Monday, February 19, 2007

Julie Amero, American Hero

We got a lot of things wrong early on when we defended Julie Amero. We believed slanted newspaper reports declaring that she maniacally sat at a computer whose monitor was exposed like a 52" HDTV to a classroom of teens who shriveled in horror as they were forced to watch Amero's crazed pornographic obsession play itself out in class after class.

Many of us who knew what must have happened explained that she was "hapless", "incompetent", "an idiot", and so on. We were all wrong. This is our Mea Culpa - late - too little - but true.

After the tragedy of 9-11, America, wracked by guilt and shame, went on a feel good crusade in the only way it knew how. That is, by declaring everyone in a uniform a hero and by showering police, fire, and security related organizations with money and toys that would be unimaginable prior to the attacks. Never mind that by declaring every policeman, fireman, and gun-toting government official a hero for merely showing up diminished the bravery and sacrifice of those who rise above the day-to-day routine of doing their job. And never mind that in everyday life people who don't wear uniforms perform far more heroically than too many government slackers.

So America went on a spending spree that delivered Hummers to small town police departments in the event that Ma and Pa Kettle suddenly might start Taliban training camps in Appalachia. And in Indiana, local skating rinks were secured as though crazed extremists were as likely to attack a roller rink party as the Statue of Liberty. America invested in mountains of junk vehicles, military armaments, and extreme gadgetry as if hostile aliens were about to land any minute.

No aliens arrived. No Taliban camps were started. Crickets chirped, were tracked, identified, and blown away with high caliber, state of the art weaponry that video-taped the shells exploding their tiny bodies into harmless nano-particles of goodness. America was embarrassed by this so America decided that during sweeps week, they would create enemies worthy of the excess. A video onslaught of stalkers, sex fiends, thugs, bullies, cannibals, snatchers of candy from babies were elevated to the terrifying position of demigods of evil that America's bored heroes should engage in combat.

In Norwich, Connecticut, the police department received a $300,000 state of the art police van to cruise around in and, well, look for terrorists and, eh, barring that find something to do with it. So they did.

They made beer runs with it and employed eager, crime-fighting young women [18 and younger] to help them entrap shop-keepers [the closest thing to terrorists in Norwich] who sold beer to minors. In three documented instances each of these young ladies were asked to take some of their clothes off to prove [nod, wink] that they weren't wearing wires [we don't want to lose a case on technicalities, do we]. Nobody seems to know if these photos made it to an internet site.

In contrast, on May 2 of 2004, Principal Fain reported to the Norwich Bulletin that at the Kelly Middle School [800 students] there were 27 police visits and 14 arrests for violent activity.

One of those incidences involved Julie Amero. On April 14, 2004, Julie was a substitute teacher when a fight broke out in the school. The regular staff all closed their doors and pretended nothing was going on. A janitor warned Julie not to get involved. Julie ignored him and arrived too late. A thirteen year old girl was badly beaten up by another girl at the school. Julie arrived in time to comfort the bleeding child. Julie was the last person the girl would see before she slipped into a coma.

A few months later, Julie is again substituting and is accused of cruising the internet all day instead of engaging the students.

I cannot comprehend why we choose to spend pennies on education and demand draconian accountability of schools that need security, training, and 21st century technology to function yet we ask no accountability for billions of wasted dollars on toys for police who abuse our trust.

But the more I learn about teachers like Julie Amero the more I think that America's real heroes are not just those wearing uniforms but those who serve in the trenches of our school systems that are often more violent than our streets and far more complex than busting merchants for serving under-aged customers.

In a future blog posting I will revisit our earlier assumptions about what happened in Julie's classroom and the pornography allegations.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams.

Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is a former head of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, and now serves as a lawyer specializing in computer crime, computer security, and privacy matters in Bethesda, Maryland. He wries a column for
SecurityFocus. In his Feb 12 column, Mousetrapped, he wrote

"He advised her not to turn off the computer, as she had no password to log back in. It wasn’t the first time Amero had used a computer in the classroom. Indeed, she frequently used the computers in the classroom when she was supposed to be substitute teaching – many times in lieu of actually interacting with the 12 and 13 year old kids.

Julie Amero logged in to look at her AOL mail and, about six minutes later, either she or one of the students visited various websites about hair products or hair styles. Now one can reasonably ask why Julie was checking e-mail, or for that matter surfing the web while she was supposed to be teaching. In fact, she spent most of the day logged on to the Internet – not just logged on, but actively surfing. And why were her students allowed to be surfing Internet websites about hair styles? In fact, Julie Amero had been reprimanded for not paying enough attention to the students and instead just web browsing while in class."


Was Amero previously reprimanded? When? By whom? Is there any substance to Rasch's allegations?

Frank Krasicki said...

Let me address Rasch's comments.

It wasn’t the first time Amero had used a computer in the classroom.

Probably not.

Indeed, she frequently used the computers in the classroom when she was supposed to be substitute teaching – many times in lieu of actually interacting with the 12 and 13 year old kids.

Here he is writing fabulism. Rasch has no idea what Julie does or does not do as a substitute. Based on the testimony of her fellow team teacher, Mrs. Fagin all the students had computers at their desks and had a writing assignment to complete. Substitute teachers rarely come in and seamlessly provide a continuous lecture series from the regular teacher nor would she be expected to. I have spoken with school administrator from another Windham area school that employed Julie and no such complaint surfaced. In fact, the person had very warm regards for Julie's service.

Now one can reasonably ask why Julie was checking e-mail, or for that matter surfing the web while she was supposed to be teaching.

Actually no, any teacher in any school should feel perfectly comfortable checking their email at appropriate times. Mr. Napp had no problem with this. What does Mr. Rasch think she should "be teaching"? She is a substitute, not a subject matter expert per se.

In fact, she spent most of the day logged on to the Internet – not just logged on, but actively surfing.

There is no such evidence that she was doing this. A log exists that tracks activity that may or may not have been humanly provoked. His assertion is, quite frankly, a lie.

And why were her students allowed to be surfing Internet websites about hair styles?

Why not? But that's beside the point. They weren't her students. She's a substitute who excused herself to go to the ladies room while Mr. Napp was still there. When she returns, Napp is gone but two students are using his computer. Connect the dots.

In fact, Julie Amero had been reprimanded for not paying enough attention to the students and instead just web browsing while in class."

Can Rasch produce this reprimand? I'm guessing it doesn't exist prior to the event in question.

No. There is very little substance to Rasch's allegations. He is in the process of getting educated as we speak.

Karoli said...

Thank you for clarifying this for us. Those remarks in Rasch's otherwise excellent article really bothered me.

Frank Krasicki said...

They should bother everyone.

Aside from these few points his article is excellent and I don't mean to imply that he lies by nature. He simply bought into a slew of lies that many of us believed were true until we dug deeper.

If, I thought for a second that Julie was or is guilty you would not hear another word from me defending her.

A lot of writers including myself got some facts wrong. I think Mark will revisit his early remarks and come to many of the conclusions we have come to. In a nutshell, Julie is innocent largely because she thought she could rectify a set of automated pop-ups that thwarted her every effort.

The security community is calling her experience "getting caught in a PORNado", "being blanketed by pop-up bombs", and so on. Even very literate computer users are ignorant of this kind of phenomenon and like Julie could easily be fooled into thinking they could make it stop.

It's a bit like playing whack-a-mole with an indefatigable opponent.

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