Glendale Unified School District, Concerned About Social Media, Pays Money To Be Creepy

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118 Responses

  1. Joe Pullen says:

    It's times like this when I'm glad I'm old and didn't have to deal with this as a youngster. Now I just have to protect my kids against the people who think they're protecting my kids.

  2. Ken White says:

    The head injury line is a reference to the time my daughter required a large number of stitches because she was running at school and tripped and her forehead hit the bottom of a door, where that kick-plate is, just so and the sharp corner of the kick-plate cut open her forehead.

    My wife is out and not answering the phone so they call me.

    School: She's in the principal's office getting bandaged. Maybe you want to come? I don't know. You don't have to come.
    Me: Well, is she badly hurt?
    School: Well it's a head injury and there is a rather large amount of blood, but no.
    Me: Wait. What?
    School: No. Not badly hurt. She'll be swell.
    Me: Oh good.
    School: Everything's fine, she's fine, we're all fine here, how are you?
    Me: Fine. So . . .
    School: Of course you'll want to take her to a hospital and maybe a plastic surgeon.
    Me: Are you high right now?

  3. Clark says:

    School: Everything's fine, she's fine, we're all fine here, how are you?

    LOL!

  4. En Passant says:

    But sucking up all the public data kids leave out there and hiring companies to data-mine it? That's a thoroughly creepy increase in government surveillance.

    Isn't it just cumulative? Hence in part an unnecessary expense?

    NSA already does the data upsucking. So shouldn't GUSD just buy the data from NSA, thereby saving expense of all that monitoring hardware they'll need?

    Given woefully inadequate education budgets these days, you'd think that administrators would give that at least as serious consideration as installing their own hardware for the purpose.

  5. adam says:

    i think we should cut them some slack…after all, they're just "thinking of the children" and when has that ever backfired?

  6. azazel1024 says:

    Reminds me of a time long past where I got sick at school and vomitted on another kid (it was a BAD stomach flu that came on suddenly). I remember sitting in the nurse's office and listening to her call the other kids parents
    Nurse – "Hello Mrs. ____, this is the school Nurse calling. Danny had an incident at school today"
    Phone – mumble, mumble
    Nurse – "Oh, he is okay. Well, maybe he is. He might not be later though, but for now he is fine."
    Phone – mumble, mumble?
    Nurse – "No, no, no, I am sure he is fine right now."
    Phone – mumble, mumble?
    Nurse – "Why am I calling? Oh, well I mean he is fine right now, but he might not be in 12-48hrs. It just kind of depends if he is going to catch anything. Oh, and he needs a change of clothes brought to school"
    Phone – "mumble, mumble, mumble mumble!?!"
    Nurse – "Well, Danny kind of got vommited on down the back of his shirt in class just now. We've cleaned him up, but he needs all new clothes. You might also want to watch him to make sure he doesn't catch it"
    Phone – MUMBLE, MUMBLE, MUMBLE!
    Nurse – "Well I can assure you the student who vommited on him feels a lot worse than Danny does. Well, for now anyway. You could take Danny home for the day if you wanted to, but I am pretty sure he is fine to finish out the day so long as you bring him some fresh clothes"

  7. NeoBob says:

    (5) Parents are more than happy to cede all responsibility for their little packets of DNA and puke to the State.

  8. Jesse from Tulsa says:

    I thought "think of the children" died with the 1990's? I thought we had moved to "or the terrorists have won" and even the post terrorist world to "jobs." Perhaps this proposal protects children from terrorists and creates jobs?

    Yes, that's it. Proceed with your creepy child stalking.

  9. MEP says:

    As John Taylor Gatto would say, the sixth lesson taught by all public schools is that students should accept constant surveillance and fear the prospect of privacy. http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html

    This is just the logical next step in a pattern that was set a long time ago.

  10. Dan Weber says:

    I got a rather large cut on my head once during gym class, blood filling in my hair. I went to the gym teacher and he yelled at me to sit down. Okay. I didn't yet have the skill to vomit at will.

  11. solaric says:

    Hey kids: (1) things you do on the internet are public unless you take sufficient steps to make them private;

    The rest is pretty redundant really, government or not doesn't make any major difference to this most fundamental of points. For the foreseeable future the trend will continue to be ever increasing computing power and storage for ever less money will be available to everybody, and that in turn means that ever smaller organizations or even individuals will be able to engage in datamining on a scale that would have been impossible for even the largest governments 15 years ago. The government has advantages in piercing "steps to make data private" vs the public at large, but that doesn't apply to data that was fully public in the first place.

    The Internet doesn't tend to forget, so the best, cheapest, and simplest way to keep a handle on privacy is to be careful about what is public in the first place. We can and should have laws and regulations that try to restrict to some extent what government can do with certain data (ala fruit of the poisonous tree), we also need to recognize that in a world where any individual, including a teacher or principal or whomever, can just do this sort of thing at home on their own time it's going to be pretty impossible to prevent all leakage. There are already corporate services for this stuff, and those are only going to expand. Good government is an important ongoing battle and always will be, but information hygiene in general is critical too.

  12. Nicholas Weaver says:

    @ken: Hey, at least they didn't have a reactor leak. I heard those are very dangerous.

    Its actually amazing how intrusive the private data mining has become, this is just the tip of the iceberg. EG, this actually happened to me:

    I was considering buying a little .22 pistol because, hey, I'm an American, damnit, and guns are fun. [1] Being a good little geek, I created an account on a couple of web forums to ask questions.

    So, 2 weeks later, what happens to arrive in my physical mailbox at work? An invitation to join the NRA.

    Basically, someone sold my email address as "interested in guns", and someone also sold the "email to mailing address" mapping (Bills go home, packages go to work, duh). And low and behold I get a piece of "join the NRA propaganda", complete with temporary membership card and a net mailing cost of over a dollar. Good thing I don't work in the Post Office, that could be embarrassing…

    [1] I ended up not. I don't need a self-defense gun, and as range toys, renting is cheaper.

  13. Nicholas Weaver says:

    The problem is, even "private" isn't private, thanks to the wakki world of data brokers.

  14. Analee says:

    While I applaud the school for actually doing something to attempt to curb bullying (I myself was a victim of severe bullying in high school), this is DEFINITELY the wrong way to go about it.

    Let's be honest: Teenagers and elementary school kids can be massive jerks, even to their friends. My high school friends and I frequently referred to each other as "bitches," but we never meant it as a mean phrase. If we'd had Facebook or Twitter then, and our school had done what this school is attempting, we probably would have gotten in trouble.

    Context is everything, kids can and do tend to be dicks to each other, and things like this are why I'm raising any future kids I have to question absolutely everything.

  15. tim says:

    Twitter maybe but facebook? Exactly how are they going about it? Most kids I know are better at managing privacy settings then most adults (after all – you don't want mom to see who you are hitting on).

  16. TimH says:

    @Nicholas Weaver
    I get one gun mag mailed too me and own .22s for target practice at various ranges, and meet some interesting people there. I get some very odd junk mail "To a fellow patriotic American" etc, and have discovered I can't actually join a local gun club without also joining NRA. So I suspect there are a lot of non-loony-tunes NRA members who joined because they have to in order to play their hobby.

  17. John O'Brian says:

    Why do I get the feeling that this started with someone thinking "hey, I creep 10-14 year olds' social media all day anyway, meticulously logging duckfaces, diagramming who might have a crush on whom, judging kids for their mostly banal disputes, why don't I put my hobby out to tender and get some dumb school board to pay me to do it?" and is now living the dream. Because seriously. Who does this kind of work?

  18. Nik Bougalis says:

    Haha… Ken that exchange with the school is just *insane* and beyond hilarious.

  19. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    There are people in the world (an excessive supply, if you ask me) who believe that they were put upon Earth by a benevolent Providence, that they might guide and guard their lesser brothers and sisters. Such pillocks tend to gravitate toward government positions; elected if they are charming, and bureaucratic if they aren't. The ones who don't have the courage to bully adults lodge in the public school system, where they fit right in with the other sorts of child abusers.

    The only thing that keeps me from a killing rage about these swine is the shameful knowledge that I have the same tendencies myself. Which is why I believe in limited government. I not only don't trust other people with much power, I don't trust myself either.

  20. NI says:

    I agree with what Ken said and with most of the comments here. I only have one thing to add.

    Once upon a time, schools existed to teach children math, science, English grammar and spelling, and one or two other things. But when it comes to mission creep, schools have gotten even worse than the Pentagon.

    The real cure for this particular bit of government meddling is to get back to the idea that anything not directly related to providing a basic education is not the school's concern. That would require telling plaintiff's lawyers and politicians to quit trying to hold schools accountable for every social problem under the sun. I myself got a superlative education, and part of the reason is I went to a school that saw its mission as providing an education, period.

  21. Ken in NH says:

    What I can't decide is if there is a concerted effort in public schools to get children used to the idea of government being involved in every aspect of their lives or if it just generally attracts the kind of bureaucrats who think that way.

  22. Fury says:

    How will the company get the students's contact info? Is this sort of info routinely collected and part of a student's Directory Information? Or are students or parents going to hand over twitter handles or friend a Facebook friend request to/from Geo Listening?

    And where are the parents or other adult guardians?

    From the Geo Listening web-site:

    "Your students are crying for help. We have heard these cries of despair, and for help and attention, loud and clear from students themselves via their public postings on social networks."

    Disgraceful…

  23. melK says:

    @TimH : sounds like a good opportunity to ask about at the various gun clubs in town and form a club that doesn't require NRA membership.

    Much like being part of a union, I imagine… You have to be part of the union to be employed by the shop. And you have to really assert yourself in the union if you don't want to support the causes the union espouses.

  24. AlphaCentauri says:

    At least it will wake kids up to pay attention to their privacy settings. Which will mean the parents, who ought to me monitoring this, will no longer be able to monitor their clueless children's activities. Well, done, adminstrators!

    But seriously, how will they be able to identify all the correct children in the school district? They all lie on their FB registrations in middle school to get around the age limitation. Unless they are planning on demanding the kids' account information and passwords, which is beyond creepy.

  25. jb says:

    Ken in NH,
    Both. A few people are pushing the concerted effort, and everyone else involved is either a clock-puncher who doesn't care or is an invasive bureaucrat who thinks it's a good idea.

  26. Lizard says:

    I love including "despair" in that. If we're talking teens, that's pretty much the state of their lives. I'd be more suspicious of any teen who didn't seem to be in a state of perpetual existential angst. They're the dangerous ones.

  27. manybellsdown says:

    @Analee – yeah I had kind of the same reaction. Great, they want to address bullying, and a whole lot of my bullying happened off campus after school (had my arm broken while going home from 4th grade!) but this is ew.

    And you know … my daughter's high school has a FB page called "XYZ School Confessions and Compliments". I know some of the teachers/administrators monitor it. No one would need to spy on the kids judging by what they freely confess on there.

  28. Breccia says:

    I love the Star Wars quote in the exchange with the school about your daughter. Either the secretary/nurse was a geek, or you're channelling Han Solo in your paraphrasing. "We're all fine here, now. How are you?"

  29. JTM says:

    In defense of the school administrators, modern technology and social media blur the lines between school and not-school in significant ways. Kids post bullying comments on another kid's Facebook page after school. The next day, other kids pull up the Facebook page on their phones at school, and it carries into verbal harassment during the school day. Where should the school step in?

    You also can't really critique what a school district does unless you consider the legal regime in which the district operates. Under California law, the school is responsible for student behavior that is "related to a school activity or school attendance." Cal. Ed. Code § 48900(s).

    Specifically, with regard to bullying, the law makes schools responsible for addressing "any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act…directed toward one or more pupils, that has or can be reasonable predicted to have the effect of… (A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil's or those pupils' person or property; (B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially
    detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health; (C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance; or (D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school. Cal. Ed. Code § 48900(r)(1). An "electronic act" includes "a message, text, sound, or image; or a post on a social network Internet Web site." Cal. Ed. Code § 48900(r)(2).

    Schools that don't adequately address bullying are subject to liability, especially if the bullying is based on a protected characteristic such as race, sex, gender, or disability. (For a fun read, here's a recent OSERS opinion letter regarding bullying of special education students: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/bullyingdcl-8-20-13.pdf).

    The school administrators that I know aren't generally trying to expand their power and intrude on students' private lives. But they're dealing with a situation in which the law imposes the obligation to protect students from bullying, and in which students don't draw a bright-line distinction between school and not-school. Kids are using social media at school; things that happen at school are talked about after school on social media; things that are talked about after school on social media spill over into school the next day. It's a little more complicated than the "rawr oppressive government rawr" meme, and there aren't a lot of easy answers.

  30. mcinsand says:

    We oughta have a law against this sort of all-including searches. If only we had some legal protection so that our government would only search in the event of probable cause, and then only if someone in authority were to grant permission… that would be great. And then, to make it cooler, maybe this could be an amendment to the Constitution. Oh! Best yet, what if our elected officials swore to uphold it? Yeah, then we'd have protection.

  31. LTMG says:

    Announce with great gravity at the next school board meeting that you and other concerned parents have formed a group to monitor the social media activities of all administrators, teachers, and staff within GUSD. Thereafter, make the occasional press release. Could have its fun moments.

  32. wanfuforever says:

    The School gets to use the hot button terms "safety" AND "it's for the children". Holy Double Hysteria, Batman!

  33. JTM says:

    A follow-up comment: There's a bill currently pending in the CA legislature that "specifies that conduct that constitutes bullying by means of an electronic act may be found to be 'related to a school activity or school attendance' even if the conduct originated from an off-campus location." AB 256 (Garcia).

    Contrary to the "encroaching government" narrative, "[t]he Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), writing in opposition to the bill, states, 'ACSA is very concerned that that this expansion will create significant liability for administrators and school districts. Principals and superintendents will get mired in the responsibility of monitoring social media and then make a determination whether the exchange warrants bullying or not.'"

    According to the bill's author, "it is not the intent of this bill to
    add new responsibilities by requiring superintendents and principals to monitor students' off-campus activities, or to increase suspensions and expulsions. Current law already allows administrators to suspend or expel a student for bullying via an electronic act…The purpose of this bill is simply to clarify that when an administrator suspends or recommends expulsion of a student for bullying via an electronic act, the electronic act (the text or social network Internet Web site post, etc.) may not need to have been generated while at school, while coming to and from school, or during a school-sponsored activity."

    School administrators have enough on their plates without having to monitor students' social media accounts (which is probably why Glendale is contracting out), but the state legislature has pushed that responsibility on the schools.

  34. Quiet Lurcker says:

    @JTM –

    "In defense of the school administrators,…"

    Just, NO. There is neither excuse nor defense to this. You ask why?

    1) Fourth Amendment. 'Nuff said. 2) NOT the district's business, irrespective of any law to the contrary; it's the parents' business to teach the kids right vs. wrong. 3) Fifth Amendment. 4) Fora where individuals can vent safely, without risk of reprisal/consequences can actually help to cut down on trouble elsewhere. Think recess here.

  35. James Pollock says:

    You think that public school kids aren't connected to social media while they're at school? That's so precious!

    Seriously, observing things that kids do on social media is no different from observing what they do on public streets. I think the schools can make the case that observing public behavior to seek out signs of problems IS related to their purpose. (Note that I'm not arguing that it's something that schools should do, I'm arguing that if they want to take this on, it's arguably not impermissible for them to do it.) As long as there are lawsuits naming schools because of students cyberbullying and sextorting (it's a thing, look it up) other students, it's probably not even unreasonable.

  36. Analee says:

    Most of my bullying happened at school, but once the kids discovered Geocities was free, quite a few of the more popular kids set up nasty websites about some of my classmates. I got lucky in that respect because I happened to be friends with some of the popular kids and they insulated me. Most of my bullies were from a lower income situation than my family (and we weren't rich. I clearly remember weeks where we had cereal for dinner.), so more than likely, they either had no internet or no computer at all. Which means I got off light. I'd be willing to bet my life that if they could have bullied me on the internet, they would have.

    The schools need to not monitor the posts online; what they DO need to do is allow the child who is bullied to present it as valid CORROBORATING evidence of bullying that has ALREADY been reported and act according to severity.

  37. Arlight says:

    So what JTM is saying is that isn't not the school district (small government body) that's encroaching on student rights, but rather the sate (much bigger government body) that's forcing them to. While it's nice to know who the villain is, this doesn't make me feel any better about the project.

  38. James Pollock says:

    "Just, NO. There is neither excuse nor defense to this. You ask why?
    1) Fourth Amendment. 'Nuff said."
    The fourth amendment does not preclude the government from collecting those of your writings that you choose to publish.

    "2) NOT the district's business, irrespective of any law to the contrary; it's the parents' business to teach the kids right vs. wrong."
    While it IS the parents' job to teach the kids right and wrong, it is ALSO the schools' jobs to protect the students in their care from the kids whose parents failed to do so.

    "3) Fifth Amendment."
    The fifth amendment says nothing about voluntary statements. Nobody's COMPELLING students to testify via FB, Twitter, etc.

    "4) Fora where individuals can vent safely, without risk of reprisal/consequences can actually help to cut down on trouble elsewhere."
    The problem here is that "venting safely" and oppressive behavior overlap. That's why there's a teacher assigned to recess.

  39. Anonymous Coward says:

    Hehe, Ken your description of the School calling you in response to your daughter's head injury is amazingly similar to the way the principal called my parents in response to my brother cutting his ear on the TV/VCR cart.

    Anyway, I need to print out the last paragraph of this article to post on bulletin boards around town.

  40. JTM says:

    @Quiet Lurcker

    Neither the Fourth nor Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibit government agents – whether school officials or otherwise – from accessing publicly-posted information on social media websites.

    Also, keep in mind that school disciplinary proceedings aren't criminal proceedings, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments apply differently than they do in criminal cases (there's a bunch of case law that I don't feel like getting into, because it's not all that pertinent to the thread). There might be some privacy issues if schools required students to identify and provide passwords to their social media sites, but that doesn't seem to be happening in Glendale (the article discusses monitoring and analyzing "public" social media posts).

    Regardless of whether you think it should be the District's business to monitor students' out-of-school use of social media, the CA legislature disagrees with you.

  41. wgering says:

    But if we don't constantly monitor teenagers' communications, how can we be sure they'll grow up to be well-adjusted, right-thinking Party members adults?

    Will no one Think of the Children?!

  42. James Pollock says:

    "But if we don't constantly monitor teenagers' communications, how can we be sure they'll grow up to be well-adjusted, right-thinking Party members adults?"

    Didn't we already have a discussion about whether or not teenagers' communications should be monitored, and wasn't the majority position "yes"?
    http://www.popehat.com/2013/07/28/popehat-parenting-poll-monitoring-texting-and-email-by-middle-schooler/

  43. DonaldB says:

    It's disturbing that any responsible school official doesn't see this as completely outside the bounds of reasonable.

    On the plus side, this service is almost certainly borderline fraudulent. It's not going to report anything useful, and is an obvious path for 'swatting'. Combine smart teens that resent being spied upon, a company desperate to show it's doing something and an administration that already demonstrated bad judgement. Someone's least favorite person *will* be woken at 2am.

  44. James Pollock says:

    "Fortunately, it's also an excellent opportunity to teach kids a lesson. Hey kids: (1) things you do on the internet are public unless you take sufficient steps to make them private; (2) the government will spy on everything you do if you let it; (3) your government feels entitled to know about everything you do; (4) your government feels entitled to have a say about everything you do; (5) your government is not to be trusted."

    Too wordy. Let me tighten this up for you.
    (1) Hey kids, don't post incriminating things on the Internet.

  45. wgering says:

    @James Pollock: careful not to conflate careful parenting with government surveillance.

  46. ULTRAGOTHA says:

    James Pollock:

    Didn't we already have a discussion about whether or not teenagers' communications should be monitored, and wasn't the majority position "yes"?

    That conversation was about *parents* monitoring their *own* kids. That's entirely different than a *school* monitoring *other people's* kids.

  47. Ashera says:

    Didn't we already have a discussion about whether or not teenagers' communications should be monitored, and wasn't the majority position "yes"?

    Monitored by their parents.

  48. En Passant says:

    James Pollock wrote Aug 26, 2013 @11:29 am:

    Too wordy. Let me tighten this up for you.
    (1) Hey kids, don't post incriminating things on the Internet.

    As far as I know, it's not a crime to publicly state "I hate Suzy! She's so icky!".

    But it's almost a foregone conclusion that some parents (with able assistance from their lawyer) will decide that such a message is a violation of Cal. Ed. Code § 48900(s):

    (A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil's or those pupils' person or property;

    (B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially
    detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health;

    (C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance;

    or (D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

    So that if an administrator fails to prevent the "I hate Suzy!" posting, the lawsuits against both the school district and poor little Suzy's tormenter will commence — to remedy the horrific wrong done to poor little Suzy. And we know who has the deeper pockets.

  49. Luke G says:

    @ James Pollock

    Nice editing job, there. Becasue remember, if you don't do anything wrong, the government and its subsidiaries won't do anything to you, right? That guy whose door the police broke down must have been breaking the law, and if he got shot in the process he must have been doing something very wrong.

    Don't worry that the government wants to collect and monitor your activities- or actually, is too lazy to do so and wants to pay someone to do it for them. As long as you're good, nothing bad can ever happen to you. Just do what the nice government people say and you'll be fine.

  50. James Pollock says:

    "That conversation was about *parents* monitoring their *own* kids. That's entirely different than a *school* monitoring *other people's* kids."
    Is it?
    Suppose I am comfortable with what my *own* kids are doing, but I think "other people's* kids are doing stuff they shouldn't oughta.
    A) cyberbullying, for example, is something I would want authorities to act on if it were my child being cyberbullied. Monitoring my own child won't necessarily tell me if they are being bullied, and does nothing to stop it.
    B) Suicide attempts tend to happen in bundles… one child succeeds, and others then act on their own suicidal thoughts. Thus, if I have concerns for my own child, I really, really want to see any other suicidally depressed kids in the same social circle or geographic area to have their needs met while my child is vulnerable.

    In short, there are two categories: things which can be addressed by my own awareness of my child's thoughts and actions (whether via monitoring or open communication) and things which can be addressed by someone monitoring other people's kids' thoughts and actions. I would contend that in the first category, it makes a great deal of difference whether the monitoring is done by me or by someone else, but for that second category, it makes no difference at all TO ME if the monitoring is done by those kids' parents, by school authorities, or by LE authorities.

  51. sorrykb says:

    You forgot lesson #6 about the huge profits to be made in the defense/security industry. No doubt Geo Listening (excellent choice on the creepy name, guys!) will be promoting its services as essential in the modern-scary-internet era. Because cyber. And children.

    P.S.

    School: Everything's fine, she's fine, we're all fine here, how are you?

    Boring conversation anyway…

  52. James Pollock says:

    "So that if an administrator fails to prevent the "I hate Suzy!" posting, the lawsuits against both the school district and poor little Suzy's tormenter will commence — to remedy the horrific wrong done to poor little Suzy. And we know who has the deeper pockets."

    You realize that this is an argument in favor of monitoring, yes? Active monitoring will help keep the school district from being blindsided by a lawsuit. They won't be able to keep it from coming, but at least they'll know it's coming.

  53. James Pollock says:

    "Nice editing job, there. Becasue remember, if you don't do anything wrong, the government and its subsidiaries won't do anything to you, right? That guy whose door the police broke down must have been breaking the law, and if he got shot in the process he must have been doing something very wrong."

    You missed the point entirely.
    It's just a subset of the advice Ken charges defendants for, which is "shut up. Just shut up.", i.e., don't give the prosecution the evidence they need to hang you.

    Apparently, I shortened it too much. Then again, I think the notion of "don't brag about the crimes you committed in public" goes without saying, but people get caught all the time because they bragged in public about the crimes they committed.

  54. Luke G says:

    @James Pollock

    IANAL but doesn't taking on the burden of monitoring give the school liability for things said? If someone is making fun of Suzy on FB and a parent sues, a non-monitoring school has the defense that they don't monitor every aspect of students' lives, and why would they? Schools like this one have stuck their big fat foot in the quicksand of making sure kids don't hurt each others feelings because bullying, so now they've made it their job.

  55. Luke G says:

    And since our replies crossed there, of course it's good advice not to say things that are actually incriminating. The problem is, look at the kind of things they are highlighting- harm, hate, despair, bullying? Those aren't exactly illegal, with the possible exception of ridiculous anti-bullying laws apparently dedicated to the notion that "free speech" really means "free speech as long as you say nice things."

  56. James Pollock says:

    Also on the subject of monitoring… do you think it makes a difference to the kids whether they get monitored by their parents or by an indifferent school system, and if so, how?
    (Note: I am speaking as someone who was suspended for communications another student's parent found objectionable but which were not in any way legally actionable)

  57. En Passant says:

    James Pollock wrote Aug 26, 2013 @12:30 pm:

    You realize that this is an argument in favor of monitoring, yes? Active monitoring will help keep the school district from being blindsided by a lawsuit. They won't be able to keep it from coming, but at least they'll know it's coming.

    If the school district has no affirmative duty to monitor, such as that mandated by the Ed. Code, then such a suit is much less likely to be brought, and if brought much less likely to succeed.

    If the district does have the duty to monitor (and remember we're talking about out-of-school social network activity as well), and the district fails to find some "I hate Suzy"-esque statement, or makes a judgment call that some statement doesn't violate the statute, then they have potential liability. So, the district has every incentive to be very broad in their decisions of what speech that is forbidden, and to root it out no matter where it's hidden.

    If school administrations are risk-averse (and I think it is reasonable to assume they are), then the range of speech that is forbidden will be very broad. What speech is forbidden will also be subject to the particular administration's discretion in every case, which is a whole other can of legal worms.

    This is bad law. The follow-on attempts at even broader legislation are even worse. But we're stuck with this one for a while.

    The government is essentially empowering school administrators to decide that no student has any right to say anything, except maybe expressing happiness and loving unicorns. And don't forget that even loving ponies might frighten some people.

  58. CJK Fossman says:

    @James Pollock

    [for my kids], it makes a great deal of difference whether the monitoring is done by me or by someone else, but for [other peoples' kids], it makes no difference at all TO ME if the monitoring is done by those kids' parents, by school authorities, or by LE authorities.

    I know, right? Life is so much simpler if we can forget about that silly "do unto others… " thing.

    We have zero-tolerance extremists on school faculties. We have teachers who cannot distinguish between a Pop Tart and a handgun. The kind of surveillance you seem to advocate will only pull more young victims into their clutches.

  59. James Pollock says:

    "The problem is, look at the kind of things they are highlighting- harm, hate, despair, bullying? Those aren't exactly illegal, with the possible exception of ridiculous anti-bullying laws apparently dedicated to the notion that "free speech" really means "free speech as long as you say nice things.""

    First off, casing the joint isn't illegal, either, but that doesn't mean banks and jewelry stores (and schools) have to ignore it. There's no reason at all why schools have to ignore things that aren't illegal but are or may be related to interferences in their educational mission. "harm" absolutely needs to be addressed. I'm not sure why you put this in your list of inoffensive topics. "hate" is often a precursor to crimes… not always, probably not even a majority of times (depending on how you define "hate" in this context… middle-school girls can flip between bff and I-hate-you and back several times in the same day… but a documented history of, say, racist-type hate messages online might assist the investigation when incidents of racist-type vandalism, or even assaults, start happening.) "despair" is linked to suicide and suicide attempts, both of which severely impair educational efforts, and bullying generally includes either assault or both assault and battery. At least, the kind of bullying *I* remember do, as you seem to have a different operational definition of "bullying".

  60. Judith Whitaker says:

    I think this issue is more complicated than it appears at first glance.To really examine it you need to think like a student/teen, a parent, a mental health professional, a school official and an attorney/legally. Whenever a school tragedy happens people ask ,"where was the school, the parents?" It seems to me if kids posts on social media that they plan to hurt themselves or someone else then it would be irresponsible for the district to NOT be monitoring social media. Not to mention that the district is often held responsible in these cases and because kids keep secrets it's very difficult for school officials to know when a kid is in serious trouble. To understand why social media is key you have to think like a kid and a mental health counselor. In my previous career I was the high risk counselor in a suburban public school. Kids that want to hurt themselves or others often leak out this information to a peer and kids under report when their peers share this information. Today they talk about these issues and post them online. Because we had a program in the school I worked in (pre social media and pre Columbine) there was a tragedy stopped more than once that would have gone unnoticed until it was too late because a student told a student and that student told a counselor. It sounds like this program will quickly pay for itself and then some. Wait till the day where a fB post alerts officials to a potential suicide attempt or serious bullying case, or a plan to bring a gun to school etc. Even in a bullying case social media often plays a role today. I am very protective of privacy rights but this is public information/posts they are monitoring not private information. We didn't grow up with social media but our kids have and it is tricky to navigate this new world as parents, educators and kids. We need to keep discussing it and formulating policy that protect our rights and our kids. And we need to help our kids learn that what they post esp. without privacy settings it is always public information. They tend to not be aware of that because they're teenagers and they don't always think about consequences.

  61. James Pollock says:

    "If the school district has no affirmative duty to monitor, such as that mandated by the Ed. Code, then such a suit is much less likely to be brought, and if brought much less likely to succeed."

    So your complaint is with requiring the school to protect the children in its care, not with the method chosen by the Glendale district to meet that requirement. I'm not even close to arguing THAT point.

    "If school administrations are risk-averse (and I think it is reasonable to assume they are), then the range of speech that is forbidden will be very broad. What speech is forbidden will also be subject to the particular administration's discretion in every case, which is a whole other can of legal worms."
    Except (oops) monitoring doesn't create any capability to prevent postings. It merely creates awareness of what is happening. If (when) the school attempts to limit what students may do with non-school-district online services when they are away from school, that is an ENTIRELY different conversation.

    "The government is essentially empowering school administrators to decide that no student has any right to say anything"
    You're seeing something here that I don't see.

  62. whheydt says:

    Something else a program like this will teach kids–at least the smarter kids…

    Don't give your school your actual contact information. Either give them a contact that *isn't* the one you actually use, or a completely false one.

    Smart parents will, of course, adopt this practice for their kids that aren't quite up to speed through age, knowledge, or experience.

    I think before my grandson gets to the point of needing his own e-mail address I should get off the dime and set up a private e-mail server that runs through a small ISP…preferably one that runs completely encrypted and located in another country. That way, the NSA is *probably* to only agency I'll have to worry about…

    ps As for the Commodre and Apple reference…take a look at the Raspberry Pi and similar SoC SBCs.

  63. En Passant says:

    James Pollock wrote Aug 26, 2013 @1:03 pm:

    You're seeing something here that I don't see.

    I see two words: chilling effect.

  64. Luke G says:

    I suspect you may be older than I, James Pollock, if you remember bullying to be primarily concerned with assault. Even when I was in school, years ago now, the change was beginning- in modern schools, "Bullying" is being redefined as saying mean things or being hurtful. Of course, those offenses are totally subjective- which gives the school, or the government where actual laws are involved, more leeway to punish and control as they see fit.

    "Harm" is susceptible to the same definition creep. Let's say that in addition to disagreeing with your position I called you a jackass- have I bullied you? I implied you weren't just wrong, but stupid. Does that harm you? I would say no, but too many overbearing administrators would say yes. Trying to track down every incidence of a kid being a jerk is futile, the only real outcome being increased governmental monitoring and control.

    And, as for your sentiment that your kids are fine and you're OK if they monitor kids since yours are OK and the other kids might be up to something: I sure hope none of yours are the next Justin Carter, and I honestly mean that.

  65. James Pollock says:

    "We have zero-tolerance extremists on school faculties. We have teachers who cannot distinguish between a Pop Tart and a handgun. The kind of surveillance you seem to advocate will only pull more young victims into their clutches."

    You mean this kind of advocacy?
    "(Note that I'm not arguing that it's something that schools should do, I'm arguing that if they want to take this on, it's arguably not impermissible for them to do it.) "

    (On the subject of "zero tolerance", I think a lot of people fail to understand why zero tolerance exists. Yes, it removes common sense and judgment from those charged with enforcing the rules. It does so ON PURPOSE, because of the problem zero tolerance was developed to address… systematically different treatment of offenses depending on who the offender was and what connections they had. Popular kids, athletes, children of socially prominent people got off with a warning while the unpopular kids, minorities, etc. got the book thrown at them for the very same wrongdoing. So zero tolerance came in to ensure that every offender got the same punishment every time. Yes, it creates problems, but no, it wasn't selected out of arbitrary stupidity so's to institutionalize arbitrary stupidity.)

  66. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I would be a lot more comfortable with the staff of Public Schools taking on this kind of social issue if they were broadly meeting their basic goals of teaching the little darlings to read, write, and do basic math. So far as I can tell from the outside (no kids) the evidence seems to run in the other direction. And I can't help but wonder if some of that is because teaching spelling and grammar and math is, at base, tiresome, and meddling in social dynamics and applying pop-psych to a captive audience is more fun.

  67. Renee Marie Jones says:

    I think just about everything we did when I was young would get me or my parents jailed today. For all their talk of "freedom" conservatives and libertarians sure want to control everything. And NO, Obama is neither liberal nor socialist.

  68. mojo says:

    Expect a spate of "Dear Creepy School Stasi" posts by kids. Probably get them suspended.

  69. BLM4L says:

    The district's policy makes more sense once you realize that the district believes that the school has to replace more and more traditionally parental functions. The theory is that for some of these public school students, there are no responsible parents, and the school has to fill the gap.

  70. Luke G says:

    @Renee Marie Jones

    Conservatives and Liberal/Progressives both have a strong tendency to statism, it's just in what way they think you need more government control in your life. In what way do you think Libertarians want to control everything? Statism/Libertarianism is usually drawn as the political axis perpendicular to libaral/conservative, with Libertarians favoring LESS control, by definition.

  71. wgering says:

    Also on the subject of monitoring… do you think it makes a difference to the kids whether they get monitored by their parents or by an indifferent school system, and if so, how?

    Yes.

    Speaking for myself, I have a pretty good idea of what my own mother would have found objectionable if she had decided she wanted to monitor my internet traffic when I was a teenager. Easy enough, just stay away from depraved porn and Fox News.

    Had my high school been privy to all my net chatter, I would have had to concern myself with the delicate fee-fees of some 3000 fellow students, a good deal of whom I know for a fact can't tell the difference between criticism of their work/ideas and personal attacks on their character.

    Example:
    I was once featured in an article in my high school's paper. The article was atrocious; I was misquoted multiple times, there were factual errors about myself and the project I was discussing, and they used a photo of me, which I had specifically asked that they not do (this is to say nothing of the spelling and punctuation).

    Had I been on Facebook or Twitter at the time, I imagine I would have written a rather incensed and colorful something or other describing the general unprofessionalism and carelessness of the journalistic twatwaffle in question.

    I posit that this clearly protected statement of opinion could, without a great stretch of the imagination, be taken by an overzealous school official (perhaps the supervisor of the student paper) as a horribly unjust and offensive example of cyber-bullying or somesuch (especially if Journalistic Twatwaffle and/or his parents complain about it). Punishment ensues.

    Meanwhile, my mother merely asks why I bothered to talk to the people at the paper in the first place.
    /Example

  72. James Pollock says:

    "I would be a lot more comfortable with the staff of Public Schools taking on this kind of social issue if they were broadly meeting their basic goals of teaching the little darlings to read, write, and do basic math. So far as I can tell from the outside (no kids) the evidence seems to run in the other direction."
    This varies widely depending on which school you happen to be standing near. My daughter graduated from a large suburban public high school this year, and the academic achievements of the graduating class was staggeringly impressive. Not just stuff like 4.0 GPAs, but National Merit scholarship winners, Intel Science Talent Search Finalists, and a substantial number of AP credits. (Yes, the sample IS skewed by the number of children of trained engineers drawn to the local high-tech industry)

  73. CJK Fossman says:

    @James Pollock
    Well, I did say "seem to be advocating." Thanks for clearing that up.

    WRT the rationale you advance for zero tolerance: it's interesting, but I don't believe it. Maybe you could provide a link to some evidence.

  74. James Pollock says:

    wgering, your example is that, had cyber-anything been available to you, you would have made use of it and been punished for that use of it.

    Your complaint, then is not that the school would have known that you did something (i.e., it monitored you), but rather, because (you posit) they would have issued a punishment in response. Note that I'm not debating that point, for a couple of reasons. First off, it's your hypothetical, second, I related my own ACTUAL experience that is a direct parallel.

    I submit that your actual complaint is that the administration of the school would have taken an unjustified action. The fact that the school monitored your online activity (or not) has nothing to do with that. I suggest that in your hypothetical, it makes no difference whether the school is monitoring you or not, because the school would have become aware of your actions by way of receiving a complaint from the person you criticized. If anything, the school having monitored you might even work in your favor, because they would have DIRECT knowledge of what you actually said, rather than relying on what the offended person CLAIMS you said.

  75. darius404 says:

    @Lizard

    I'd be more suspicious of any teen who didn't seem to be in a state of perpetual existential angst. They're the dangerous ones.

    While I'm not a teen anymore, I do thank you for the compliment about my teenage self.

  76. En Passant says:

    mojo wrote Aug 26, 2013 @1:35 pm:

    Expect a spate of "Dear Creepy School Stasi" posts by kids. Probably get them suspended.

    Yeah, Frederick Morse's off-campus "Bong hits 4 Jesus" just advocated illegal drug use. So he was only suspended.

    But "Dear Creepy School Stasi" is obvious terrorism that will earn some kids a trip to Gitmo for summer camp.

    And so it goes in the land of the free, where we catch 'em early.

  77. Luke G says:

    @James Pollock-

    I think I see the disconnect here, you are saying that the increased monitoring isn't the problem, correct? That our concerns are more based around what action the school might take?

    Here's the thing. I don't trust the system. I don't trust overrreaching bureaucrats to get it right. Government systems don't monitor for their health, and most of their monitoring isn't for your benefit. It's to increase their own authority and power over your life. You say that monitoring would have helped wgering in his example- they would have proof of what he said, rather than relying on the other student's accusations. I think it's much more likely that an accuastion goes un-acted upon, while a school with access to your facebook account can say "well, look what you said, that's awfully mean… you are a bully." This is a mirror of the "Three felonies a day" concept- the government makes more and more things illegal, and monitors your activities more and more, until it's not a matter of not breaking the law or not getting caught. It's a matter of hoping you don't piss off the wrong government functionary and get it brought down on your head. This is expanding that system further, and training children to find it normal and even beneficial.

  78. James Pollock says:

    "Statism/Libertarianism is usually drawn as the political axis perpendicular to libaral/conservative, with Libertarians favoring LESS control, by definition."

    One of the biggest challenges of libertarianism is getting any two libertarians to agree on the definition of anything. Thus, it's usually a mistake to refer to "Libertarians" favoring anything monolithically; when you query a group of libertarians you'll find that some favor it, and some do not, and the ones who do favor something favor it in varying amounts (on the other hand, what libertarians don't like, they tend to not like fairly strongly).
    But, circling back, the claim is not "libertarians want GOVERNMENT to control everything", but "libertarians want to control everything", which sounds to me like it could be interpreted as "control of more things by libertarians is what libertarians want". That, I think, even libertarians would agree with.

  79. DonaldB says:

    "Too wordy. Let me tighten this up for you.
    (1) Hey kids, don't post incriminating things on the Internet."

    … under your own name.

    One of the problems with a state that monitors everything is that extra-judicial punishment becomes routine.

  80. James Pollock says:

    "Yeah, Frederick Morse's off-campus "Bong hits 4 Jesus" just advocated illegal drug use. So he was only suspended."

    Technically, it doesn't even do that, since you can take bong hits of legal substances. At best it's vague in its intentions.

  81. James Pollock says:

    "I think I see the disconnect here, you are saying that the increased monitoring isn't the problem, correct?"

    I'm saying that monitoring of things done in public isn't a problem. (This goes for private monitoring, as well. Stores can surveil their premises.)

    Your level of trust in the government is immaterial. YOU are responsible for protecting your privacy. Do this by not making things you would prefer to remain private, public.

  82. wgering says:

    @James Pollock:

    I submit that your actual complaint is that the administration of the school would have taken an unjustified action. The fact that the school monitored your online activity (or not) has nothing to do with that.

    I disagree that they are separate. It's an issue of who considers the action "unjustified."

    I consider it unjustified (and it sounds like you do as well) because I made a legal statement of opinion outside of what I consider to be the school's area of responsibility for my well-being (note that this may differ from what the practical/legal reality of the school's area of responsibility may be).

    The school administration, should they monitor my statements, would feel justified in taking action based thereupon, as they now consider it their responsibility to do so.

    To perhaps make my hypothetical a little better, assume that I made a habit of posting scathing criticisms of Journalistic Twatwaffle's articles, and that Journalistic Twatwaffle never volunteered that information to school officials.

  83. JWH says:

    What if the data mining reveals the students have an unhealthy fascination with ponies?

  84. AlphaCentauri says:

    If the students there have the same attitude toward the administration that we had as teens, they will use nicknames and have fake birth-years for their own accounts, while setting up lots of fake accounts using nicknames and fake birthdates but claiming to attend schools in that district. The best way to limit the value of harvested data is to dilute it with useless data.

  85. James Pollock says:

    "I disagree that they are separate. It's an issue of who considers the action "unjustified.""

    Punishing a student for something that is not a punishable offense is objectively unjustified. If the school does that, it's wrong… and it's wrong because they did that, not because the monitored what students wrote online. If the school does not do that, it's not wrong… and again, the fact that the monitored what students wrote online is immaterial.

    "The school administration, should they monitor my statements, would feel justified in taking action based thereupon, as they now consider it their responsibility to do so."
    What do you call it when someone FEELS justified in doing an unjustified act? I call it wrong. And we're back to where we just were. If the school, acting through its deluted administrator(s), does wrong, then it does wrong… and AGAIN the wrong lies in punishing someone who does not deserve punishment, NOT in monitoring what that person wrote.

    "To perhaps make my hypothetical a little better, assume that I made a habit of posting scathing criticisms of Journalistic Twatwaffle's articles, and that Journalistic Twatwaffle never volunteered that information to school officials."
    OK. In this version, there's no mention of you getting punished for what you wrote, so what's your complaint?

    Let me try a different tack. As a general rule, decisions can either be "right" or "wrong" based on an objective viewpoint, particularly hindsight.
    Examples: Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor was wrong. Bill Gates' decision to leave Harvard and start Microsoft was right. The decision to hire Peter Jackson to direct the Lord of the Rings movies was right. The decision to hire Joel Schumacher to make Batman movies was wrong.

    OK. The more information that a decision-maker has when they make a decision, the more likely it is that they will choose correctly. It's no guarantee, and there are certainly decision-makers who decide poorly no matter what information resources they have when they decide (insert political joke here) but over all, having more and better information increases the chance that a good decision will result.

    Being aware of what students are doing online as well as when they're in school increases the likelihood of good decisions regarding them. (This still leaves criticism in place, as monitoring proactively gathers information about students before it is known whether or not any decisions regarding those students will be required.)

  86. The Man in the Mask says:

    If I were a devious, crafty, subversive [etc] sort of person, I might be tempted to set up numerous social media counts for this service to find. I think maybe I'd drop some hints that the school principal secretly has assembled a club that watches underwater volleyball dancing Romanian goat porn or something like that. Hilarity would no doubt ensue. I think with some Pavlovian conditioning it would be instructive to make the school administration dance like little puppets.

  87. Quiet Lurcker says:

    @James Pollock

    Fourth Amendment. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act treats secured connections as private. Witness the analogy of the phone booth from some Supreme Court decision the name of which which currently escapes me in the early 20th Century: the closed door on a phone booth symbolizes a desire for privacy, and eavesdropping is a no-no; similarly, a secure connection symbolizes a desire for privacy. If you connect with e.g. Facebook or Twitter, you're on a secured connection, the location or circumstances of the hardware being used having no bearing on the analysis, except in the case of clearly illegal act, as drug dealing via facebook. Any posts not specifically marked as PUBLIC and intercepted at the server level are are therefore subject to 4th amendment protection (AND qualified first amendment protections, as well, now I think about it). Furthermore, if whoever's monitoring the child's account, and is gaining access to the child's private posts, they're doing so under false pretenses, and again, their acts fall under the CFAA.

    Fifth amendment. A child makes a public post that he/she assaulted another student – basically committed a crime against another student. If that gets to court, and the child's own posts are used by prosecution, a colorable argument could be made that the child was self-incriminating. Note well: not being a lawyer and thus versed in case law, I do NOT assert the strength or validity of the argument, only that it exists.

  88. whheydt says:

    Re: James Pollock…

    Almost right… The decision to let Jackson film LotR was wrong, wrong, wrong.

  89. En Passant says:

    James Pollock wrote Aug 26, 2013 @2:11 pm:

    Technically, it doesn't even do that, since you can take bong hits of legal substances. At best it's vague in its intentions.

    Words can hardly express the depths of my fondest wish that Roberts, CJ and the plurality for which he wrote had agreed with your view. Alas, they did not.

  90. I was Anonymous says:

    @JWH:

    What if the data mining reveals the students have an unhealthy fascination with ponies?

    Gitmo, obviously!

  91. James Pollock says:

    "The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act treats secured connections as private. Witness the analogy of the phone booth from some Supreme Court decision the name of which which currently escapes me in the early 20th Century: the closed door on a phone booth symbolizes a desire for privacy, and eavesdropping is a no-no; similarly, a secure connection symbolizes a desire for privacy. If you connect with e.g. Facebook or Twitter, you're on a secured connection, the location or circumstances of the hardware being used having no bearing on the analysis, except in the case of clearly illegal act, as drug dealing via facebook. Any posts not specifically marked as PUBLIC and intercepted at the server level are are therefore subject to 4th amendment protection (AND qualified first amendment protections, as well, now I think about it). Furthermore, if whoever's monitoring the child's account, and is gaining access to the child's private posts, they're doing so under false pretenses, and again, their acts fall under the CFAA."

    OK. What does any part of this wall of text have to do with reading public messages?
    Quoting Ken quoting the source:
    "Glendale school officials have hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor and analyze public social media posts, saying the service will help them step in when students are in danger of harming themselves or others." (emphasis added)

    "A child makes a public post that he/she assaulted another student – basically committed a crime against another student. If that gets to court, and the child's own posts are used by prosecution, a colorable argument could be made that the child was self-incriminating."

    Sorry, but no. The fifth amendment lets you not testify against yourself. It doesn't let you exclude evidence that incriminates you, just because you wrote it. Think about it… prosecutors wouldn't be able to offer ransom or holdup notes in kidnap or bank robbery cases, and there'd be no such thing as prosecuting someone for making a threat.

  92. James Pollock says:

    "Almost right… The decision to let Jackson film LotR was wrong, wrong, wrong."
    I can think of a couple BILLION reason$ why your opinion on this is the one that's incorrect.

  93. James Pollock says:

    "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act treats secured connections as private."
    Doesn't seem to apply. It's at 18 USC section 1030. The offenses are listed in 18 USC 1030(a). None of these seem to apply to a case of a government agency (or contractor) obtaining information that has no economic value from a private entity.

    Then there's 18 USC 1030(f), which reads:
    "(f) This section does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States."

    School districts are "political subdivisions of a state".

  94. Christopher says:

    So, one thing is, if this had happened when I was in High School it would have turned me into a white-hot ball of fury. I would have acted out more and been more dismissive of the teachers and staff at my school. I know this because I felt the same way about random locker searches, which are much more justifiable than this. I suspect a lot of other children will feel the same.

    Two, when people say "Everything you put on Facebook is public!" I think they ignore the fact that things can happen in public and still be none of your god-damned business.

    Like, say I were to go up to a guy while we were waiting for a train and say, "Man, that suit you're wearing looks like garbage. It doesn't fit and it's all wrinkly. Go to hell for wearing that suit." then I am clearly in the wrong; Nobody would argue that he was opening himself up to it by walking around in public in a bad suit.

    This doesn't change because its Facebook or Twitter. Hell, in some ways that philosophy is what's driving the school: The idea that just because some kid opens himself up by saying something dumb on Twitter, that doesn't make it okay for other students to mock him.

    I would just go further and say it's not the school's responsibility to scrutinize every aspect of a child's public life.

  95. James Pollock says:

    "So, one thing is, if this had happened when I was in High School it would have turned me into a white-hot ball of fury."
    Surprisingly, this changes nothing.

    "I think they ignore the fact that things can happen in public and still be none of your god-damned business."
    We disagree about what "in public" means.

    "Like, say I were to go up to a guy while we were waiting for a train and say, "Man, that suit you're wearing looks like garbage. It doesn't fit and it's all wrinkly. Go to hell for wearing that suit." then I am clearly in the wrong; Nobody would argue that he was opening himself up to it by walking around in public in a bad suit."
    You guessed wrong. You'd be RUDE, but absolutely within your rights to do this. What's more, if the exact same guy showed up the next day in a perfectly-tailored, stylish, clean suit, you'd be within your rights to complain about that, too. And if he showed up the next day in birthday suit, you could complain about that. The amount of support you get from the rest of the public will vary… but NOBODY has a right to not be criticized (rightly or wrongly) for what they do in public.

    "This doesn't change because its Facebook or Twitter."
    Correct.

    "The idea that just because some kid opens himself up by saying something dumb on Twitter, that doesn't make it okay for other students to mock him."
    It certainly does. They may have to limit the time, place and manner of it while they're actually in school, but, yeah, it's okay to mock people for doing stupid things.

    "I would just go further and say it's not the school's responsibility to scrutinize every aspect of a child's public life."
    True. It IS the school's responsibility to scrutinize those aspects that affect either that student's, or another student's, safety at school, and to scrutinize everything that adversely affects the ability of the school to deliver an education to its students. Yes, these ARE broad, but they ARE limited.

  96. whheydt says:

    Re: Jame Pollock…

    I'm not arguing that the films weren't commercially successful (though your comment suggests that you think that is the *only* critereon that applies) I'm not arguing that the films–as films are actually *bad*. I'm arguing that whatever story Jackson filmed and titled "LotR" is not, in fact, LotR. If he wanted–as he evidently did–to film a story of his own devising borrowing the setting and character names of LotR, then he should have given them otherwise unused titles of his own choice.

  97. James Pollock says:

    "I'm not arguing that the films weren't commercially successful (though your comment suggests that you think that is the *only* critereon that applies)"
    The person who made the decision to hire Peter Jackson to direct the LOTR films was a studio executive. What parameters do YOU think determine whether or not hiring Jackson was correct? (Note: previous adaptations did NOT make billions).

    "I'm arguing that whatever story Jackson filmed and titled "LotR" is not, in fact, LotR."
    You're not familiar with what happens when Hollywood makes a novel into a movie, are you? Compare the book of "Jurassic Park" to the movie of "Jurassic Park" Different people survive!
    (I'll also note that this effect seems to be more pronounced when Hollywood tackles fantasy and SF material. Witness the original "The Thing" or, more recently, "The Last Mimzy", as examples. Or "Starship Troopers". Or "I, Robot". Or "Blade Runner". All of them differ significantly from their source material.

    I've a list of major SF properties that I fervently hope Hollywood does NOT make movies from, because of the firm belief that they'll screw them up so badly as to be unrecognizable ("Little Fuzzy" is at the top of the list. I didn't like John Scalzi's remake, so I shudder to think what Hollywood would do to Pappy Jack.)

  98. Fury says:

    I'd like to think that although a Board of Education is first and foremost a governance body, they have some thoughts on the use of this type of service.

    And has been alluded to prior, although it is a laudable (but nebulous) goal "to ensure the kids are safe at all times", the devil is in the details. For example, does the company generate reports over summer break? Holiday breaks? What is the procedure for parents to obtain records generated by this company about their child?

    Frankly, trying to "ensure that kids are safe at all times" belongs with the statement "children are our number one priority". Sounds good and… not much else.

  99. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    Went to Geo Listening's site to see if I could find the usual yadda yadda about we-will-not-sell-your-info-to-a-3rd-party.

    Could not find it.

    Makes me wonder how much they would sell the gathered information for and how long they would ignore an extra revenue stream. Who is popular, who is depressed, who just joined an equipment intensive sport – that kind of data could be valuable to a local merchant, pharmaceutical company, college admissions board, etc. etc.

    Of course, that kind of thing might be a illegal and I'm talking out ma arse, but it still gives me such a warm feeling to think of how concerned everyone is about the children.

  100. Anthelme says:

    I would say whose watching the watchers, but given this is social media, this is probably more relevant

    Who is doxxing the doxxers.

    How much of this is just preventative litigation deterance? Parents should be teaching kids how to grow into reasonable and well adjusted adults, not outsourcing yet another facet of social equilibrium.

    -A

  101. freedomfan says:

    If they have money to spend on this, I guess it's time for more budget cuts.

    That's become my stock response for any politician or administrator who proposes that a bureaucracy does something about a problem that isn't its job to fix. It will probably do no good, but I would love it if the mindset became, "If you're using time figuring out new ways to spend money, then your constant complaints about tight budgets ring false."

    BTW, the most hopeful comeback I have gotten to that response was, "Budget cuts? Their budget has been getting bigger nearly every year for decades." Yes, it was someone pointing out that the rationale for my comment might be in error, but I was glad to acknowledge that and move on. Anyone who knows that government budget cuts are seldom actual reductions in spending is already so far ahead of the game that I don't worry about them.

  102. freedomfan says:

    BTW, I agree that the biggest problem with programs like this is that they train a generation of future adults to accept the government's constant spying and monitoring as tolerable, or – worse – as a sign that government cares about them. Given how accepting people (including judges who are supposed to know better) are of government trolling through their personal data already, it's a scary thought.

  103. James Pollock says:

    "Anyone who knows that government budget cuts are seldom actual reductions in spending is already so far ahead of the game that I don't worry about them."

    Of course, if the increase in total spending is smaller than the combination of increase in population served and inflation, then it's actually a budget cut even if total spending went up.

  104. whheydt says:

    re: James Pollock…

    All too familiar with what Hollywood does to books. That's why I've avoided _ST_ and _Nightfall_, for instance. Saw enough Jackson's LotR to be disgusted with what he did and and didn't see the rest. I refuse to see what he's done to _The Hobbit_ (and people who have seen what's out so far have told me that I'm making the right decision).

    I agree about _Little Fuzzy_.

    One can see why Christopher Tolkien won't let go of media rights on any more of his father's works and keeps trying to claw back or restrict what's already out there.

    The odd one in the bunch is that Lucas wanted to do E. E. "Doc" Smith's _Lensman_ series, but couldn't get the rights. So he wrote his own…_Star Wars_. (And boy can you see the influence of Joseph Campbell's _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_ in *that*.)

  105. James Pollock says:

    " (and people who have seen what's out so far have told me that I'm making the right decision)."
    I disagree. Not only should you see them, but you should see them on a movie screen, so that the landscape cinematography can have its full effect.
    I've paid to see one movie in the last two years. (I got free coupons to see two others, so I also saw the Avengers and Monsters University (with my daughter, who starts at college this year.)

    "One can see why Christopher Tolkien won't let go of media rights on any more of his father's works"
    I don't see "Farmer Giles of Ham" or "Smith of Wootten Manor" selling millions of tickets, and I'd have severe doubts about the Silmarilion. The hardcore fans would come out, but not the mass audience. That's why they have to make "The Hobbit" last. (Ironically, stretching it into three movies lets them leave less stuff out.)

    Hey, Lucas has some free time and huge bundle of cash on his hands…
    Children of the Lens would work as a movie. "Gray Lensman" might, too. Who'd you cast as Clarissa MacDougall Kinnison? I'd go with Kristen Bell, if they could color her hair right, but maybe the actress who plays Donna on Suits would be a dark horse "unknown".

  106. Basil Forthrightly says:

    James wrote:
    "The more information that a decision-maker has when they make a decision, the more likely it is that they will choose correctly."

    That's certainly not always true; I make no claim about the general case.

    The best counter-example when "less is better" in decision making is the Cook County Hospital emergency room protocol for handling possible heart attack cases. This hospital is very busy and very resource-constrained; they mostly serve the uninsured of Chicago. They found that basing admit/no admit decisions on just 4 factors produced far better results than considering a full medical history did.

    I suppose one could well argue that this is excptional, with vast information being "baked" into choice and weighting of the 4 factors by a meta-decision maker, effectively giving the ER docs the higher-level or very dense information in the selected factors.

  107. freedomfan says:

    "Anyone who knows that government budget cuts are seldom actual reductions in spending is already so far ahead of the game that I don't worry about them."

    Of course, if the increase in total spending is smaller than the combination of increase in population served and inflation, then it's actually a budget cut even if total spending went up.

    Arguable. It's just as accurate to say that, if that were the case, then the department's budget increased, though one might have cause to say that the per capita, inflation-adjusted spending was cut. I would be perfectly happy for the news report to be specific about what is going on. Reporting an overall department budget increase simply as a "budget cut" reflects an editorial decision about how the reporter (or the department press release that the reporter is getting his "facts" from) wants the news to be received.

    BTW, I have nothing against putting budget numbers in context for inflation and population increase. Not every department serves a growing population or has costs proportional with common price indices, but many do. And, even for those that do, it can introduce bias into the issue when one chooses which price index is appropriate or attempts to calculate changes to the population supposedly served by a given department or program.

    (FWIW, the change in US CPI + Rate of Population Growth is under 5% and has been for a while. For example, if federal spending had just kept pace with those indicators since 2000, it would be over half a trillion dollars lower than it is today.)

    However, the term "budget cut" is often used when there is no cut in any commonly understood sense, such as when an anticipated future increase is reduced, even though it is still positive (even factoring in inflation and population). Hypothetically, if department A had a budget of $100 million last year and was projected to get $120 million this year, but they actually were got $110 million, how does that get reported on the news? I would much rather hear the raw numbers for both years, perhaps with a footnote about inflation and population changes than to hear a glib report that "their budget was cut", which is utterly deceptive to most of the audience.

  108. James Pollock says:

    "They found that basing admit/no admit decisions on just 4 factors produced far better results than considering a full medical history did."

    In other words, they found more information (that the 4 factor test was more effective) helped them make a better decision (what protocol should they use in deciding admit/no admit questions. It's all meta. Test the theory, it's easy.
    When you're admitted to the hospital, who do you want treating you… the guy with more experience or the guy with less? Yes, you can find cases where, as between two specific doctors, the less experienced one is better, but on the whole, there's a trend, isn't there. And that's before we go to the backup, which is to ask whether you want to be treated by the experienced doctor or by the experience carpenter.

  109. I'm pretty sure it's a good thing that I don't have kids (yet). I would be a school's worst nightmare. :)

    In this case… I think I'd pull out my +3 sword of vorpal irony, and accuse the school of cyber-stalking.

    Collecting detailed information about what my child says? Keeping track of where she is and who she's talking to? Keeping detailed records about her emotional state? That's creepy. Sounds like a predator to me.

  110. I wonder if we'd see things differently if we substitute the word "people" for the word "government" in your post? Why is it that inanimate objects are usually blamed for stuff we, as individuals, do to each other?

    People have the ability to say "no".

  111. markm says:

    NAMBLA?

  112. markm says:

    Well, that formatting certainly didn't work…

    adam • Aug 26, 2013 @8:20 am

    i think we should cut them some slack…after all, they're just "thinking of the children" and when has that ever backfired?

    NAMBLA?

  113. markm says:

    Giving school administrators the power and responsibility to police bullying, including saying mean things, is an idea that could occur only to someone who either was in the popular well-connected clique in school, or has blocked all memory of school. It assumes that they have the intelligence to sort through conflicting data and make close subjective judgments well. It assumes that they would bother to do all that work, instead of either making a snap decision or a political decision. It assumes that the kids who make up the bullies' cheering section don't grow up to be school administrators.

    For their intelligence and willingness do intellectual work, look at the SAT and GRE scores of school administration majors in college – they're almost at the bottom, above future social workers but below future teachers. As for their character, when I went to school they tended to be more sympathetic with bullies than with victims – and this was with assault and battery, and sometimes with theft. But they wouldn't act at all if the evidence was any less clear than a staff member walking in on a fight, and then they'd usually punish the wrong kid. They'd tell me that it was my fault for being such a weird little kid.

    What I see of "zero tolerance" decisions indicates that they haven't changed. Do you want to turn such people loose on social media and punish kids for saying mean things out of school???

  114. James Pollock says:

    "What I see of "zero tolerance" decisions indicates that they haven't changed."
    I don't understand what this means. The whole point of "zero tolerance" is to remove the authority to make decisions from administrators.

    "Do you want to turn such people loose on social media and punish kids for saying mean things out of school???"
    I think there's a constituency that says "yes" to this, largely consisting of parents of victims of bullying.
    I don't think it will make bullying go away (I don't think anything will make bullying go away) but what happened is that, since online activity was largely unmonitored by anyone, bullying was allowed to thrive there (along with a lot of other things that would startle various parental authorities. Who didn't figure out that giving teenagers cameras that could sent photos to each other would lead to sexting.)

  115. riesling says:

    It isn't just the government spying on you, it's the private corporations as well. AT&T's spying program goes even farther than the NSA's:
    ——-
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/09/att-gives-dea-26-years-of-phone-call-records-to-wage-war-on-drugs/

    AT&T gives DEA 26 years of phone call records to wage war on drugs
    Any carrier using an AT&T switch [is] covered in [the "Hemisphere" spying] program that goes beyond NSA's.
    by Jon Brodkin – Sept 3 2013, 12:11pm EDT

  116. Matthew House says:

    The argument that 'zero tolerance' was put in place to prevent administrators from applying punishment unevenly, and that it actually does anything to prevent administrators from doing so is…

    Wrong. Painfully wrong.

    For starters, as I understand it, 'Zero Tolerance' started out it's miserable existance as a terror tactic by administration. "If you put one foot even just a -little- out of line, we're gonna drop the hammer on you, no exceptions!"

    It's resulted in no real improvements, unless you consider the amazingly stupid behaviors it's caused to be entertainment, and in that vein, it's been wildly successful.

    However, to assume that 'zero tolerance' prevents the children of 'special interest groups' or the influentual from escaping punishment, you couldn't be more wrong.

    They're simply not charged in the first place. Reports simply..don't get written.

    You must be expecting the administration to be following some set of consistant rules or something.

  1. August 28, 2013

    […] Glendale Unified School District, Concerned About Social Media, Pays Money To Be Creepy (popehat.com) […]

  2. September 24, 2013

    […] Then I get to the harassment portion of this franken-slideshow, same as last year except, wait, what's this?  It's a spiffy brand new section: Workplace Bullying.  Yeah, you read that right, I'm pretty sure I've just been downgraded from an adult back down to a grade-schooler by someone paid a lot more than I am whose job is to figure out the best way to convince other human beings to behave like reasonable human beings.  Now, watching that video is like a how-to-leadership guide for about half the managers I've ever worked for except it's saying this is not acceptable behavior.  I'm sitting at my desk shaking my head in utter amazement when a co-worker walked by.  I point at my screen, she looks, rolls her eyes, laughs and continues on.  I wonder how many more years until this becomes company policy. […]