Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Social Media Strikes in Two SPS Schools

First up, Hamilton International Middle School.

It was reported to me that a couple of days ago a student in a class took video of his teacher warning students about not supporting a certain, very popular YouTube channel because the channel and the ones it retweets to its 75 million (yes, million) followers can be (looks at list): racist, homophobic, mysogynistic, and anti-Semitic.  The video has had nearly 2M views.

I also heard that there were reported bomb threats to the school and police came out, either today or yesterday.   I have calls into SPD and SPS but mum's the word so far.

Update from SPD:
I can tell you that officers were called to Hamilton yesterday shortly after noon for a threats call by school staff. Officers documented the incident after interviewing staff, but you will need to contact Seattle Public Schools for any further details. 

From SPS:
The ensuing responses from other social media users included some negative comments and language. While the language did not include a direct threat, out of an abundance of caution, Hamilton International Middle School responded by contacting the Seattle Police Department. The Twitter post and related comments were investigated by the Seattle Police Department and SPD quickly determined there wasn’t a safety risk to students, staff, or the school.

Since the incident, and today, we have extra security presence at the school. This is simply out of an abundance of caution. Also, the Seattle Police Department will continue to monitor the social media traffic.
end of update

Then the student tweeted out the video (I will not be linking the video as this particular YouTube star and his minions are a nasty bunch).   This student said:

Our history teacher told us that by supporting Twitter site X we are supporting anti-Semitism, racism, ignorance, etc. He also said that is a very reputable news source. How ignorant can you get? The political arguments are more and more ironic daily. 
Obviously this student is bright (he knows what the Wall Street Journal is) and sadly, for his age, a bit jaded.  Maybe that's the Trump effect.  We don't get to hear whatever the discussion was that preceded the video but the teacher is clearly somewhat upset. He seems to be trying to warn students that when they watch, comment and retweet videos/statements that have ill-conceived statements, they, too, are complicit.  And, that it could hurt them someday.

The teacher is right.

This particular YouTube star likes to make ill-conceived statements and then say they are a joke.  Or we're past that particular phrasing as being bad.   Raise your hand if you said the oft-tried but lacking, "It's just a joke."  I did...when I was 12.  This is what we are dealing with except that the alt-right seems to love this guy. 

The student also tweeted this:

Let's get someone with influence to see this so we can get people to know how bad things are getting

and this:
Schools gonna be a blast tomorrow huh. I'll keep y'all updated

What would happen to me if I said the schools name and the teacher's name. Legally could they do anything to me

To which another person noted that maybe the student shouldn't have put it up at Twitter and should have used an anonymous site.  

Many people tweeted comments to the student like this:
Report them to the school administrator.

Holy frick this teacher is so stupid. I feel bad for any kids he teaches/has taught. If you’re going to make those allegations you need something that isn’t the WSJ to back them up. Bet he just read a headline and didn’t even think about it.

Everything he's saying are false claims that he has made up to fit his agenda and stop the spread of such "antisemitic" content. 
Others said things like this:

We’re all human and even teachers have lessons to learn, no reason for him to lose his job

To everyone that's saying the teacher should get fired: I don't think he should, he's a very talented and interesting teacher when he is teaching and not trying to force his opinion on people.(and he rarely try's to)
Update: Hamilton apparently had its first school assembly Tuesday night. Here's what it was about:
We will be holding our first school assembly next Tuesday, December 18, in the afternoon.  The assembly will be led by students, administration, and counselors.  The focus of the assembly is to encourage our students to help each other feel valued, welcomed, and respected for our differences, and who we are as individuals.  In an effort to help students further understand identity and the impact of unkind and hurtful words, we will show students the Teaching Tolerance video called Intersectionality 101.  The video helped guide student leaders in writing speeches on their personal experiences at Hamilton and how words can be both helpful and hurtful.  Student leaders hope that sharing the video and their personal stories will empower the Hamilton community-- to act in kindness, compassion, and respect.
end of update

 Next story, Roosevelt High School. 

A non-tenured teacher was recently let go.  Apparently there had been an incident in the teacher's class that made the teacher come down hard on all the students.   Apparently, it made some kids very, very mad.  Days later, some kids found some relatively old Facebook posts of the teacher's that were objectionable.  (I do not know the content or context.)

And the teacher was exited.   I was told the teacher was a one, if somewhat excitable.

Clearly, because it's a personnel matter, SPS isn't going to tell me anything.  But clearly, the Board needs to get cracking on that social media policy. 


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't Putin and the gang in St. Petersburg be pleased to know that talented US teachers are being reprimanded, muzzled and fired for critiquing social media.


Anonymous said...

Ummmm...not sure if simply being aware of the existence of the Wall Street Journal makes someone "bright."

I can't imagine being a teacher right now, when everything you do or say can be recorded, doctored, and spread around social media. The board should have adopted a social media policy years ago.


monkeypuzzled said...

The HIMS teacher in question is an *excellent* teacher. This makes me very sad, as well as scared for my kid at HIMS.

Anonymous said...

Washington has a two party consent law, meaning all parties must consent to the recording of conversations. Teachers should not record students without their prior consent (yet this happens routinely) and students should not be secretly recording their teachers or fellow classmates in the classroom.

And students - not the best way to handle the situation. If you don't feel you can talk to the teacher, then talk with a school administrator or counselor. They can sometimes mediate and correct the situation in a more constructive manner. I'd be pretty livid if my kid pulled such a stunt (even though there have been several instances where recording the teacher would have been very tempting when needing to discuss issues with administrators).

Discussions around fake news and responsible use of social media are important, but for goodness sake, why not start with something less controversial? Telling students to not go to site X means, what? They are likely to visit site X.

two words

Melissa Westbrook said...

Two Words, in defense of the teacher, we don't know how this came up. I'm not sure the teacher had said anything about the site; it may have been a student.

Anonymous said...

Did the student's post identify the school, which possibly lead to the threats?


monkeypuzzled said...

From someone who was there: "Mr. X was doing a lesson on fake news and was modeling a misinformed reaction to retweeting a P-------- dog whistle."

Anonymous said...

As a HIMS parent, I want to be clear that I support our teachers in teaching media and online literacy--such literacy is imperative for us to function as informed citizens in a democratic society. Let's own that this is a tough area and we may not get it 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. Let's own that schools can't control what kids do on their own time. Administrators are in a very tough position. I hope SPD and or SPS/HIMS have made the student's parents aware of their student's activities online and the impact those activities are having on the school and teachers' and students' feelings of safety or lack thereof.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

I believe that posters/flyers supporting this YouTube personality have been going up on HIMS property recently. So neither this discussion not this particular person or YouTube channel was random.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerning, I didn't see it in his tweets but he pondered doing it. However, I think the cat's out of the bag.

Well,MonkeyPuzzled, if it is a "dog whistle" then the teacher probably wasn't wrong. You can look up who is the most popular on YouTube and judge for yourself. The issue over the WSJ was that WSJ said something to offend this group and they hacked into WSJ website and put up a fake notice about what WSJ would be posting in the future.

Again, the teacher is right to warn kids about the dangers of what they retweet and who is the originator. And, if they continue, then they, too, can face what the Roosevelt teacher did.

The Internet is forever.

Anonymous said...

I know my son's friends are not super well informed and probably can't make the distinction between the WSJ editorial content and their news reporting. The article about P.....'s Nazi and other offensive content is straight up reporting and I hope the student listened long enough to learn about how reporters work. My guess is the student just stopped listening when he heard criticism of one his internet heroes.

I think we all need to realize that reprogramming people to see the truth in front of them is the problem of our day. Whether it's followers of hateful YouTube stars or our derange, mob boss, so-called president Donald Trump, we have a cult problem and this teacher sounds like he started to create pinholes in the balloon of belief which enveloped this student.

As far the content maker, he's an entertainer, and racism and hate sells; he will keep walking the edge. He's rich and as white as they come and IMO not a class act at all.


Unknown said...

"I think we all need to realize that reprogramming people to see the truth in front of them is the problem of our day."

Just sit with that for a second. We live in a hyper-relativistic community, so what's "the truth" that everyone needs to be "reprogrammed" to see? The woke-ist truth? The BLM truth? The Race and Equity Team's version of the truth? The Alt-Right's truth? "Blood and Soil" nationalists' version of the truth? Whose version of the truth should hold sway?

Face it: our teachers have an overwhelmingly Democrat/progressive/liberal bias. I am a teacher, and I used to consider myself a liberal, but this town is out of control. And because political persuasion is relativistic, by SPS standards, I'm an arch-conservative.

There is reprogramming in SPS. That's for sure.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking the other day how much I loved this blog when it went on crazy rants and moralizing. Thanks for this I needed it.


Anonymous said...

It is good to teach kids basic media literacy and how to understand what is and is not an objective source. Some people will object to that when their favorite source - like an alt-right YouTuber - is held up as an example of fake or biased insight. The school should stand behind the teacher for sure.

That said, it is most definitely NOT the job of a teacher or a school district to be doing “reprogramming”. But I do not see any reason to believe that is what happened here.


Anonymous said...
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dj said...

I have a kid at Hamilton and we’ve now had two communications from the principal. The police are monitoring the situation. In theory, the student handbook prohibits the use of cellphones during school hours except where expressly permitted by the teacher.

Anonymous said...

Dear Unknown,

so it's all relative? No such thing as truth? It is true that the Trump family is involved in crime? More and more are revealed as time goes by, yet millions believe it is all a big lie, that the FBI is corrupt. Trump has created a cult,like the People's Temple or Hitler's Germany.

Here is a fact.

Neo-Nazis and their ilk believe white Europeans are superior genetically to the rest of the globe. That is not true. What these people believe is a lie. They are wrong and need to reprogrammed to see reality.

The reality that humans are not different on a fundamental level and should be seen as equals. Now, of course, in the US, we as a nation, have a long history of racist and ethnic hatred coupled with white superiority that goes all the way back to the first European contact with natives of the western hemisphere. But now we have evolved culturally and the majority view is that all people are the same, regardless of color.

I'm sure someday we'll see the idea of eating animals take the same path towards unacceptability, we seem to be getting kinder as a species as time passes.

I agree SPS is liberal and believes in a more social-democratic model than a conservative free-market model. So what? That reflects Seattle.

To equate teachers' liberalism with the alt-right and Blood and Soil chanting neo-Nazis is ludicrous. That's the kind of "logic" we have heard directty from the mouth of our Dear Leader, president "good people on both sides" Trump.

To this day, however, there are millions who believe the conman-in-chief when he lies about, well, everything. Just yesterday he praised an admitted liar, Gen. Flynn, who, when he appeared in court later in the day, was essentially called a traitor by a Federal Judge.

Is that all relative and if so, to what? Hillary's email? Bill Clinton's meeting with Lynch? Bengazi?

There is truth in this world and one of them is that the Nazi philosophy is 100% wrong and P........ knows it and mongers in hate to make money. Just like many of our right wing politicians.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Unknown, I see your point - what is the truth? But more importantly, for students, who is saying what information? That's what's important. Can you trust this source? And, if it's a bunch of anonymous yahoos spewing about people they are prejudiced against, then kids need that pointed out to them.

Not telling them what to think but how.

So it sounds like the student in question broke WA state law on filming and broke SPS student policy. He had wondered out loud about breaking the law by revealing the teacher's name or school name.

I agree with O (and to quote Indiana Jones) - "Nazis, I hate those guys." It is 100% wrong.

Seattle Citizen said...

"I hate Illinois nazis"

Melissa Westbrook said...

To my anonymous friends (taking them in order):

- I was told it was a bomb threat. Given how tight-lipped both the SPD and SPS are being, I'm going to believe it until I hear otherwise.

- I have not posted the video nor the Twitter/YouTube site. But it's hard to report something without using the actual language. I hope it does live on as a cautionary message to teens.

Anonymous said...

It is against the law in this state to video someone without their knowledge. So has this student been arrested? If not, why not? Have they at the very least been suspended? I've heard that they have not which I'm sad to say doesn't surprise me in the least.

monkeypuzzled said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

So this story is getting bigger as the student in question gave a two-hour interview on Twitter to some second-rate lawyer in Minnesota. I have not listened to the whole thing yet but the student is quite open about many things.

Like Krab mentioned posters going up at HIMS about the YouTube site? That was this kid and his friends.

PuzzleMonkey, I deleted your comment because I don't want any link to InfoWars here. I don't care if you mention there was comment on this at their site but I don't want a link here.

The student says that he visited the office twice and was pleasantly surprised at how benign the administration is being. No being asked to take down the video. Well, I, too, am surprised. As we all seem to understand it, what the student did is illegal in Washington state. Hamilton and the district are going to look the other way.

Meanwhile, the teacher was at school but not in all classes (according to the student).

Anonymous said...

My daughter heard about this incident yesterday through friends and she is in 9th grade. She graduated from HIMS and the teacher in question was one of her absolute favorite teachers. This teacher is very compassionate, thoughtful and exceptionally kind. Has also brought very personal and touching experiences into the classroom to illustrate and teach kindness and compassion. He once stopped bullying of my daughter in its tracks when he witnessed it in a very thoughtful and smart way. His classroom management skills were excellent. My daughter also found his class highly engaging. She thought he could really relate to middle schoolers. We absolutely love and support him.

Anonymous said...

I think someone needs to reprogram the girl who beat a muslim girl at Chartier High School. maybe she'll see the error of her thinking.


The girl with the hijab spent two years in a refugee camp after escaping Syria only to be attacked and beaten by a white girl who somewhere learned to hate and wasn't corrected in that thinking by her teachers. I believe they have decided not to charge her with a hate crime. She has essentially been brain-washed to hate muslims, like a cult member. We have all ages of people in the US who are drunk on hate and it will require understanding and reprogramming techniques to pull them back to reality.

Americans who think families escaping horrific circumstances in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala are a threat have been brain-washed, just like that white girl. It's hard to stop believing when you're invested in your beliefs and hard to stop hating, but it can happen.

I appreciate SPS teachers doing their best to make our kids better citizens and human beings. Calling out P........ and referencing the WSJ article was good teaching; the student should be prosecuted though, if he called in a bomb threat and suspended for taping without consent.

Maybe the school should all watch the video of the white girl beating the muslim girl and see where hate leads.


Anonymous said...

As a teacher I find it completely outrageous that neither the school or the district are supporting the teacher. What this student did was not only against the law but mean and bullying behavior and the district should not stand for it. If I were that teacher I would sue his parents.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Looking at this site, I don't think the kid broke the law on videotaping.


Anonymous said...

This is what the student did though, so maybe it is and that does not change the fact that the school and the district could do something about his behavior because it WAS harassment. "...If you are video taping someone or taking pictures of someone to invade their privacy or in a way that invades their reasonable expectation of privacy you have the same problem and it also could be argued the actions are Harassment, though unlikely criminal harassment without more facts...."

Anonymous said...

My husband never emails me links to blog stories, but he sent me this one because both of our kids' schools appear to have been impacted.

First of all, I'm so disappointed to hear the story behind the Roosevelt teacher's departure. We're new to the school and didn't get a chance to know her very well, but I was really impressed with what I saw at Curriculum Night and I was heartbroken to learn that she was gone.

It's positively chilling to learn that some students unearthed old social media posts that resulted in her termination. And then to find out that a Hamilton student used social media as a weapon against another teacher? Even more chilling.

Roosevelt & Hamilton teachers, if you're reading: WE LOVE YOU and we have your backs! Thank you for putting yourselves in the midst of all the adolescent humanity day after day. WE SUPPORT YOU!!!!

- Marceline

Anonymous said...


Reconfirming this with you: You said Seattle Public Schools has no social media policy? As in nothing? This seems utterly insane in 2018. What about neighboring districts?

Meantime, if anyone knows of reputable local or regional resources we could bring to bear at Hamilton to educate students vis a vis responsible social media use (ideally, a person), please post here.

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

From your link, MW: "...it is equally important to know that the rules are different for recording private communications or conversations compared to taking or recording images."


The video thankfully does not have a clear image of the teacher or other students, nor does it identify him by name. The recording of the conversation was still done without consent. Hopefully the teacher is seeking outside counsel. And hopefully SPS is taking this seriously and protecting the teacher.


Anonymous said...

Policy 2023, Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy, 10/30/18:

It is the goal of the Board that the principles of digital citizenship and media literacy are promoted in the District and instilled in each of its students...Digital citizenship includes the important skills to access, evaluate, develop, produce, and interpret media, as well as Internet safety, cyberbullying prevention and response, and permanence and impacts of their digital identity.


Anonymous said...

Okay so here is the million dollar question: WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?

A minor goes on the internet to have a "chat" with a Lawyer who neither practices in Washington State, is in fact a Contract Lawyer who seems to have issues with liberal people and then puts on You tube this chat, with a minor whose identity is clear and the chatters are minors from the school, which they identify and name the Teacher.

This is okay with any of these parents? And true while most of this is protected by free speech I suggest an actual Lawyer get involved to discuss the issue of taping without consent, the issues about public schools and the waiving of said rights for both Teacher and Students as that is a complex issue of late as several Teachers have been terminated for social media and using their real names and pseudonyms to talk about their students.

So again Lawyers and Parents need to be involved. Frankly all of this gossip speculation and rumor mongering by those posting online are contributing to the problem.

Here is what I do on Social Media, I don't. I never allowed students use of cell phones when I taught and that is an actual policy in many schools. A wise rule for recording and again even when a video exists it is taken out of context, we have no idea what started the conversation, if it was edited or even if what the Teacher was saying was his personal opinion to a question asked or an actual lesson. Again shut this down.

And go on Twitter and report the kid.. I did. The fake Lawyer I did. And Pewdepie I did. And what did you do? Post rumor and gossip. How proactive is that exactly?

- Old Timer

Melissa Westbrook said...

fyi, the 2000 section of Board policy is around instruction. It is not a social media policy. I have talked with several Board members about the need for a social media policy including Director Geary.

I'll put more together in a separate, more comprehensive post as I follow this story but so far:

1) it does not seem this student has been checked by his parents; I'm quite surprised he was allowed to do this interview on Twitter
2) he oddly seems to want to support the teacher - thinks he's great and doesn't want anything to happen to him. Why, if he disagreed with the teacher, he couldn't have gone to the teacher privately or even an administrator or counselor, rather than taking and posting the video is a mystery.
3) the student is SUPER happy this incident is giving him attention.
4) the student says he got called to the office twice (and he saw the cops and got worried) but said they were very nice to him. He said no one asked him to take the video down and he didn't mention any type of discipline at all.

Whether the taping was illegal or not, it was unethical and that is just as important lesson.

Old Timer, that's fine you don't do social media but most of your students do.

"We have no idea what started the conversation..."

I do. The student said that the teacher's lesson was on Fake News (and offered that the teacher was doing this lecture in every class). Somehow this YouTube site came up. Why the student decided to tape it? He doesn't say.

The only thing the teacher did "wrong" was to say you could be liable legally. The teacher is not a lawyer and it would surely depend on the situation (if a student's retweet or comment could be considered instigation to harm others, maybe). My read is the teacher was valiantly trying to warn the students about attaching their name to sites/people who apparently have no problem saying hurtful, unpleasant things about others.

The Hamilton's policy on cell phone use:

"Students may only use an electronic device during class with explicit staff permission for an academic purpose. Students who have electronics out during the school day, without permission, will be asked to put them away and given the opportunity to do so. If student does not comply, it will be reported to administration. Results of having electronics taken away:

The first offense is a pick up at the end of the day.
The second offense will result in pick up at the end of the day and a phone call to a parent/guardian.
The third offense will result in administrative action.

· Parents, guardians, relatives, or friends should not text message or call our students at any time during school hours. If you need to reach your student, please call the main office at (206) 252-5810.

· Students are not permitted to use cell phones or other devices to record video or take photos during school hours. The only exception to this rule is if a teacher or staff member deems use of electronics necessary to support or enhance instruction and learning."

So the kid violated that policy and the district's policy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh and Cynic,to your point, the kid is Russian. I thought I heard an accent and he told the lawyer that and how great it is to be in country that has free speech.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing the teacher did "wrong" was to say you could be liable legally. The teacher is not a lawyer and it would surely depend on the situation (if a student's retweet or comment could be considered instigation to harm others, maybe). My read is the teacher was valiantly trying to warn the students about attaching their name to sites/people who apparently have no problem saying hurtful, unpleasant things about others."

If the teacher said you "could be" liable legally he is suggesting the possibility you can or could not be held liable. That would be true. Knowing this teacher (my daughter had him) I believe he was trying to warn of potential ramifications about what is posted on social media. Also, he teaches social studies & LA, and critical thinking skills and asks for students to cite and examine their information and sources.

Anonymous said...

The kid is a case in point for everything his teacher was trying to teach the class. Part of teaching kids to be careful online should be to warn them about the outrage industry/mob mentality. People make money from pageviews. Outrage generates pageviews. Be careful who you do business with, and if you try to solve an issue you have with a person in your life on Twitter, they'll get death threats and you'll end up looking like a huge jerk.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Policy 2023 is related to instruction. That's exactly what the teacher was providing, and the snippets of his lesson seem in line with the intentions of that detailed in the board policy. And to your point, MW, the policy ends with: "The Board authorizes the Superintendent or their designee to establish procedures to realize the goals of this policy."


Anonymous said...

How very very fascinating this story is to be sure.

Keep updating it as we do want to be able to take informed action in defense of this teacher should the district decide on any punitive measures against the teacher.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, there is no direct "social media" policy. Policy 2023 that I cited is in a section under Instruction. However, under Students, Policy 3207 seems to apply (partial):

• A belief that students, staff, parents, and the community have a vested interest in, and should work together to promote, healthy social, emotional, and learning outcomes.

“Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any intentionally written message or image (including those that are electronically transmitted), or verbal or physical act.

- Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education or the adult’s work environment; or
- Is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational or work environment; or
- Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school or work place.

Harassment, intimidation or bullying can take many forms including, but not limited to, slurs, rumors, jokes, innuendoes, demeaning comments, drawings, cartoons, pranks, gestures, physical attacks, threats, or other written, oral, physical or electronically transmitted messages or images.

This policy is not intended to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views, provided that the expression does not substantially disrupt the educational environment. Many behaviors that do not rise to the level of harassment, intimidation or bullying may still be prohibited by other district policies or building, classroom or program rules."

For nearly every Board policy, there is a Superintendent procedure (in this case 3707 SP):https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Procedures/Series%203000/3207SP.A.pdf

"Incident Reporting forms may be used by students, families, or staff to report incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying. An Incident Reporting form can be found on the Office of Student Civil Rights’ district webpage."

"In each school and on the district’s website the district will prominently post
information on reporting harassment, intimidation and bullying; the name and contact
information for making a report to a school administrator; and the name and contact
information for the district’s compliance officer. The district’s policy and procedure will be available in each school in a language that families can understand."

So if HIMS parents and students want to, they can file an Incident Report abut how what happened felt for that student. And, students do NOT have to put their name on the form.

I am hearing from HIMS staff that the student's parents are supportive of what he did. I would have been impressed had the kid spoken up and challenged the teacher or, if he was offended, told an administrator. But he chose the way that would most embarrass/harm the teacher.

Whatever the district/school chooses to do, the main thing is to impress upon the student that he CANNOT tape anyone in school and then put it up on the web. If he has a disagreement with someone, this is not how we solve that type of problem.

Anonymous said...

MW, no one is disagreeing with you - it's clear there isn't a specific social media policy to support Policy 2023 (which was just adopted this past October), but it's still relevant since it provides some support for the teacher's actions (along with the policies on academic freedom). The teacher clearly needs to modify his unit for future classes, but he's unlikely to face harsh disciplinary actions.

In defense of the student, SPS needs to do some soul searching about their responsibility to provide some balance in the classroom. You have to ask why a student felt compelled to record the rant. Going back to O's "so what?" attitude about the political climate in the classroom reflecting Seattle, the so what is that it's a public school. I'd direct readers to FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for cases related to free speech, censorship, freedom of conscience, etc. It's focused exclusively on higher education, but would provide for some interesting class discussion. See "Learn more about student rights."

another opinion

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm still mystified - what did the teacher do wrong?

This student is a pretty aggressive guy so I find myself wondering if he planned this. I'm not sure I think it was just about telling kids they should not associate with this YouTube site; I think he wanted some attention. And got it.

Anonymous said...

@another opinion- "The teacher clearly needs to modify his unit for future classes, but he's unlikely to face harsh disciplinary actions".

To what are you referring exactly? Um.... I am mistified by your comment. The teacher did absolutely nothing wrong, I heard what he said and it was great teaching 100%.

The kid or someone else (youtube guy?) started an online rumor amongst other kids that the teacher would be fired etc. Somebody made this up. The teacher is excellent. He teaches kids to think critically about what they follow, what they cite as sources, and what they write on social media as it "could" come back to haunt them. We should all be applauding him.


Anonymous said...

@KL, my interpretation of another option's call for "balance" in the classroom is that they perceive SPS teachers to be too liberal--not inclusive enough of conservative ideas. That "balance" somehow means you need to give equal credence to each perspective, even if one is morally repugnant. That racism and anti-racism (as one example) are just two equally acceptable options, so we should present both. That it's too liberal to say anti-Semitism is wrong, when there are others who think it makes perfect sense. That saying teen sexual assault is unacceptable is going too far, and that instead we should also present the view that it's ok because boys will be boys. That sort of thing. Maybe I read it wrong though and "another option" will clarify--but I thought they might want to know how some may have interpreted their comment.

alternate morality?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to wrap up for the night, I just finished listening to the three-hour interview with this kid with a Christian lawyer in Minnesota on Twitter. (There's three hours I'll never have back as the lawyer? Bit of a jackass who giggles a lot at his own - by his measure - inappropriate jokes.)

What I can tell you from the student:

- He took the video about a week ago but posted it this week. Not sure if he uploaded it while at school or home.
- When the student mentions that the teacher was not really in class that day (two days ago), the lawyer laughs.
- The student said that he was told the cops were there for him and the teacher because there had been "shooting threats."
- The lawyer said he was less interested in the specific situation but more about how students are being taught in public schools (he makes clear he homeschools his kids but does avail himself of public school services).
- He asked the student if he felt his teachers skewed left or right. Student said something about he hadn't met any teachers on the right ever. He claimed one teacher mostly ignored him last year because he didn't agree with something political that the student had said.
- The student explained how he and some friends had put up "subscribe to" this YouTube site signs around the school. Then, when the teacher had been talking about 'fake news", he mentioned that he was worried about the school climate because of those signs and that's when the student videotaped him explaining his concerns.
- Interestingly, both the lawyer and student seem to think the teacher was pushing a political agenda. I do not hear that at all.
- The student said he was more Libertarian, "a modern conservative."
- The lawyer said that some teachers were idiots and he didn't know if this teacher was but wondered if the teacher was "a true history scholar" or just someone with a BA.
- The lawyer asked the student if he wanted to say the teacher's name or school name? The student declined, saying he wanted to "keep it private." But both of them laughed and said it was probably out there to be easily found.
- Both of them, though, went out of their way to tell others NOT to call the teacher names, make threats to the school, or bother the teacher in any way.
- But the lawyer said that the teacher deserved "the justice of the mob" but that it meant saying "we don't like this." He went on and said if the student got disciplinary action, "it's a risk the school might not want to take" and "the school will just have to deal with that."
- The lawyer asked the student what he thought of guns. "Fxxking awesome." The student went on to say that he doesn't think anyone should have gun rights restricted unless they are "dangerous." The lawyer lamented that even with a misdemeanor domestic abuse conviction, a person loses their rights to own guns.
- There have been no new tweets by the student since this interview.

FYI, this is what the original student tweet said (sans video):
"Our history teacher told us that by supporting @XXXXX, we are supporting anti-Semitism, racism, ignorance, etc. He also said that @WSJ is a very reputable news source. How ignorant can you get? The political arguments are more and more ironic daily."

Also of note, apparently the last couple of days have seen many student absences. Colds or fearful parents? The student apparently was not in school either.

Anonymous said...

It appears this kid did this intentionally for attention and he had a Teacher whom he could pick easily upon to do so.

What is more disturbing is that again Twitter, You Tube and the rest are continuing to demonstrate their lack of supervision about minors and use of service agreements.

I don't get any parent who would allow this but I could see several kids who on the chat feature during this that were identifiable and giving out information that violated privacy. And any of those parents should be concerned. Imagine if this was a raging perv instead of an idiotic lawyer with a fake agenda.

Again the issues about social media and how the varying free speech guidelines or even 4th Amendments are not applicable when it comes to public schools.

So a real Lawyer and not some nut job on the internet should be involved here. I recall the Greenberg issue of a few years ago and irony that it was HIMS where he had to be placed while they sorted that out. Good thing it was not he who was used in this fashion.

I know this kids name from his twitter feed even that is idiotic. But again Twitter allows fake names.. so how anyone would know who someone is unless they idiotically tell people or give information that enables people to figure it out is what? An idiot.

Yes I call people regardless of age idiots when the do idiotic things. And kids who do this are just as culpable and responsible for their acts which is another Teachable moment so they don't do what? Be idiots.

- Old Timer

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Some additional background is that this youtube person had posted videos of anti-semitic jokesand nazi imagery and Wall Street Journal investigated and wrote about it. Disney cut their ties with this youtube person due to this situation and youtube canceled his show in their subscription service. The WSJ also reported on the story in 2017. The teacher is correct in pointing out that there is quality journalism in which journalists are trained and try to adhere to certain ethical and moral standards. There is also alot of crap news floating around social media. We also have Russian and other hackers infiltrating news outlets. He was trying to help the student understand the difference.

In addition, I also think the majority of reasonable people whether liberal or conservative do not support anti-semitic, homphobic, sexist, racist etc jokes. It is an American value and discrimintion against those groups is illustrated by our agreed upon laws to protect them. There is disagreement sometimes between liberal or conservatives. But I most reasonable people agree on many things. It is the fringe element that is fighting for a voice that is at issue.


Anonymous said...

While the teacher may have had good intentions, the lesson drew more attention to some provocateur. It appears to have inflamed rather than simply informed. So yes, it seems the unit and its delivery need some review. There's a reason teachers initially use something more benign like the Pacific Northwest tree octopus when teaching internet literacy.

It is very concerning that a stranger reached out to the student, a minor, and the student obliged, not knowing who the bleep the person was. Who knows what else was shared between the two, and it seems fellow classmates were participating in the comments. Saying "don't bother the teacher" was almost an unspoken challenge to identify him and harass him, which is what has happened, yes? Asking the student about guns was almost some kind of litmus test, as if to ask, are you one of us? MW left out the part that the host was admittedly imbibing gin during his podcast.

concerned parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned Parent, oh yeah, in addition to his off-tone jokes, he was drinking.

Anonymous said...

To all those who keep saying the recording was illegal, it was not. Washington state requires consent to record private conversations. Discussions in a public school classroom would not fall into that category. See RCW 9.73.030.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It might not be illegal, however it is a jerky thing to do and the kid should have some consequence from the district. However, that is not going to happen and I imagine my comment will be removed like my others were.

Copies as you need to put a signature such as "Attorney"

Thanks I was not sure about WA State law regarding this as it has been found across the country that both 1st and 4th Amendment protections are not applicable when it comes to public schools.

The kid did this deliberately as if he wanted to be on the drunk fake lawyer show(the Attorney with all the supposed civil rights protections is a contract lawyer and does not practice in Wash State.. and is a well known troll)

Then we have the kids who went on the chat, they were clear about what school and the Teacher's name. All which means no one is minding these kids. This was idiotic but not nefarious. Imagine if it was.

The Teacher has no recourse and its clear the school is ignoring it.. which frankly they should and the kid should be removed however from that class as he is disruptive.

I recall the Center School debacle too well. It was then I realized how charged we are as opinion is just that and you can't even have that anymore. It is why I don't do social media and stay away from any forums where words can be taken out of context as they can even when you are speaking to student. It is amazing how one can hear one thing and interpret it to mean another.

And we are on to the next scandal now and this one is of the more nefarious kinds. again innocent until proven guilty. I remember another at HIMS where a Sub said "something" to a kid in the bathroom. What was that one?

Hey lets recap some of those over the years... I recall last spring the rape in the Ballard toilet... the Teacher who left the field trip, the shooting threat, the student who robbed people at gunpoint. That is just BHS. Shall we go to Garfield next? There are a LOT of scandals there.

- Old Timer

Anonymous said...

Greenberg was disciplined for singling out a student for harassment, after that student had objected to the manner of the lessons. If memory serves me, he intentionally distributed a petition during class knowing that student would then be identified. Let's be clear about what is and isn't permissible. It's permissible to have opinions. Students have a right to express them OR not express them. They can't be harassed or intimidated. Teachers can have opinions, but their free speech is more limited in the classroom.



Anonymous said...

How is this even an issue? Or blog worthy?

Whatever the district/school chooses to do, the main thing is to impress upon the student that he CANNOT tape anyone in school and then put it up on the web.

Utter nonesense. Of course the student can. And should. That’s what “public” means. Public school, in public. With public employees teaching the public. We should have more videos of classrooms not less. In training schools, like at UW... EVERY classroom has a one way observation booth open to the public and most are videoed. If everyone knows they are possibly being observed, they are way better at their jobs, and way safer from baseless accusations. If the kid was an ass, so be it. Some are. If you post enough online, people will form an opinion of them. Yes, teach them that too. Online education is coming.


Anonymous said...

It's more nuanced than that.



Anonymous said...


the Greenberg story is more complicated than that... it was about his curriculum Courageous Conversations. The student did not like the "liberal" tone among other issues raised. He complained. The then Principal who was moved around the district like the chess pieces they are did nothing to handle it.

It escalated to the point where the Board asked him to discontinue the lesson plans.. then it became a bigger issue. Greenburg then did the petition which led to more kerfluffle and then in turn he was sent to of all places HIMS

Then after a year of penance he was to return to Center School but then slapped with another two week penalty lap.

This is from the PI https://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2015/01/12/seattle-schools-slap-reinstated-teach-with-two-week-suspension/

I can only tell you from my perspective of someone who witnessed this and then watched the varying meltdowns it becomes a spectacle.

So what we have coming and coming soon to eventually avoid all of this will be scripted curriculum and online learning. It is where I am now and it is coming your way.

I am all for cameras and recordings but as like with Police it can too offer a distinct version of events and who is viewing said recordings. We can all look out the window see an event and then in turn report it completely differently from each. Look up eyewitness testimony and how flawed that it. Up there with lie detectors and other junk science.

I suggest all critics of Teachers Sub for a year then get back to us with your "observations"

- Old Timer

Anonymous said...

Twitter says its policy for use is age 13.

I applaud this teacher for teaching internet literacy and I hope this does not have a chilling effect on this endeavor. My kid gets assignments like "find out about El Salvador". And her guidance on what materials constitute high quality is zero. It is the KEY thing that must be taught in our schools. The district needs

1. a strong social media policy that allows teachers to do their jobs without fear.

2. A strong curriculum that guides students to high quality sources of information and journalism. This process cannot be hijacked, and it IS charged. The curriculum should cover what journalism is - and how it works. It should include guest talks by actual local journlists who come into schools. It should include examining the news with a nuanced eye - how journalists can also make mistakes or be biased. How to look at multiple news sources for the same story. Ask this question seriously: why is the WSJ a better source for information than a you tube start. Dissect this question.

Most young people get their news from social media. It's critical that they have the skills to determine what is high quality journalism and what is not.

3. Also missing and also key: education to parents about parental control of internet settings. My kids is 11 and I do NOT want her to pornography or other age inappropriate content. I do not want her peers to have access either. But all of her assignments are on the computer - and I have received no instructions on how to assure that while she does her homework she does not have access to age-inappropriate content. And it is NOT easy to do.

4. This can be debated but I think all schools need a no cell phone policy. Full stop. You can take it out after school. Kids are on their phones at lunch and in halls and it inhibits social development and interaction.

Anonymous said...

With the number of teachers relying on students to have in-class access to cell phones, an outright cell phone ban seems unlikely and overly restrictive. It will be interesting to see how the district moves forward. Will they create an explicit districtwide policy for audio/video recording in the classroom (it's not only cell phones that can record...)? What about a social media policy? Will they enforce and follow the policies they create??

"... I do NOT want her to pornography or other age inappropriate content. I do not want her peers to have access either. But all of her assignments are on the computer..."

Even worse, some teachers inadvertently (or intentionally?) provide assignments that contain questionable content, either randomly copied off the web or linked in an assignment. Teachers themselves sometimes lack the filters and skills they need to be teaching their students.

As far as Greenberg, read the Seattle Times - he was ultimately disciplined for creating an intimidating environment for a student.

"Seattle school district releases investigation of Center School teacher" 6/12/13

Related to lesson planning, there's no need to have scripted lessons - simply make an attempt to follow the ACLU-WA guidelines: "In general, you should exercise caution so as not to give the appearance that you are advocating a particular religious or political view in the classroom."


Anonymous said...


As someone who knows Greenberg he is neither intimidating nor threatening but whatever. You can read his own words on the subject but me thinks you have your own agenda.

And yes scripted curriculum is coming.. remember the Common Core? Well that was the start and it will not end...

- Old timer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Could those of you posting anonymously please do me a favor and read the comment policy just above the comment box? That's why you are being deleted.

Daylight, that's some unhinged thinking. The district DOES have a policy about secretly videotaping and guess what? It's legal. They do have a policy about cell phones in schools. And it's legal. As well, so by your thinking ALL public employees should be taped in their workplaces? How much money and time will that cost?

And it wasn't so much that he taped the class, it where and when he chose to expose it. He waited a week to do it and then he made sure, by tagging some people, that it would spread like wildfire at sites where people seem to have hair-trigger responses.

Read, teachers should require kids to have cell phones unless he/she is planning to pay for them. Because the real use of a cell phone in class is that it is a smart phone with a big data plan. Do all kids have this? They do not. So "requiring" it would only embarrass some kids.

Anonymous said...

And it wasn't so much that he taped the class, it where and when he chose to expose it. He waited a week to do it and then he made sure, by tagging some people, that it would spread like wildfire at sites where people seem to have hair-trigger responses.

BFD. That’s their problem. And no, I don’t think we should go to the expense of videotaping all public employees. Just the people who need monitoring. But, they should expect to be monitored if any member of the public feels it necessary. It will improve their performance.


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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Interesting. Conversation with my kid was more like:

Did you hear about someone recording their teacher and tweeting the video?

-Yeah. Kids were talking about it in [ ] class [different school]. Some kid put up posters around school. The teacher talked about it in class and then got threats because of the video.

Huh. What do think about that?

-It was stupid. The police had to come to [ ].

Did you see the video?

-Yeah. You can google it. Just type [ ]. [proceed to watch video]

Hmm. He seems...passionate. You think it's okay to secretly record someone and post it online?



different page

Anonymous said...

Related to discipline, WA districts are supposed to have updated policies and procedures in place for the 2019-20 school year.

(Effective July 1, 2019)
WAC 392-400-110 Discipline policies and procedures—Development, review, and distribution.

(1) School district policies and procedures beginning in the 2019-20 school year. Before the commencement of the 2019-20 school year, a school district must adopt written policies and procedures for supporting students in meeting behavioral expectations and administering discipline in accordance with this chapter.

...The policies and procedures must:
(1) (e) Identify other forms of discipline that school personnel should administer before or instead of administering classroom exclusion, suspension, or expulsion to support students in meeting behavioral expectations.


Anonymous said...

This issues is addressed to some extent in the current 2018-2019 SPS Student Rights and Responsibilities document.

On page 11 the second bullet under "Interference with School Authorities" is:
Use of any electronic means (e.g., cameras, cell phone cameras, videos, or other recording devices) that foreseeably causes school staff to be embarrassed, denigrated, or demeaned

Since the student's words that accompanied his posting of the video make it clear that he was indeed intending to interfere with school authorities by embarrassing, denigrating, and/or demeaning the teacher, he clearly broke the student rules--and should be disciplined.

Also, on page 8 under "Bullying, Intimidation, or Harassment" it says:
Engaging in intentional, persistent or pervasive written, verbal, electronic, or physical bullying, intimidating, or harassing conduct that includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
- for the purpose of embarrassing or denigrating another person;
- physically harms a person or damages the person’s property;
- is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment;
- has the effect of substantially interfering with the student’s education or adult’s right to teach or manage student behavior; or
- has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.

(See also Malicious Harassment) The District will respond to off-campus student speech that causes or threatens to cause a substantial disruption on campus or interferes with the right of students to be secure and obtain their education. Substantial disruption includes, but is not limited to, significant interference with instruction, school operations or school activities, violent
physical or verbal altercations between students, or a hostile environment that significantly interferes with a student’s education.

Again, seems like it was intended to embarrass/denigrate, AND it caused a substantial disruption on campus (e.g., police activity, potentially event-linked fight at school), AND it interfered with the right of students to be secure and obtain their education (e.g., students staying home due to perceived threat from outside wackos since school was named in national right-wing media platforms).

Sure, students have a right to speak their minds. However, when they're at school--or anywhere, really--certain rules do apply base on the setting. The student may not have broken any laws and thus would not be subject to legal consequences, but SPS rules do apply, and the student should be subject to SPS/HIMS disciplinary action. That's how students learn that their actions have consequences.


Anonymous said...

Additionally, I think the HIMS Humanities team should all get together and come up with a significant and challenging research assignment for all students, or at least all students in the same grade level as the student at the center of this. They should teach a lesson on how to assess the legitimacy and accuracy of sources, then require an extensively researched essay from each student on a topic like freedom of speech and its limitations; responsible use of social media; critical thinking in the fake news era; etc. Students should be guided through coming up with solid research ideas; should have to identify their sources early in the process (and justify why they think each is a legitimate source); and should have to include a larger number of sources than are usually required. The teachers can work on this collaboratively in the planning phase, as well as the reviewing phases (e.g., teachers could have a different teacher instead of themselves review the ideas and/or sources for their students; they could double up and have each paper reviewed by two teachers; etc.) They could also engage the entire Humanities team, having teachers from other grade levels help with this important assignment. HIMS has traditionally not been known for its ability to teach research and writing effectively, so maybe this is a great teachable moment for working on serious research and writing. Yes, teach the history curriculum they still need to learn the rest of the year, but all in all, I think it would be a net positive even if they spent the entire rest of the year in the "ELA" portion of the class doing a solid job with a quality research paper like this, as opposed to whatever else they have planned.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Moving On, I deliberately did not post any video from the YouTube site and that was made clear in my post. And yet, you posted it. Not cool. You are welcome to move on.

I think it is good that the district has gone into the holiday; it will give a chance for all to take a breath and for district officials/HIMS administration and teachers a chance to consider going forward. I like HF's idea.

The student clearly broke district policy/school code. Hopefully this will be addressed with the student and his parents. I again note that three days later, the student has not tweeted anything.

We'll leave this topic for now, hoping that no other students think social media is a weapon to be used against teachers.