Are We Creating Unsafe Communities ?

by Chandra Citta. From Santa Clara County, California

This story illustrates an alarming increase of school’s suspension cases in California.  Two years after the San  Jose Mercury News published a related article  : ” Each year in California, hundreds of thousands of children are sent home from school, for a day or longer — sometimes, unsupervised — as a consequence for misbehavior.”

GR: This is an increasing trend stemming from the Internet and the profound changes its global impact creates in our societies worldwide. Unlike the industrial revolution, the information revolution grows at the speed of the fiber optic networks, instantly, live. Faster than any other factors that has influenced our world before. The Internet hits globally, affecting our values, our conception of the world, our political realm, the way we live, the way we think, the way we are inform, the way we are protecting ourselves and so on……Every aspect of human lives, including death, are influenced by the ultimate omnipresence of the Internet and what happens in Cyberspace.
But is this a reason to ignored basic rights ? Is this a reason for school administrators to panic, setting the stage for real chaos in our communities ?

A: “In June of last year I started receiving anonymous emails, coming from a Yahoo address. They were directed toward my son, and me. According to these emails my son ( a facetious GATE student with 97+ on STAR test), ‘didn’t deserve a normal life’, I’m not going to report how I was treated but it hurted badly, in conclusion I was adviced to ‘return in my country’ (France).
As I kindly answer to this anonymous source, I replied “I would have no problem talking to you face to face”. Although as long as my assailant was staying in the dark, I started feeling quite unsafe in my own home. Just because to act that way, one’s must be deranged, therefore my reaction was: “what’s going to happen next?”. I decided to call our Police department. Three officers arrived, read the emails, and came to the conclusion that it was “kids drama”, and that we new them. They recommended to flag Anon Ymous as spam.
Four months after this incident, my son, 13, made the mistake to not differentiate between what can be perceived by adults as threat on its Facebook page while he was goofing with his virtual “friends”, in what we thought, is the privacy of our home. The lurking Anon Ymous had resurfaced. The conversation was reported to the school while the children were at school and he is suspended indefinitely waiting for its expulsion hearing. Today he is even cited for crime. Nobody was hurt but our family.
Yesterday I asked for a report of the June’s incident at the Police Station, it was recorded as ‘annoyance’ and not worse pursuing, ‘because we knew the author of these emails’. Why would have I call the police if I knew the sender of these emails?”. The police didn’t even try to decrypt the headers I sent them to look for an ISP’s address.”

GR: According to the Police department this: “do not constitute a threat per the California Penal Code. There is a crime against annoying phone calls and e-mails, it is a misdemeanor, and to press charge the name of the sender must be known.

This story is unfortunate, but far to be uncommon or recent. At least on the zero tolerance part. The University of California UCLA started noticing this dangerous trend as soon as 2000 in their Civil Right Project. Ten years after this observation, School district regulation became out-of-hand despite their name “Parents Hand Books”, in which, terms especially those applied to cyberspace, are so vague that they look like words planting in a middle of a mine field with no real meaning other than, “we’ll break you down”.
However, at that point our investigation shows, that the State Department of Education’s recommendation toward, prevention, guidance and teaching about the Internet in a comprehensible way are ignored by some districts. In these unfortunate cases, the school administration, supervised by the members of the elected school board is reaching out to families to “report” anything they think suspicious outside of the school and on the Internet. It’s a burgeoning trend among school districts that is carrying poisoning effects on the community at large. There is a network of professionals trained to detect when some comments are a threat to the community. Letting parents and children interpreting and judging words on a social network thread is an open door to personal revenge and chaos for all parties involved. This is a matter of real Public Safety.

” In the 2007-2008 school year, 823,614 students were suspended in California, that’s 13% of the total number of students”, according to the California Department of Education.

At GR, we are wondering how many of them ended up caught up in the system with a life sentence due to a Facebook comment reported by a cyberspy “encouraged” by school districts administrators.

Anyhow, this is how some schools are reacted to what they still don’t understand fully. It’s fast, it’s radical. It’s also in the worst interest of our children or our communities. It has to stop, and dialogue has to start.

Published by Global Reportage©oct2010