Last week, a case in the States was featured in The New Paper: US teacher faces jail for showing students porn in classroom. What happened was that substitute teacher Julie Amero was convicted last month of exposing her class of 12 year-olds to porn. She had used the class computer to send an email before going to the bathroom, and when she got back, she saw her stduents crowded around the PC. And then the pornographic pop-ups kept, er well, popping up and according to Amero, she tried to close the pop-ups but they kept coming on. In the end, she could only try to shield the PC screen from the eyes of the students.
The jury didn’t believe that she didn’t know how to turn off the porn pop-ups, and a Connecticut court is set to pass sentence soon and that sentence could mean up to 40 years in jail for Amero! Sadly, it’s not difficult to understand why the jury would think that Amero was visiting porn sites in the classroom, as there have been many cases of adults, including teachers, engaged in visiting porn sites in private and in school.
A few issues have surfaced from this. One is the question of computer security. Who is responsible for keeping the computers at school clean and child-safe? Should there be designated people to check on all the computers in a school? Or given that computer literacy is seen as something belonging to the group of basic literacy skills in today’s world of ubiquitous computers, should teachers be responsible for the security of the systems in their classes? Or have undesirable sites gotten so sophisticated that they are getting too advanced for basic computer literacy skills? In another article, Teacher faces jail time for porn pop-ups , the conviction of Amero seems to set a “somewhat disturbing precedent… Teachers may now feel immense pressure to become overnight computer power-users to avoid being arrested for not staying ahead of their schools’ own (lack of) computer security measures. Or to take it a step further, teachers may become more reluctant to use PCs in the classroom.”
A key issue is also the increasing dangers that not just lurk, but actually pounce on you while you are on the cyber highway. The security threats, as well as undesirable content that have been on the increase need to be carefully addressed as we enter the growing sphere of cyberspace and new media. In addition, new laws will need to be implemented and enforced. The court will passing sentence soon on on 2 March and no doubt those in the field of IT and education will be curious to know the extent of the penalty for Amero.