7 March 2007, 8.46 CET
From Brian Krebs at the Washington Post:
A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer.
Local prosecutors charged that the teacher was caught red-handed surfing for porn in the presence of seventh graders. The defense claimed the graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher’s arrival. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted her of four counts of endangering a child, a crime that brings a punishment of up to 10 years per count. She is due to be sentenced on March 2.
I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.
On the morning of Oct 19, 2004, Amero said she reported for duty at a seventh grade classroom at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn. After stepping out into the hall for a moment, Amero returned to find two students hovering over the computer at the teacher’s desk. As supported by an analysis of her computer during the court proceedings, the site the children were looking at was a seemingly innocuous hairstyling site called “new-hair-styles.com.” Amero said that shortly thereafter, she noticed a series of new Web browser windows opening up displaying pornographic images, and that no matter how quickly she closed each one out, another would pop up in its place.
“I went back to computer and found a bunch of pop-ups,” Amero said. “They wouldn’t go away. I mean, some of the sites stayed on there no matter how many times I clicked the red X, and others would just pop back up.”
Amero said she panicked and ran down the hall to the teacher’s lounge to ask for help. “I dared not turn the the computer off. The teacher had asked me not to sign him out of the computer,” she recalled. Amero said none of the teachers in the lounge moved to help her, and that another teacher later told her to ignore the ads, that they were a common annoyance. Later on, prosecutors would ask why she hadn’t just thrown a coat or a sweater over monitor. On that day Amero hadn’t worn either.
Several children told their parents about the incident, who in turn demanded answers from the school’s principal. Three days later, school administrators told Amero she was not welcome back. Not long after that, local police arrested her on charges of risking injury to several students.
Apparently, like as with the law, ignorance about computers is no excuse.
Morals of the story: use Firefox, and treat as *hazardous* a computer that’s running a version of Windows pre- XP SP2! Also, probably yet another reason to never teach in the public school system.
[via Paul Murphy, ZDNET]