Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Substitute Teacher Torpedoed By Spyware - And Then Legally Screwed

This story went straight to my heart strings and played a sad little tune called "How My Computer Illiteracy Doomed Me."

From the Washingtonpost.com (hat tip Sandmonkey)

"Substitute Teacher Faces Jail Time Over Spyware

A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer."

Local prosecutors charged that the teacher was caught red-handed surfing for porn in the presence of seventh graders. The defense claimed the graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher's arrival. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted her of four counts of endangering a child, a crime that brings a punishment of up to 10 years per count. She is due to be sentenced on March 2.

I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.

On the morning of Oct 19, 2004, Amero said she reported for duty at a seventh grade classroom at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn. After stepping out into the hall for a moment, Amero returned to find two students hovering over the computer at the teacher's desk. As supported by an analysis of her computer during the court proceedings, the site the children were looking at was a seemingly innocuous hairstyling site called "new-hair-styles.com." Amero said that shortly thereafter, she noticed a series of new Web browser windows opening up displaying pornographic images, and that no matter how quickly she closed each one out, another would pop up in its place.

"I went back to computer and found a bunch of pop-ups," Amero said. "They wouldn't go away. I mean, some of the sites stayed on there no matter how many times I clicked the red X, and others would just pop back up."

Amero said she panicked and ran down the hall to the teacher's lounge to ask for help. "I dared not turn the the computer off. The teacher had asked me not to sign him out" of the computer, she recalled. Amero said none of the teachers in the lounge moved to help her, and that another teacher later told her to ignore the ads, that they were a common annoyance. Later on, prosecutors would ask why she hadn't just thrown a coat or a sweater over monitor. On that day Amero hadn't worn either.

Several children told their parents about the incident, who in turn demanded answers from the school's principal. Three days later, school administrators told Amero she was not welcome back. Not long after that, local police arrested her on charges of risking injury to several students. "

Um, yea. It sounds like the substitute teacher isn't exactly brainy, and that she basically was too startled to think clearly...such as, oh, I don't know, turn off the monitor?

But to be convicted of these charges is simply ridiculous. She was simply a computer illiterate and generally ignorant person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The jury who convicted her, however, is more than ignorant...they's just stoopid.


At 3:16 PM, Blogger Yaakov Kirschen said...

the teacher sounds like the urban legend about somebody thinking that the cd drive drawer was a coffee cup holder.
Dry Bones
Israel's Political Comic Strip Since 1973

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Beeeej said...

I haven't read the wording of the Connecticut statute, but if there is any intent element at all, her conviction will be overturned on appeal. What a ludicrous case.

At 6:41 AM, Blogger ReallyEvilCanine said...

It wasn't the jury that was stupid, it was the defense that was incompetent. They clearly didn't get enough expert witnesses to explain what happened, They also could've demonstrate it in real time which might've forced the prosecutor to drop the case right then and there.

And yaakov? It's no urban legend. Sadly, those aren't the dumbest people out there.


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