News Roundup

Yet another stupid, yet potentially lethal, "no you do it" challenge is racing around the country.  It's called the Cinnamon Challenge and basically, it's swallowing a teaspoon of it without water.  (I recall this as trying to swallow a half-cup of flour in my day.)

Now you think, "Cinnamon - how bad can it be?"  The issue is that cinnamon is a minor caustic that can burn mouth tissue and, worse, can cause breathing difficulties.  If a child has respiratory issues such as asthma, it could be life-threatening (as has been the issue in several cases throughout the country where children had to be put on ventilators. 

It seems like you wouldn't have to tell a kid not to do this but I can see how they think cinnamon is sweet and delicious as it seems it is on a Cinnabon.

Fantastic guest column in the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet by Ronald Willett, a former university professor, researcher and administrator and former corporate executive.  The title?  Fourteen Reasons Schools are Troubled (and no, it's not all about teachers).  He calls out EVERYONE including parents.  And, he's right. 

Lastly, the Rutgers case involving two roommates, a camera and a suicide.  This may change the face of law and youth for a long time to come and could be the opening case law about social media and privacy for young people.

You likely know the facts of the case:  two new roommates, one who only recently had come out to family and friends.  The other roommate, Dharun Ravi, did not interact much with his new roommate, Tyler Clementi (but that could be the story with any new roommates).  Mr. Ravi did let some of his friends know, via Twitter, that Mr. Clementi was gay but did not seem to be upset about it. 

Mr. Clementi made a romantic friend and invited him over, asking Mr. Ravi if they could have the room for the evening and Mr. Ravi agreed.  Before he left, he had trained the camera on his computer on Mr. Clementi's bed.  He then spied on him and told others on Twitter that his roommate was "making out with a dude."  He did it a second time and invited more people to watch. 

Mr. Clementi found out and had already started the process to change rooms.  Mr. Clementi accessed Mr. Ravi's Twitter account and read the many remarks about what people saw/thought.  Three days later, Mr. Clementi threw himself off a bridge.  From the NY Times article yesterday:

That account had been established by a long trail of electronic evidence — from Twitter feeds and cellphone records, dormitory surveillance cameras, dining hall swipe cards and a “net flow” analysis showing when and how computers in the dormitory connected. 

The NY Times article title today:  Rutgers Verdict Repudiates Notion of Youth as a Defense. 

Mr. Ravi was found guilty of 15 charges he faced and now could face up to 10 years in prison and deportation (as he is an Indian national).  He could have taken a plea deal with a monitor, community service and no time in prison.

We talked about this issue of social media and our children in another thread.  That was about reputation, not getting into college, or loss of a job or internship opportunity.  This is about criminal activity. 

The defense was claiming that Mr. Ravi was an immature jerk but not a criminal.  The lawyer said that many of us had done stupid things in our youth and the activity that Mr. Ravi carried out was at the "prank" level.

We could all debate what is a prank and when does it cross the line?  I can recall many, many hazing incidents in high school and college that I would not have called pranks.  Mr. Ravi had no way of knowing his actions might lead to Mr. Clementi's suicide.  But he did invade Mr. Clementi's most fundamental right to privacy and told others about it as it was going on and allowed them to view it as well.

But the real issue to my continuing plea to parents that you need to educate your children about what social media and the Internet means in their lives and possible outcomes, both positive and negative.

From the Times and the issue of youth as a defense:

The failure of the jerky-kid defense is likely to change the legal landscape by showing that jurors can conclude that young people who are sophisticated enough to spy on, trash-talk and embarrass one another electronically are sophisticated enough to be held accountable. 

The verdict showed that the notion of innocent youth as a shield to culpability might not hold as much sway as it once did in court, Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor, said. “Jurors will say their kid or kids they know are more sophisticated than that,” Mr. McRae said. “For jurors, it doesn’t pass the common-sense test.” 

What this decision might mean in the future:

“This reinforces that social media can cause great harm and that its misuse can be criminal,” Ms. Goldberg said. She said she expected that the lessons of the courtroom conviction would probably be studied broadly, including in discussions at college orientations across the country in the fall.  

Lastly, understand this, being 18 means being an adult as far as criminal activity.  I know that many of us, from our own experience, might not have considered ourselves a real "adult" at 18 nor would we consider our children.  

The courts - and juries - do. 


Anonymous said…
I think a lot of us grew up hearing "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". That is flat out wrong. Words DO hurt, DO drive people to kill themselves and DO cause great, long term harm all the time. We talk a good game when it comes to bullying but I think there's still a lot of progress to be made.

It almost sounds as though it wasn't the video itself that drove Tyler to jump off the bridge but the words of total strangers saying hateful things afterwards. I absolutely agree with the comment that if a kid is sophisticated enough to set up remote feeds and all that he is damn well old enough to know better. Good parents teach their kids, regardless of technology, what is good behavior and what is not.

As the parent of a tween who was bullied when younger and whose "friends" parents not only did nothing but DEFENDED clearly inappropriate words, I can't emphasize enough how important parents are in the equation, and how much "just words" can alter a person's perception forever.

In Tyler's Corner
dan dempsey said…
The 14 reasons article from the WaPost is excellent.

Answer Sheet
Anonymous said…
Check out for a series on bullying: school and workplace Very informative. Bullying

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
seattle citizen said…
The Seattle Times writes a fine editorial celebrating Seattle University being chosen for the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Award, "the top award given by the federal government to an institution of higher education committed to volunteerism, service-learning and civic engagement."

Congratulations to SU for your good work! Spending upwards of a million dollars a year, and countless volunteer hours in your community...Bravo! I especially appreciate the work you do with Bailey Gatzert, tutoring and offering other services...Yay!
seattle citizen said…
And we learn from the Times that US principals will gather in Seattle this week.

"Elementary and middle-school principals from around the country will gather in Seattle this week to discuss school leadership, including how to combat bullying.

The annual convention of the National Association of Elementary School Principals will take place at the Washington State Convention Center this Wednesday through Saturday.

The event will include speeches by education notables like historian Diane Ravitch, evaluation expert Charlotte Danielson and teacher Rafe Esquith. Bullying will be a focus.

The principals will also participate in a community-service project to build a new playground for Columbia City's Hawthorne Elementary School."
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