Sunday, January 14, 2007

Teacher Found Guilty of Accessing Porn

Here's a snip and a link to an article that appeared in the Norwich Bulletin this week.

Teacher guilty in Norwich porn case
By GREG SMITH
Norwich Bulletin

NORWICH -- State Prosecutor David Smith said he wondered why Julie Amero didn't just pull the plug on her classroom computer.

The six-person jury Friday may have been wondering the same thing when they convicted Amero, 40, of Windham of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child.
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As you may know, I was a classroom teacher for 30 year, 15 of them as a computer teacher. I'm a member of a number of educational listserves populated by thousands of teachers. Opinion on this lists is generally one of outrage and if the articles you read are accurate representations of the facts, they would probably be justified in their outrage, but I will neither rush to praise nor condemn this conviction.

While this may well be an outrage, it may also be a valid conviction. The problem is that there seems to be a great deal of information missing. I'd really like to see the trial transcript to see what kind of evidence was introduced by the prosecution, including log files and testimony of students.

Regardless, I'd like to weigh in with some additional perspective. As one who has been on the technical side of forensic investigations of teacher access to pornography, I know that in order to take action against a teacher even at the district level, there has to be a compelling amount of evidence in terms of log files that will prove any accusations.

(One of the many part-time jobs I had as I went though my teaching career, was that of store detective for a large department store chain. We had a strict standard about making stops. We had to be 100% sure the person took an item and we had to have had them in our sight from the time of the theft to the time of the stop. I applied that same kind of standard to any accusations I might have to make against a teacher or a student.)

I also work with police computer forensic experts and know the kind of evidence trail they require before taking legal action. That standard is just as high.

When I use to check logs, it wasn't unusual to find access to porn sites by both teachers and students. However, in almost every case it was evident from the log entries whether the access was accidental or intentional (or accidental followed by intentional).

Even in the case of a loop as described in the article, it would be easy to determine what actions were taken by the teacher and whether the access was a case of accidental access followed by "panic" or more intentional access.

The amount of time spent at each link and the activity undertaken at the sites accessed is all right there. Looking at a log file, an expert can picture the activity that took place during an incident almost as well as if they were sitting over the shoulder of the person.

The prosecution's contention that the person had to have clicked on links on the pages to get to some of the sites, seem to be the telling part to me and might point to some of the information not being detailed.

If one is caught in a loop, one might panic as they try to close one window and another opens, but they will find it difficult to explain why pages came up that could only be accessed by clicking on links within pages they had accessed. Then if the time spend on each page shows a pattern of viewing, the log evidence become even more compelling.

Again, I'll stress that I have not formed any opinion about the guilt or innocence of this particular teacher. I'm simply offering a perspective that isn't necessarily obvious to everyone. There is a lot of information not being offered by the media concerning this particular case, but there are some sad facts that we have to face. Some teachers DO access porn and some DO take sexual advantage of students. We should neither rush to judgement or defence of ANYONE accused of sexual misconduct.

I will add an additional piece of food for thought. In many cases where teachers are found by a school district to be participating in inappropriate sexual activities online or even face to face, the teacher is often given the opportunity to resign quietly and then moves on somewhere else and continues the activity.

Take it for what it's worth...

Art

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posted by Art @ 3:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

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