the problem is that other kids are so stupid and thoughtless that they make fun of others for their dumb reasons. Maybe schools should start dealing with THAT issue and then they might start to see school violence start to decline becuase in my opinion I do believe these are related. As Rodney King said

"Why can't we all just get along?"

I do tend to agree with this, but I know it is just a fruitless hope that never will happen. I got through it fine and I wish the best of luck to those going through that crap.

Lord Arathres

informing channels, suing, watch what you say (1)

kipple (244681) | more than 13 years ago | (#446666)

...does this reminds you anything? Let's say, a police state?
Not only you cannot say anything, but everything is stretched to its extreme limits, far beyond "common sense" (there's no such thing as common sense in modern legislation, therefore it doesn't exist, right?).

Kids do what they have to do, and they got sued. Parents follow money and sue other kids, other parents, the school, and so on.

Next time I'll bump into a street light I'll sue some god for having created the earth, and perhaps I'll be done. What is left now?

it seems to me that the actual system is going toward a "everything which is not expressely allowed is denied" system, typical of all dicatorship.

Yet again, democracy is not black and white (1)

Topgun1 (261377) | more than 13 years ago | (#446673)

When I first read the article, one of the first things that popped into my mind was the movie, Swing Kids. In the movie, the Hitler youth require the Nazis-to-be to make reports on who supports Hitler and who doesn't (and actually used these reports). Although not totally analogous, it is something that might prove interesting to think about. Conversely, however, cooperation is what makes our society exist: we all rely on one another. Take Neighborhood Watch, for example. It has proven, at least where I live, to be useful. My point is, a good case can be made for either side, and neither extreme is desirable. I hope this comment isn't considered off topic or flamebait, as I merely hope to hear what people think about when it IS appropriate to tell, and when it is not, if at all.

Informing is not at odds with democracy (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#446675)

Your assertion that informing is inherently anti-democratic is absurd. A democracy succeeds when truth and facts are brought to light. It fails when a shroud of secrecy hides possible danger.

What you are probably correct about, though you completely misstep by blaming the informant, is that over-reaction to threats is equally bad as the threats themselves. It is dangerous to leave troubled kids to their own devices, and it is foolish to toss them in jail for making their thoughts known. Counseling, as you skimmed over in the article, is the key ingredient that seems to have been missing in the aforementioned case. Troubled kids should be identified early and counseled when nearing the edge. This is impossible without someone paying attention, and what better way to learn about these kids than informants? In 99 out of 100 cases, these kids are just going through some adolescent angst, but by catching that 1 kid you may be able to prevent Littletons.

Dancin Santa

Re:Informing is not at odds with democracy (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#446676)

I think you can safely say that these are 'truths':

1) Adam has an gun in his backpack.
2) Bob said he was going to kill Clarice tomorrow.
3) David has been selling drugs to other kids.
4) Ethan comes to school everyday with huge bruises all over his body.

None of these make any assumptions about motives or causes, but state the obvious, 'truths' if you will. In each of these cases, you wouldn't think it's in the best interest of the school to at least find out what's going on?

Dancin Santa

If you prick me, do I not bleed? (1)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#446681)

Pain is in the mind, and in your case it was your mind that invented it all. And why? Because you weren't intelligent or strong enough to realise that self-worth does not come from being a carbon copy of Brittany Spears or whichever slut was the icon at that time.

I am not a robot, like you would like me to be. I have a mind, and whats more, I have feelings and emotions that sway and control my body. Anorexia is not a rational thing, and I, I freely admit, am not a rational girl. Many of my boyfriends have said that that is my most charming feature! But you want to make me a robot, and presumably you would choose one for a wife. Well, I suggest you marry that plastic blow up doll in your cupboard, because you won't get a girl like me, or any girl of spirit!

And by that statement you convince me your life has been shallow, and that you are nothing but a callow youth with much to learn. Worrying about being fat is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, no matter how much it may traumatise your middle-class teenage life.

Not for you perhaps, but I am female. I am judged solely on my looks. I am convinced that it is my looks that have got me my job, my green card and my boyfriend. My looks are an important tool. And intelligent people use all the tools at their disposal! I can see that you don't fit into this category though.

Cynical? Not really, just experianced.

You don't fool me. I can tell you have been worn down by life. You do not have an optomistic or joyful outlook. Are you divorced? I thought so.

I ignore the rest of your quite deliberately hurtful comments.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Re:We abhor students who "turn in their neighbor" (1)

Prince of Jupiter (303015) | more than 13 years ago | (#446693)

"We abhor students who turn in their fellow students for illegal acts (after all, the police can only be involved if a law is alledgedly broken), yet we condemn adults who aid criminals by refusing contact police when they are knowledgable about a crime. Should we be praising the communities whose code of silence allows crime to flourish?"

But the student wasn't turned in for an illegal act; the student was turned in for verbally blowing off steam. It would be one thing if she had told the school that she saw him spraypainting obscenities on the side of the gym, but this is quite another. This is like overhearing me say, "I'd like to have a minelayer attachment for my car to blow up people who tailgate me" and turning me into the authorities over it. People blow off steam verbally; that's how we are. I've said things remarkably similar to what the student said, yet managed to graduate without launching into a shooting spree.
In my opinion, if schools are going to ask students to report "suspicious" behavior exhibited by their peers, the school needs to set some guidelines on what exactly needs to be reported. If a student is overheard actually making plans on how to barricade certain doors, covering certain points, etc., or actually threatening another student, yes, that student needs to be taken aside for counseling; the students who verbally blow off steam occasionally don't all need to be hauled in for disciplinary action and instant pariahship, though.
I don't abhor a student that turns in another student for an illegal activity, but I would abhor a neighbor who called the police because I said, "Man, I don't make enough money; I need to start robbing banks" while balancing my checkbook.

Schools should be liable (1)

banuaba (308937) | more than 13 years ago | (#446702)

If the school is going to institute student-student informing as a de facto or an actual policy, they are going to have to sleep where they make their beds. (methaphor baaaad)
This new wave 'after Columbine' era is quite frightening to me, and this makes me very very glad I'm no longer in school. I was quiet, angry, made various death threats from time to time (mostly in jest or release of bile and usually while Quaking), didn't have many friends except for a small, tight-knit group.... Boy. I would have been locked up and watched on faster than you can imagine. And, I suspect that the geekier of you out there woudl have fallen under that same umbrella.
Is being dorky a crime? A loner? Angry? It seems that we are heading there, faster than I'd like.

Brant
Brant

Lawyers (1)

purple_rider (309236) | more than 13 years ago | (#446712)

Overzealous lawyers are ruining this country.

Really: Who cares? (1)

purple_rider (309236) | more than 13 years ago | (#446713)

Like the article says, security in schools is basically very good. We don't hear about the schools where their are no problems. We only hear about violence from the media, who whore themselves out for ratings (not unlike myself, whoring for karma). They claim journalistic integrity, but don't report the 99% of the time when everything is "status quo". Incidents of major violence are rare. But I could be wrong. Maybe every kid brings guns to school. But I doubt it. Just like the real world, there are the 99%'ers who live life and don't make the news. But we only hear from the 1% who do insane things.

Re:Lawyers (1)

purple_rider (309236) | more than 13 years ago | (#446714)

Common sense has no place in the courtrooms or the law in general. Like I said, where does it end? Do the parents get sued for suing? They should take the $40,000 hit and be proud. I'd rather be broke than sell my morals.

Re:Informing is not at odds with democracy (1)

smoke'n'mirrors (310688) | more than 13 years ago | (#446717)

No matter how carefully any issue is approached, one person's truth and facts will never be exactly the same as another person's truth and facts.

That is the problem with running a democracy where everyting is in the open. Ever had a story run about you in the newspapaer? Dollars to doughnuts says even if it was a friendly story, they still didn't tell it the way you would.

Also, to prove my point, just read 3 different books about any given time in history. The story changes depending on who is telling it.

Excluding religious views (different issue), there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Re:Anorexia? Oh don't make me laugh (1)

Strom Thurmond (R-SC (310866) | more than 13 years ago | (#446718)

Yeah, to paraphrase George Carlin:

Rich cunt, don't wanna eat, fuck her.
You may all lick my rear now.

Strom Thurmond; the dean of the US Senate...

A shrine to Jon Katz (1)

ILuvJonKatz (312624) | more than 13 years ago | (#446721)

I must, one day, build a shrine. It will be a shrine to Jon Katz. As I read this article/column, I was struck by how often and how well Jon Katz makes his points. There's nothing more pressing now than the threat of the loss of our democracy and especially the loss of our democracy for the young (in public schools no less). The way that Jon Katz is able to focus in on this problem and attack with such fortitude is consistantly reaffirming to me and my sense of democracy. Jon Katz, don't ever stop writing. What will I do without you? I'll just have to curl into a ball. Keep them coming.
--
You can't imagine how much I really do love Jon Katz.

Re:SO we should just ignore it? (1)

JohnSmith1138 (313010) | more than 13 years ago | (#446723)

There is a BIG difference between verbally disagreeing with someone and threatening to kill someone. As many times as this kind of thing happens today, yes, we have to investigate these kinds of threats. Now see, I've disagreed, told you my points and not threatened anything. Free speech.

Its our own fault (1)

Razzious (313108) | more than 13 years ago | (#446724)

Who do we have to blame but ourselves? Sure we should have the safety of relying on parents or guardians to inform the school or local authorities of odd behavior paterns. If you will notice though the kids shooting up schools don;t have parents that are capable of watching for this.

So we want to drag the schools down saying they are wrong for their attempts to stop these horrible acts? Schools are already under funded and when the shootings happen they get the lawsuits thrown at them from parents saying they should have been on guard to students acting this way. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS! Its the parents of the kids that need to be in tune. America as a whole is making school a daycare or caretaker for their kids instead of being an active part in their life.

I will agree and say its a sad day when a girl has this much trouble because she was doing what she was told. I hope she wins the lawsuit to get her legal bills paid for. I hope her and her family rot in hell if they try some multi million dollar punitive damage suit against the school though.


Razzious Domini

Re:Anorexia? Oh don't make me laugh (1)

tthomas148 (314130) | more than 13 years ago | (#446725)

This is a ridiculously offensive comment. This is like saying that alchoholism is just a ploy to make money for AA. While I agree that psychologists have talken helping people and created a multi-billion dollar business of sedating the public, that doesn't mean the problems don't exist. Before ADD there were hyperactive children. There still are hyperactive children. The only difference is that there are doctors who are willing to prescribe Ritilin the moment your child misbehaves. Your using poor logic. Bad Doctor + Misdiagnosing Medicine != Disease Does Not Exist This is much in the same vein as having a doctor amputate the wrong leg. Would you say in that because there was nothing wrong with the leg that was amputated that amuptation is never necessary? Oh, and please don't get me started on how insensitive your remarks are. You need three sisters to slap you around for that comment.

Re:Lawyers (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#446729)

I don't think these lawsuits are silly or trivial. The family of the girl is suing the school because she did what they told her to do, and they lost $40,000. So the family says the school is responsible for the consequences of their instructions. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Re:Really: Who cares? (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#446733)

Security in schools is bad. Talk about an oppressive environment... it's no wonder children are screwed up. Security isn't the way to fix much deeper social problems.

democracy creates legalism (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#446735)

The NY Times Sunday magazine has an <A HREF="http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home /20010204mag-legalman.html"> article </A>
on this phenomenom.
The author claims the less class structure in society,
the more laws take over. Thats the price.

Re:School Choice & Tort Reform (2)

Wreck (12457) | more than 13 years ago | (#446736)

Hear hear. Someone mod this up.

Though it is not that private schools "could" choose to be different. It is that at least some would so choose, to try to get a competitive advantage.

Loser pays, but modified (2)

bee (15753) | more than 13 years ago | (#446739)

The solution to this is that if the loser's costs are less than the winner's, the loser doesn't pay any more than his own costs. So if you sue Microsoft (or they sue you) and you lose, your legal bill will at most double. To this add some rules to keep the actual cost honest, and it eliminates the majority of objections to 'loser pays'.

---

Court case reform (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 13 years ago | (#446742)

I like the concept that I friend of mine and I had while driving home from an SCA event:

In the case of person A suing person B, then person A has to put up the amount that they are suing for, and pay out if they lose. This seems ridiculous only if you don't know how court cases work in reality:

Most of these cases are being done by lawyers for free. If they lose, they pay a few hundred in court costs. If they win, they get thousands, sometimes over a million, in fees.

If they have to pony up the amount they are demanding (and it will be provided through organizations that will spring up like the existing insurance companies or bail bondsman), then they will only take realistic cases that they stand to win (that have a good premise), and won't request ludicrous sums on money (in the millions). If they consistantly take cases on bad premises, then the bondsmen who provide the money will not let them continue.

Sure, there are big holes if you envision certain cases, but our current system has a horrible case of dysentary, and we are hemmoraging through our legal system. I think this basic concept is fairly sound, and just needs a few tweaks. Comments?

--
Evan

Welcome to the New America. . . (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#446744)

The Bill of Rights: void where prohibited by law

Common Sense: Void, prohibited by lawyers

I'm beginning to think that "loser pays" and penalties for frivolous lawsuits are looking like a better idea with every passing day. . .

It's either that, or implement the Shakespeare Solution:

First thing we do, we kill all the lawyers...

We abhor students who "turn in their neighbor" (2)

west (39918) | more than 13 years ago | (#446749)

We abhor students who turn in their fellow students for illegal acts (after all, the police can only be involved if a law is alledgedly broken), yet we condemn adults who aid criminals by refusing contact police when they are knowledgable about a crime. Should we be praising the communities whose code of silence allows crime to flourish?

Of course not (well, _I_ don't think so...). In other words, the problem is with the law itself, not the students response to it. Informing about known crimes is considered good citizenship and possibly even necessary to a functioning society. Instead of attempting to promote the code of silence that allows any number of illegal acts to go unreported, we should look at adjusting the laws to take into account situation and youth.

Re:Jon (2)

prizog (42097) | more than 13 years ago | (#446752)

"I'm part of a persecuted minority in this country due to my sexual orientation, but I'll take my .45 over hate-crime legistlation any day of the week."

Kids can't own guns. You wouldn't want them to. I'm all for individual rights and personal responsibility, but kids don't have responsibility. (Not that I believe an arbitrary age cut-off is a good thing - that's a separate issue).

If I were still in HS, and I were threatened on account of my sexual orientation or for any other reason, you can bet I would tell a teacher. That's what they're there for. School is a place for learning, where you ought to be able feel safe, concentrate on classes, etc. Not everything people say should be taken seriously, but most people can tell the difference. If you don't feel safe, you're not going to be able to focus fully on school - and you ought not to be required to live like that. So, if you want to solve it with your .45, that's fine for you (an adult). But, a kid doesn't have that option. Even if they did, a kid did have a .45, still might prefer not to use it (as a threat), since the other guy might have a bazooka.

Re:Student Informing - The good side. (2)

cetan (61150) | more than 13 years ago | (#446761)

A decent troll on your part, but not good enough. It's still obvious.

If perhaps you threw less "catch phrases" in there it might have gotten by. Your bit of fiction is /too/ believable.

thank you, pull through.

Anti-democratic? LOL (2)

Nehemiah S. (69069) | more than 13 years ago | (#446762)

Student informing, encouraged and epidemic in American schools since well before the Columbine killings, is an irrational, anti-democratic practice that SNIP

I guess it would be better (err, more democratic?) if students got together and voted to suspend each other, instead of reporting kids who appear to have severe problems? If someone threatens to kill somebody, I'm sure as hell going to at least report him to someone in a position of authority. If you don't like it, don't make empty threats in public.

Now, I agree that the authorities got carried away in this case, and I think the kid is perfectly within his rights to sue over it. But I don't agree that reporting potential killers in any way threatens my constitutional rights.

Re:Welcome to the New America. . . (2)

belroth (103586) | more than 13 years ago | (#446768)

As far as I understand it (IANAL) the way it works here in the UK is that in a civil suit you can apply for 'costs' if you win the case. It is then up to the Judge to decide how much of the winners costs will be paid by the loser, from 0 to 100%.
The judges are normally pretty good on this - 100% is quite common if they decide the case was clear-cut but a pyrhhic victory of 0% isn't unknown either, if the judge has more of a clue than the jury...
----

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (2)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 13 years ago | (#446771)

you cant have it anonymous, that opens up even more room for suits and overturning. A person has the right to confront their accuser, and even if the school/police use the tip as a starting point for an investigation...many judges will throw it out if the starting point is tainted. THROW OUT EVERYTHING. Thats why anonymous tips, dont really work.

Re:Anorexia? Oh don't make me laugh (2)

nomadic (141991) | more than 13 years ago | (#446773)


How can anyone rationally argue that there's an illness which makes people miserable in winter? But no, it's "quick, get the drugs!"

I assume you're talking about seasonal affectation disorder, which has a chemical basis. And the favored treatment for it is light therapy, not drugs.

as if pumping chemicals into your bloodstream is the solution to anything.

I take it you don't believe in antibiotics or vaccines? Insulin shots for diabetics? Or do you think that the brain is some magical entity that doesn't follow biochemical laws like every other organ?

As for competition, it's healthy in making sure that people don't end up without any kind of spirit at all. Without some form of it, children will end up shiftless and lazy, which is pretty much what we're beginning to see today.

Give me a break. People have been saying that "shiftless and lazy" remark for millenia. If it were true we'd all be immobile by now. Look at the facts; nowadays people work harder than their parents and grandparents did. More children are working at a younger age. More people put in 7 day work weeks. More college students work part- and full-time.
--

Win a Week's Vacation and $40,000! (2)

peccary (161168) | more than 13 years ago | (#446774)

follow these easy steps:
(1) go to Radio Shack and buy one of those voice disguise toys
(2) find a pay phone in the shopping mall
(3) at 9:00 PM, call your High School's answering machine and leave an anonymous paniced message stating that you saw a boy with a whole bunch of guns 'n stuff telling his friends how he was gonna blow up his WHOLE SCHOOL!
(4) Name yourself as the boy in question.
(5) get suspended the next morning
(6) sue your school for damages

happy days!

Re:A first... (2)

revelation0 (164235) | more than 13 years ago | (#446775)

I totally agree with your analysis of the over-exageration of a childs actions.

I live in Orlando, FL, and was listen to the radio the other day while they discussed an EIGHT year old boy who, during lunch, picked up a breaded chicken finger, pointed it at a class mate, and said "Bang, Bang".

Consequentially, the boy was suspended from school for three days.

Now, if this were anything other than a small child being not just ignorant of his actions, but actually commiting them in the name of fun, there would be a problem. So if I see some neighborhood children down the street playing cops and robbers, or cowboys and indians, or any one of those infamous childhood games, I should immediately alert the authorities because they are "possibly" going to actually harm someone from it? I'm sorry, but we've just taken this whole worrisome scenario to another level.

Revelations 0:0 - The beginning of the end.

Re:Lawyers (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#446778)

Personally, I think the fact that the courts have accepted the family's lawsuit against the school is proof that the system works.

Schools will drop this bad policy when they realize that they could be ultimately responsible for the costs of any damages done to the students as a result of the policy.

So, if the suit pans out, the eeeevil court system will have solved the "student profiling" issue within a couple years of going into effect, while Jon's brand of "activism" (i.e. writing lots of on-line columns complaining about it) might never have produced any results.

Forward the LA Times story to... (2)

JCCyC (179760) | more than 13 years ago | (#446779)

...every HS student you know, and tell them to pass around. THAT'll teach those bozos.

I'll bet you get "pricked" a lot (2)

flatpack (212454) | more than 13 years ago | (#446782)

I am not a robot, like you would like me to be. I have a mind, and whats more, I have feelings and emotions that sway and control my body.

Indeed you do, and from the sounds of it, it's a desparate craving for the attention and approval that you never got from your parents. I'm sure you're a hit with the boys aren't you?

Anorexia is not a rational thing, and I, I freely admit, am not a rational girl. Many of my boyfriends have said that that is my most charming feature!

LOL! I bet they do. When men of your age see a girl who so desparately wants to be popular, they know they're in for a good time! Girls like you don't seem to realise that the approval of others is not any way to make yourself feel better, and because of this you'll do anything to make yourself feel wanted.

There's a word for that you know.

But you want to make me a robot, and presumably you would choose one for a wife. Well, I suggest you marry that plastic blow up doll in your cupboard, because you won't get a girl like me, or any girl of spirit!

Unfortunately for you, you're jumping to conclusions, which is a bad thing to do. I am quite happily married with a young son thank you, and my wife is a lovely, intelligent woman who knows what her place in life is and doesn't have any of your issues.

As for spirit, yes I bet you've got "spunk" in bucketfulls.

Not for you perhaps, but I am female. I am judged solely on my looks. I am convinced that it is my looks that have got me my job, my green card and my boyfriend. My looks are an important tool. And intelligent people use all the tools at their disposal!

And when you've only got one tool, it doesn't take any intelligence to realise it's all you can use.

I can see that you don't fit into this category though.

No, I don't fit into your category at all. And thank God for that!

Your pain was all your fault (2)

flatpack (212454) | more than 13 years ago | (#446783)

You have no idea how it hurts me to hear that said. Are you saying that the pain I suffered, the anguish, was all a figment of my imagination? I can assure you it is not invented.

Pain is in the mind, and in your case it was your mind that invented it all. And why? Because you weren't intelligent or strong enough to realise that self-worth does not come from being a carbon copy of Brittany Spears or whichever slut was the icon at that time.

I come from a good looking family, and we have always placed a huge value on looks, especially my mother (the main reason I moved to America). This meant that when I was young and impressionable, and bombarded by media images, I had a false bodymap, and I always though I was fat, even though my weight fell to less than 50 pounds at one stage.

Indeed, it sounds as though your parents shouldn't have been allowed to breed at all, what with their wonderfully modern attitude to their children. Whilst I'm not a fan of eugenics, some people just shouldn't be allowed to breed.

I can assure you that what I went through is not a fiction. It was the most scarring experiance of my life.

And by that statement you convince me your life has been shallow, and that you are nothing but a callow youth with much to learn. Worrying about being fat is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, no matter how much it may traumatise your middle-class teenage life.

And drugs helped me a lot, even the recreational ones. Frankly, I just don't understand cynical people like you flatpack.

Cynical? Not really, just experianced.

I can take the flames and the jealousy, and the awful emails and sexual suggestions, but this is too much.

Jealousy? Of a child like you? Bwahahahaha. I think not :)

Yeah, work harder at committing crime (2)

flatpack (212454) | more than 13 years ago | (#446784)

Give me a break. People have been saying that "shiftless and lazy" remark for millenia. If it were true we'd all be immobile by now. Look at the facts; nowadays people work harder than their parents and grandparents did. More children are working at a younger age. More people put in 7 day work weeks. More college students work part- and full-time.

The only thing that kids of today put their efforts into is dealing drugs, getting alcohol and committing crimes. Have you ever lived in one of our cities? The kids there do nothing apart from hang around doing these things, because they've never had any discipline or a good schooling system that encourages team sports and other activities.

We need to move back from the current view that competition is bad, because all it's doing is giving kids nothing better to do than hanging around getting involved in crime.

Re:Jon (2)

AstynaxX (217139) | more than 13 years ago | (#446785)

...and its especially bad karma to get shot. They don't have a Federal witness protetion program for the fun of it, you know. So, do the right thing, and lose everything you ever worked for in life, friends, family, jobs, your very identity. Or, if you want to stay who you are, risk getting shot down on the street one day out of the blue. And its even worse for those who don't qualify for protection. Yup, they didn't think I was in enough danger, even though when Spike McKiller gets out on parole due to overcrowding, he'l be knocking on my door to say 'hi'.

I don't advocate doing nothing in all cases, but the previous poster has a point, and in the the end, you have to weigh the consequences very carefully, beause they are huge and permanent.

-={(Astynax)}=-

State-sponsored tattletales... (2)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 13 years ago | (#446787)

When I went to school, we had a name for these kids... "Tattletales". I can think of many, many instances in which someone "told" on someone else, simply to get them in trouble. In some cases, the tattler was punished when his tales were proven to have no basis in reality. The fact that they're now government-sponsored, largely unaccountable, and their words are accepted as divine providence scares the hell out of me.

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (2)

Neumann (240442) | more than 13 years ago | (#446788)

The perfect solution to this would be to not charge the kid for uttering those words. First would be to talk to the kid and have the parents involved. Tell the kid that these phrases spark fear in a "post columbine world". If the kid is reasonable, he will stop or watch how he expresses himself. If he is not, then you start with detention, then suspension, then expulsion, THEN involve the law. All the while the kids parents are part of this process. There is no need to have the authorities involved so soon. Having the police and the court system involved so soon only leads to situations like this. This is a simple solution but it is not always easy. There are poor school administrators, bad parents, and even bad kids. However, every attempt has to be made to educate the administrators, the parents AND the kids about what effect words have on people.

Re:Jon (2)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#446790)

Which is why if you're ever involved in an investigation, you say "I don't know and even if I did I wouldn't tell you."

That is the *stupidest* advice I've ever heard. Turning in someone for smoking behind the gym is one (bad) thing. Turning in someone who is making threats on others' lives is a completely different thing.

To give the police no information when you've got some, you are allowing a criminal to walk. If your best friend was shot, hell if you saw some stranger get shot, and you knew who did it, you wouldn't tell the police? What kind of stupid-ass idiot are you? You are implicitely condoning the criminal's action by not helping the police apprehend him.

It's bad karma to harbor criminals. It's bad karma to not help seek counseling for troubled friends.

Dancin Santa

Re:Anorexia? Oh don't make me laugh (2)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#446791)

You have no idea how it hurts me to hear that said. Are you saying that the pain I suffered, the anguish, was all a figment of my imagination? I can assure you it is not invented.

I come from a good looking family, and we have always placed a huge value on looks, especially my mother (the main reason I moved to America). This meant that when I was young and impressionable, and bombarded by media images, I had a false bodymap, and I always though I was fat, even though my weight fell to less than 50 pounds at one stage.

I can assure you that what I went through is not a fiction. It was the most scarring experiance of my life.

And drugs helped me a lot, even the recreational ones. Frankly, I just don't understand cynical people like you flatpack.

Its people like you that make me think about leaving this forum, and make me wonder about the evilness of human nature.

I can take the flames and the jealousy, and the awful emails and sexual suggestions, but this is too much.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

Re:SO we should just ignore it? (2)

vidarh (309115) | more than 13 years ago | (#446792)

There is a huge difference between an adult making a very specific statement about intending to kill someone at a specific time, and a kid saying something like "I want you all to die", or "I'll kill you if you tell anyone". Almost anyone will have said something like the latter, and almost noone goes through with it.

The question is where do you draw the line? And why do people ignore that school related violence was on a downturn before these measures started popping up? And why do people believe that a child is qualified to see the signals of another kid being dangerous?

The main danger isn't the kid who go around saying they're going to kill someone. The danger lie in kids that are deeply psychologically disturbed. Sometimes the two intersect, often it doesn't.

Have anyone actually checked whether there is a larger intersection between those who say they'll kill and those who do it, than between say, those that play football and those who kill?

No. Because it's so much easier to just assume that anyone who is "different", or anyone that is careless about what they say, is dangerous.

And another issue is what they'll be asked to report next?

What will the school officials, without any psychological training, or actual verification procedures in place, decide may be "contributing factors" to violence?

It isn't that far fetched that someone may start thinking about requesting kids to report religious beliefs (because they're scared shitless about kids flirting with satanism), music interest (ohhh, those scary heavy metal and death metal people), political affiliations (those dangerous anarchists and other political extremists, on both sides of the spectrum are surely likely to be plotting politically motivated killings - kids these days), etc.

Or maybe they'll ask them to report their classmates parents? Because of course they affect their kids, and before you know it they've turned them into killers...

How long before parents starts seeing the parallels to Hitlerjugend?

And how many see the irony in the name of Pinkertons program, in light of the movie "The Wave", about a class experiment that ends up in pupils snitching on each other in the worst possible fascist style?

This is a very slippery slope.

Re:Lawyers (2)

purple_rider (309236) | more than 13 years ago | (#446793)

I hit submit too fast... $40,000 to defend their child, then suing to be reimbursed, then what? More suits?

Abuse of Informant Channels for Harrassment (3)

SoftwareJanitor (15983) | more than 13 years ago | (#446796)

One thing that will likely become a problem is that people can very easily use informant channels, particularly those that are anonymous like 800 numbers or email to harrass people they don't like. All they have to do is make an accusation against someone and then wait for overzealous officials to tear into that person. Given zero tolerance policies and the general lack of critical investigation into the accuracy of accusations, this could cause a lot of innocent people grief. Even if officials do take time to investigate properly and the innocent are exonnerated, many people will continue to doubt, fear and distrust them for a considerable period after that. And in the schools, guilty until proven innocent is the norm, not the other way around. Sometimes even being proven innocent isn't good enough, especially if it looks like an official goofed. They will often refuse to rescind punishment in order to save face for themselves. Not to mention that the standard for "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't seem to figure into school decisions. Kids are considered guilty unless a school official's opinion is that they are innocent beyond any doubt. Kids don't get the option of a trial by their peers either. Schools usually operate as the worst kind of kangaroo court.

Jon (3)

Shoeboy (16224) | more than 13 years ago | (#446797)

This is hardly a new issue.
There have been tattletales for as long as there have been authority figures.
The way to deal with them is simple - stand back and let their bad karma catch up with them.
People really do reap what they sow. It's a law of nature. Reporting things like an individual blowing off steam or smoking behing the school building is simply asking for the universe to pay you back with interest.
Which is why if you're ever involved in an investigation, you say "I don't know and even if I did I wouldn't tell you."
If you don't, others will fail to respect you and you will fail to respect yourself. And you aren't helping anyone by informing - authorities are under no obligation to protect you, and even if they try, they won't be very effective.
It's up to you to protect yourself - that's why we have the second ammendment in this country.
I'm part of a persecuted minority in this country due to my sexual orientation, but I'll take my .45 over hate-crime legistlation any day of the week.
--Shoeboy

Lancaster CA is a scary place... (3)

aberoham (30074) | more than 13 years ago | (#446799)

Lancaster California, from my (detached) view, seems to be a town full of iodine seeking crank junkies and intolerant white-folk --

NAZI GANG CALLED KEY PLAYER IN DRUG TRADE [mapinc.org]
California town sees rash of hate crime [sltrib.com]
Grammy Min discuesses trial for not keeping records on crystal iodine sales [cnn.com]

I could be wrong in my opinion, but I find it kind of fitting that Katz would choose an incident in Lancaster to examplify the blight of school informants ...

School Choice & Tort Reform (3)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 13 years ago | (#446801)

Lurking behind the obvious "these rules are stupid" issue are a couple of important issues:
  • School choice. The public school and taxation system financially constrains parents to send their children to these schools. Private schools could choose to have less insane policies regarding informants, non-prescription medications, and good samaritans.
  • Tort reform. The real solution here is to make the boy's parents pay for the lawsuit directed against the girl's parents -- automatically -- to discourage frivolous lawsuits. Note: the lawsuit against the school was not frivolous, but the lawsuit against the girl's parents was.
So really, there are at least three ways this incident was atrocious: the school's informant rules, the lack of school choice, and the lack of tort reform. Try not to confuse them.

The Schools are being like overprotective parents (3)

11thangel (103409) | more than 13 years ago | (#446802)

The School's really don't have much of a choice in the matter. If they encourage people to inform, they get the above mentioned result. If they DON'T, then they face lawsuits for not taking proper precautions to ensure the safety of the students. It's a catch 22. I think the best possible way to do it would be to make it anonymous, to avoid the above result, but that leaves the open hole for pranks to get people in serious trouble. I can't see any "perfect" solution to this, but I don't think that the current system has failed completely. (and in relation to a comment i saw as i was clicking reply, yes, no matter what the outcome, the lawyers get rich off of it.)

1984 & Salem (3)

tethal91 (263165) | more than 13 years ago | (#446804)

Students informing on one another and their eldersis the stuff of chilling novels and shameful history. The difficulty of the current situation is that there are appropriate times to inform, which are blurred, and there are certain levels of responsibilty missing in our system. Schools are steadily growing worse at over reacting to everything, from aspirin to normal adolescent boundary testing that is essential to our growth as independent adults. Students, in many schools, are viewed more as enemies than pupils, and certainly not partners in their own education experience. How anyone learns in these schools is a mystery to me. And why is it the students job to snich? Parents should, but don't far too often, take active roles in their children's lives. Teachers are so overburdened in most districts and so underpaid, that they are incapable of knowing their students well enough to understand them. Policies in many places create artificial divisions between teacher and student a between the students themselves. High school is a destructive enough time in many peoples lives already. TO further alienate those already on the fringe by these over-reactionary policies is just inviting more Columbines....

Re:Yeah, work harder at committing crime (4)

nomadic (141991) | more than 13 years ago | (#446806)

The only thing that kids of today put their efforts into is dealing drugs, getting alcohol and committing crimes. Have you ever lived in one of our cities? The kids there do nothing apart from hang around doing these things, because they've never had any discipline or a good schooling system that encourages team sports and other activities.

I was born and raised in New York City. Neither I nor my friends dealt drugs, binged on alcohol, or committed crimes (it's been my experience that the most screwed-up kids come from the suburbs) I had an excellent schooling that didn't emphasize team sports, and I never participated in them. I thought they were silly, and I still do. Competition has its place, but it's not some magical cure-all for society's problems.
--

They already do, it's called DARE (4)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#446807)

Why not encourage students to rat out their parents for suspicious activities as well? This would certainly create a much safer home environment for government-educated students. You could create a special law enforcement unit just for this purpose. Just for kicks, we could call them the "Thought Police".

DARE, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is notorious for brain washing school children into turning in their parents.

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (4)

shinji1911 (238955) | more than 13 years ago | (#446808)

Asking for citizens to turn other citizens in reeks of fascism and repressive Soviet rule under Stalin.

If the incident is sufficiently noteworthy, people will _automatically_ turn others in -- there needs be no urging.

As for anonymous: you pointed out the problems of such a system -- even less accountability than we have now. This is no small prank here. We're talking about a 'tipoff' that can send a kid to jail for six months, or more. Think that geek's ever going to Harvard, no matter what his grades? I think not. Want an anonymous tipping system? I don't.

As for not 'encouraging' people to inform -- the approach should be no 'active' encouragement, and stringent face-to-face meetings between the accused and the accuser, and then a decision should be made. And if the accuser is shown to be in bad faith, then there should be a significant punishment for abuse of the system. (Intent to harm other person using government funds and resources..., yadda yadda)

That's the only possible way that we can be back to normal. Otherwise, this thing will just spiral out of control.

Rampant Informing may make problem worse. (4)

TheWhiteOtaku (266508) | more than 13 years ago | (#446809)

I would imagine that knowing your friends could turn you into the Thought Police would make anyone extremely paranoid.

Teens will no longer trust their friends with anything that could be used against them. Wouldn't this make violent people even more paranoid and anti-social? Paranoia and social isolation were some of the things that caused Columbine. These programs don't get to the problem's cause at all, and are sure failures.

The Fall of Zero-Tolerence (5)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#446811)

This is a strong case, as well as many others of recent, that put faults at the Zero-Tolerence against (something) implemented at many schools. Some others that I've read about was the 6-yr old boy, when hearing the school bus pull up, ran naked to the front window from the bath (where his mom was trying to keep him as he was sick), and because a few girls on the bus saw it, he was punished for sexual harassment; a young teenager suspended for having a Tweety 6" long keychain, in voilation of the school's ban on any weapons including chains that could be used to choken ppl; and several cases where prescription drugs were taken away from students when they needed them (some requiring medical attention afterwards) as the school has a zero-drug policy.

Zero-tolerence does not work -- there is no ground for common sense and specifics of the case, and in some cases, enforcement can vary depending on whom is doing the enforcement -- what's to stop a teacher saying that a flip-comb couldn't be used as a weapon? In addition, zero-tolerence does not allot for those brain-fart mistakes that result from the hecetic morning (a good example, thankfully not z-tolerence enforced, is that I need to wear safety shoes in my workplace, I did happen to forget these one day, and wore tennis shoes - forturnately, nothing bad came of it, as I stayed out of the hazardous areas).

I think with this, and with failures of the 3-strikes law for convinctions in CA (with the example of a guy getting significant number of years for stealing some candy on his 3rd conviction), is going to push away zero-tolerence policies, and go back to at least some sensable way to determine guilt before placing judgement. It can punish those that has no intent to commit a crime, and cost millions in lawsuits as seen here. If the school did have in place the informent program but took steps to make sure that students weren't tossing around random blame nor to fully investigate the effects, then none of the lawsuits would have happened, and the student that was blamed would have not had been expelled in the first place.

Re:Welcome to the New America. . . (5)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 13 years ago | (#446812)

I'm beginning to think that "loser pays" and penalties for frivolous lawsuits are looking like a better idea with every passing day. . .

The problem with "loser pays" is that it makes large companies untouchable. If your next-door neighbor screws you and you sue him and lose, it costs you a few thousand dollars. If you sue Microsoft and lose, you're instantly six digits in debt because they put a team of fifteen highly paid corporate lawyers on the job. Oh sure, maybe one of them actually did any work on it, but because he walked past the other fourteen in the hall and said hello to them, they'll bill for it. And the beauty of it is that your hometown lawyer never had a chance against a mob of the best corporate lawyers in the country. They already stall as long as possible to drive up your legal expenses; a loser-pays system just makes it harder to get justice.

In the actual case under discussion, the boy's family has every right to sue for defamation. That being said, I don't think the girl's family ought to pick up the tab because by being recruited as an informer, she was basically acting as an agent or employee of the school district.

--

SO we should just ignore it? (5)

Patman (32745) | more than 13 years ago | (#446813)

If anyone says "I'm going to kill people here",
should we just ignore it? Laugh it off? Pretend
it never happened? Hell no!
I agree, to a certain extent, that adolescents AND
adults say things they don't mean. Investigations
do need to take this into account.
To presume, however, that the solution to this
problem lies with students(or anyone else) ignoring
everything they hear is patently absurd! What if,
for instance, I was to say "I will kill the CEO of my
company this Thursday at four." Would it be absurd
for one of my coworkers to report me? Of course
not! This is a legitimate threat. Now, lets' say the
CEO does something I don't like, and I say, off the
cuff, "Geez, I'd like to take that bastard out".
Probably harmless. But still, it should be
investigated, or at LEAST given a cursory examination!

Threatening others, while certainly easy to do, and a
way to let off steam, is not acceptable, under any
circumstances. This is not the sort of thing that
can be argued is harmless to others. If this student
had been serious, the safety of the whole school
was at stake.

The student who blew the whistle, in this case,
did precisely what she was supposed to do. She
heard a threat with no context and reported it.
Did the school overreact? Perhaps. Should the
school have been sued? Maybe. Should she? Hell no.
For one, it prevents her right to free speech as
well. For two, she was providing credible, correct
information about a possibly dangerous situation
to someone in a position to do something about it.

In the end, what is crucial here is to remember
that anything you say can be overheard and
misinterpreted. If you don't mean it, don't say it.
It is easier said than done, but is the best way
to prevent problems like this one.

(My apologies for the odd formatting. Posting through
lynx will do that to you.)

A first... (5)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 13 years ago | (#446814)

Lucid article from Katz, that is.

This whole "snitch" business is yet another attempt by school boards across America to absolve themselves of any and all culpability by making students and teachers responsible for reporting any and all threats. In this way, a school board can make the claim that it is in no way responsible that little Johnny shot up the school because nobody every reported that little Johnny threatened to do so.

This is very much like "zero tolerance": Force zero tolerance policies so that school boards and other administrators never have to open them up to responsibility by doing the wrong thing. It's a no-brainer for them: Everybody is treated like the criminal they are, so nobody can sue for disparate treatment.

Parents need to take the initiative and teach their children the difference between a "real" threat ("See this AK-47? I'm gonna blow some jocks away") and a "perceived threat" ("I wish I could kill every student in this fucked-up place"). All too often, vague or unspecified threats are being taken way too seriously by school officials -- again, it all boils down to school administrators not wanting to have to shoulder any blame in the event they actually use an intelligent decision-making process to separate the wackos from the disenfranchised. It's much easier just to assume every student is a criminal, especially for intellectually-challenged school boards.

Re:The Schools are being like overprotective paren (5)

JWhitlock (201845) | more than 13 years ago | (#446815)

One way to possibly keep the lawyers out of it would to take the punishments out of the criminal justice system (a count of terrorism for an overheard comment?) and where it belongs, in the hands of school psycologists and counselors.

Anonymous tips should start a counseling cycle, which can be as short as one session, to determine whether a kid is serious, or is was just stupid. When possible, these early sessions should be removed from permanent records, to reduce the negative affects and allow kids to occasionally make mistakes.

Despite Columbine, it is still safer for kids to be in school than outside. Making the random comments of adolesents grounds for criminal charges is unreasonable and unforgivable. It fosters an "us against them" mentality, and further isolates borderline cases. It sounds like the ideas of politicians or insane school boards (zero-tolerance policies), rather than rational ideas from those who know kids best, who work with them every school day.

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