Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nude Student Photos

I read that headline on the front page of the Connecticut section of the New York Times this past weekend in utter dismay. Middle and high school students in the Greenwich, CT school system were found circulating nude photos of themselves, in provocative poses, over the Internet and cellphones. Once transmitted, the photos were re-transmitted, building a web of access far beyond the boundaries of the Greenwich community.

Who stepped in to bring the matter to the attention of the general public? Bravely, school superintendent Elliot Landon wrote a letter home to parents. In the letter, he reminded parents that despite stepped up efforts in the schools to run Internet safety programs, students were still engaging in risky behavior. With the school year coming to an end and little time to implement even more rigorous programs, Landon urged parents to take precautions now and with the summer months looming.

In his letter, Landon offered practical advice, assumping parents were available and willing to follow through. He told them to keep computers in common areas, ensure screens were visible, and maintain access to their children’s email passwords. He urged parents to “randomly check” their children’s e-mail accounts and “text messages and cellphone photos,” and be “upfront” about why they were checking.

In an interview for the New York Times, Landon expressed concern that the retransmitted photos exposed students to sex predators and total strangers. Connecticut State Police, when conducting in-school programs on Internet safety, remind students that those transmitting nude photos of children 16 and under are subject to pornography charges. State Trooper William Tate cautioned that people must understand that what is transmitted over the Internet does not disappear. For instance, college admissions counselors and employers pay forensic experts to rummage through candidates’ online histories.

What are your responses to the Greenwich story, the advice offered by the superintendent, comments by state police, and the whole issue of Internet safety? Was it right for the superintendent to step in once students brought the matter to his attention? What is the school's role, and how responsible are schools for the actions that students take off of school ground? In your opinion, will school Internet safety programs work?


Steele, M. F. (June 1, 2008). Nude student photos spur internet warnings. The New York Times [online]. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from


Mike said...

Schools are responisble for their students whether it is 7 am 2pm or 10 pm at night. So I agree with what the superintendant of schools did. He made the students problems the schools problems and not only was he concerned he actually took some action.
I feel as if this would be a 16 year old parents worst nightmare their child passing around nude phots of himself/herself and not caring who sees them or how they are distributed, its downright scary.
The problem that i see with all of these stories about child pornogrpahy and pedophiles is just how easy it really is for any person to access this type of material from their computers at home and even though their has been a nation wide crack down on this issue it does not seem to matter.
The students are becoming more and more comfortbale with flaunting their sexuality and to many times if asked about the consequecnes of their actions their simple response would be " im not stupid nothing is going to be happen to me" This is the same response that they give when they make the poor decision to drink and drive.
Schools and parents need to work together to stop this from happening so i say kudos to anyone who is willing to step forward and admit that this is not just the students or parents problem it is also the schools.

Jamie Sacharko said...

Ditto Mike!!
I know that it is a line that all teachers need to draw in order to not let their careers completely take over their lives. IT is so hard for a teacher to not be involved in all of these additional aspects of their students every day lives and if teachers were to constantly become involved then they would sacrifice their own freetime and sanity. However, that being said, though it is important for teachers to find a comfortable middle ground, it is also important for teachers to always remember that they are role models within their students' lives. We are members of their society and if we want to develop a stronger, safer and happier society then we need to do be active members. That involves stretching across that line sometimes. I want to be a teacher that is an active member of the community in which I teach, I think it will add to the a/effectiveness of my teaching. If my community of teens is engaged in issues such as this, I want to be part of the group that takes action.

Meg said...

I agree with Mike on this issue as well. Superintendents need to step in to educate parents and students with regards to internet safety at all levels.

Recently, we had a student whose brother committed suicide. By the time I got the call from my school principal, 4th graders had accessed pictures of the child who had hung himself. Do we really want elementary, middle and high school students to view this horrible act. Someone had taken pictures with a cell phone and then downloaded them onto a site. This information went through the communtiy quickly. Unfortunatley, there was a copy cat situation that occured a week later with another student at a school across town. This promted the Superintendent to create a series of workshops for parents on suicide prevention and internet safety. These workshops were open to parents of children in grades 3-5 since this was part of the population who had seen this awful sight online.

When we access the internet we are opening ourselves to a whole new world. While teenagers don't think anything will happen to them, they are wrong. One bad bump in the road can open us up to all sorts of terrible things. It is important for school officals to educate parents and students on internet safety.

Judy said...

Mike, Jamie, and Meg, I read the article initially on Sunday, thought of posting about its content on the blog right then, thought again and decided not to, and then reconsidered a few days later. Your responses have further enlightened me to the urgency of the issue. We can't hide it under the table. The superintendent in Greenwich took immediate action when the matter was brought to his attention. However, how can we also consider developmental psychology that tell us that students of a certain age will take risks regardless of warnings? Still, the easy proliferation of information on the Internet raises the stakes. We live in a wonderful world where information can be transmitted instanteously, but that also complicates our lives as educators. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Meg, I can only begin to imagine how difficult the situation was for school children in West Hartford this year with the two tragic suicides. Yes, schools need to address this issue in a highly sensitive way. The situation was only compounded by the fact that pictures were transmitted online. How sad!

Nicole G said...

Wow! Mike, Jamie, Meg, and Judy your points are all valid and I feel that the superintendent did the right thing. I am baffled at the actions of these 16 year olds. Like Meg says this may be going on in the highschool levels but it does effect the elementary level because many have older sibblings and news travels fast.
Scary to think that 16 is the new 25. I am wondering what can be done in schools to avoid situations like this. I understand computer safety but also I feel that self confidence and self efficacy may be an issue. I know there is no way to target every child but I am trying to think of perhaps ways that the schools could have assembly's or development both for students and faculty. Like Mike said schools are responsible for these children/young adults when they are in school and they need to be proactive in how they handle these situations.

Mary Ann Oszurek said...

I agree with all the comments made so far. I think that schools are responsible for educating students on how to be safe in or out of school. I am glad that the superintendent gave parents some advice but I hope the parents are following through.
In our school, I just dealt with a similar situation; a girl was taking pictures of other girl's changing for physical education. The girl taking the pictures said she was going to post them on her my space page. I took the camera away and brought it the administration and I am waiting to hear what happens. The girl knew what she did was wrong but did not seem to care. It amazes me that people are so desensitized to these actions.
I agree with Mike about how students are becoming more comfortable with flaunting their sexuality. It is pretty scary to watch this take place at the middle school level but these behaviors are happening at younger and younger ages.

molly said...

Sad to say, this type of behavior does not startle me the way that it should. I have found, more often than not, children are encountering sexual experiences, such as these, even in middle school grades. I feel that regardless of parental action at home and regulation at school, young people are still going to find ways through the red tape. I completely agree that the superintendent did the right thing; however I still feel that children need to be educated about certain issues many people want to ignore until there is a problem. In my opinion, education and counseling are much more effective than simply laying boundaries. After all, for many high school teens boundaries are meant to be broken. Informing teenagers about the dangers in sharing these types of photos, pedophiles, etc. might have a more realistic and rippling effect on their actions than stipulation and regulations ever could. Don’t get me wrong there should be rules in place and consequences that follow; I just feel that if issues like these were nipped in the bud, they would be less likely to occur.

michele said...

I agree with everyone's comments. I commend this Superintendent for getting involved and showing a true commitment to his students. I really believe that most educators have their students' best interests at heart and want to help in any way possible.
Mary Ann, I applaud you for taking the camera. We have to take a stand in situations like the one you described. However, I agree with Molly. I wish I could say that I am surprised by what happened, but I think this behavior is very common among teenagers, even young ones. I do not think that teenagers understand the implications of what they put "out there" for all to see and how it can haunt them down the road. I know that students sometimes trade pictures with people. i'm sure that they probably trust the person they are trading with. As Judy said-technology can be a wonderful thing in many ways, but it comes with a whole new set of problems and responsibilities. I'm not sure that we can impress this on our students or children any more than our own teachers and parents could with us. It is very scary.

Jen B. said...

The world has become a much smaller place thanks to MySpace and Facebook. I have seen provocative pictures of many of my students on MySpace and they just don't understand how dangerous the situation is. None of the pictures are as alarming as those discussed in the article, but many of them are more than a middle school studnet should be advertising. Most believe that they cannot be found by predetors, but then many are shocked to know that I have been viewing their sites....I do it for that reason specifically. You never know where the danger lurks. They still do not tend to see the issues, but I am trying to educate them slowly. I've tried to get an internet safety course setup but I was told it is handled in 'Tech' class. My students tell me otherwise. I know the 'Tech' teacher does not touch the topic of internet safety.
Of course there is also cyber-bullying...another topic schools need to deal with but are not at this point.
Jen B.