Thanks to the miracle of e-mail and a few administrators outraged at the latest law enforcement intrusion into American schools, we present below the FBI's Geek Profile, the agency's secret checklist of potentially violent characteristics being distributed to educational institutions in the United States and Canada. I'm turning myself in.
Do you have above average intelligence? Are you sometimes a loner, a part of a small circle of friends perceived as outsiders?
Do you have "unstable" self-esteem? Are you fascinated by cults, weapons, games with themes of violence and death?
Do you come from a dysfunctional home? Resent authority? Reject criticism?
If the answer to most or all of the above is yes, then congratulations and welcome to the FBI's Geek Profile, its checklist of dangerous or potentially violent characteristics in school children.
In recent weeks this psychological "tool," polished by the FBI and other agencies and now being distributed to a school near you, has been creeping across the country.
Federal and local law enforcement authorities have used this sort of profiling for years to spot potential assassins, criminals and terrorists.
Now, following a small number of horrific school shootings, it's being made available to educators in the United States and, according to a number of northern e-mailers, Canada as well.
And it's not alone out there. Last month, the federal government announced that Mosaic-2000, a computer profiling system developed by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (AFT) Division and a private celebrity - security agency, was being deployed to 30 or more U.S. schools to "target potentially dangerous people."
Neither federal nor school officials have said how this material will be stored, or to whom it might be made available. Nor is it clear whether students will be made aware of the fact that they are being labeled potential murderers, or whether they and their parents will have any opportunity to respond.
Such geek -profiling tools are increasingly popular despite the fact that the violent crime rate among kids in America has been plunging for years and is virtually non-existent in Canada.
This doesn't seem to bother educators much, perhaps because even if there isn't much violence to contain, geek profiling is proving an invaluable tool against rebellious, offensive, individualistic and outspoken students. Many participate in Net and Web culture, where they have vastly more freedom and creative experience than in schools, and who report the goal of this war on the non-normal isn't safety, but conformity and silence.
But why be deterred by truth or logic? Since the Columbine shootings in Colorado last year, students at American schools have reported an epidemic of suspensions, expulsions and forced counseling sessions for various offenses: wearing "inappropriate" clothing like trenchcoats or Goth make up, playing computer games like "Quake" and "Doom," spending too much time online, responding honestly to questions about whether they like school, making what administrators consider threats against classmates or teachers.
This week, more than a dozen principals, administrators and geeks e-mailed me a chunk of the FBI report circulating through U.S. and Canadian schools, purporting to detail some of the characteristics of "potentially violent" kids.
"Your term 'geek profiling' is dead on," wrote one principal. "The kids we are all beginning to look at are those that play violent video games, who are on the Internet all the time, and who don't participate in 'mainstream' school activities. Or who are seriously disenchanted with school or the structure of school. Of course, now, we can just label them as psychos rather than listen to what they say. But I can tell you, kids who spent a lot of time on the Net or playing computer games are prime suspects for evaluation and observation. Because we all know what they can get their hands on."
Here are the specific FBI characteristics, according to several principals. Potentially violent or dangerous students are:
Usually boys of average or above-average intelligence.
Often loners, or have small circle of friend who are outsiders.
Experience unstable self-esteem.
Often fascinated by cults, Satanism, weapons, themes of violence and death.
Experience a decline in schoolwork and marks.
Come from dysfunctional homes.
Have experience with chronic bullying and drug use.
Engage in attention-seeking behavior, and don't accept criticism.
In addition to the e-mail sent by disturbed principals and guidance counselors ("there's a fine line between bright and unhappy adolescents and mass-murderers," e-mailed one counselor. "I don't see it spelled out it in this FBI profile.") the FBI's "geek profile" was outlined to a Halifax, Nova Scotia newspaper (http://www.hfxnews.southam.ca/NatStory3.html) by an official of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The FBI's checklist is as revealing for what it doesn't say as for what it does. Bullies and predators who prey on kids who are different or "non-normal" aren't considered dangerous, nor are teachers and educators who preside over uncreative, hostile and, to many kids, suffocating classroom environments.
No group of students, parents or citizens anywhere in the United States had been given an opportunity to vote - or even comment -- on the practice of injecting federal law enforcement investigative tools designed for responding to the most serious imaginable crimes committed by adults into daily classroom life.
Kids who call themselves geeks and nerds vary widely in social skills, emotional characteristics and family and class background. But many have experienced differing degrees of boredom, alienation, and experiences with bullying. They may like forms of gaming that might be branded violent. Many are often seen as loners, or rely on small circles of friends who share their culture.
Now they may have to deal with the suggestion that they're potential killers as well. It's possible - though statistically just barely - that some of these kids will turn violent and hurt themselves or their classmates.
But what's certain is that in the wake of the Columbine killings, they are the targets of ignorant and unfounded hysteria from the very people who are supposed to be protecting them, with the willing co-operation of those who are supposed to be educating them.