March 18, 2007

Julie Amero

I remember hearing about this teacher recently, but only in passing. I did not realize this case was so bad.

In short: a substitute teacher is facing up to 40 years in prison for exposing some school children to internet pornography. Except that the evidence is lacking, her defense attorney appears to have been unprepared, the prosecution experts voiced outright falsehoods, and everyone involved seemed to be incredibly ignorant about the World Wide Web and how browsers work.

There is a distinct possibility that what happened to this woman is that she got flustered trying to close browser windows which popped up unbidden while students were looking at a hair care related website. I know I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before, and in my experienced opinion the prosecution did not sufficiently show that this is not what happened to her. In other words, there is a plausible and likely explanation for what happened, but she was convicted anyhow. She awaits sentencing on the 29th of March.

Thanks, Chuck, for brining this to my attention. This sort of miscarriage of justice is infuriating because any of us could be the victim of ignorance. It’s the sort of thing we used to discuss back in college. One implication of technology is that people who do not understand technology will be in a position to create and interpret laws which affect the people who use that technology. This is a prime example of the dangers of ignorance.

I assume that Ms. Amero is innocent since there is a distinct lack of proof to the contrary. I also agree with Chuck that, even assuming she is guilty, 40 years would be an extreme sentence.

Posted by James at March 18, 2007 11:07 AM
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It doesn't help that her lawyer wasn't particularly effective.

Posted by: julie at March 18, 2007 1:46 PM

It seems ridiculous that she didn't try to turn the monitor off or unplug the computer. However, having worked in computer labs I am not surprised when people tell me they didn't think to do X, Y, or Z.

I have seen people try to use a desktop computer when the power was out in a building (and this was in the day before laptops). I've seen people fold a floppy disk in half and shove it in a drive. I've seen some unbelievable stuff that people thought was reasonable.

Posted by: James at March 18, 2007 4:57 PM

It's been cited in several stories that, since she was a sub, another teacher had come in the room, logged the computer on, and told her in no uncertain terms was she to turn the computer off. (Probably because he didn't want to come in and turn it on again.)

As far as turning off the monitor, I was sick in bed the other day and asked my lovely-but-luddite husband to turn off the monitor on my computer. He thought it was the big circle that says "Dell" on the tower and didn't know why the light was still glowing, but didn't want to mess around with other buttons and "break the computer."

Of course, it was only a few years ago I was a computer trainer and when I told the class to put their mouse on the "Start" button, one woman lifted up the mouse and physically placed it on the lower-left hand corner of the screen...

Posted by: mjfrombuffalo at March 18, 2007 5:35 PM

It's an interesting combination, this trial. They lack understanding of what's going on and at the same time assume she should have known another way to deal with the problem.

Posted by: James at March 18, 2007 5:53 PM

I think the defense should have done a demo in the courtroom, showing how easy it is to get into one of those loops. 10 minutes of that and "case dismissed"! It would have been even more fun to have one of the 'experts' have to do it.

Posted by: briwei at March 19, 2007 12:36 PM

Who among us hasn't suffered the unintended multiple page orn-pay pop-up extravaganza?

My first action is to shut down the page via Task Manager, but when you're flustered in front of a group of children, you might not be that smooth. I've also just shut the computer down via the Start menu, just to get the orn-pay to stop (see, James, I'm trying to protect your blog from being spammed here).

However, if she was told not to turn it off, well, she probably was afraid to do these things (that and she may not have had to do this type of quick-thinking action).

What a crock this trial is. Any fool over the age of 10 could tell the court this kind of stuff happens. I'm plesed to read of the open letter written by those CS Profs. to Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane.

Go get 'em!

Posted by: Patti M. at March 19, 2007 4:00 PM

Maybe she should have taken her blouse off and used that to cover up the screen.

This sort of thing has actually never happened to me before. I do remember getting a ton of popups on a tripod page once (pre-Firefox), but I quickly alt-f4'd them into oblivion. (I don't know if alt-f4 is technically the same as clicking the red X close box, but it's easier for me to do quickly.)

Posted by: Julie at March 19, 2007 4:48 PM

Yes - this sort of thing has never happened to me with Firefox. Not that I can remember. With IE it does happen.

Posted by: James at March 19, 2007 5:31 PM

How about the possibility that these 'innocent' students actually were pranking the Substitute teacher? They were looking at a Hair style site? Am I the only one that thinks they could have intentinally set it up so that the teacher would get stuck with a never ending series of porn pop-ups?

When I was recently at school, it was a common prank to play on people. Usually using a gay site as the source. I have little doubt that those kids knew more about computers than the teacher did. It might be a stretch, but, it's not unrealistic. Is it?

Am I the only one that is disturbed that it is considered a 40 year offense to inadvertently expose teenagers to sex? What kind of country do we live in here?

so sad. The worse that should happen to her is she get fired.

Posted by: Rui at March 24, 2007 9:24 PM

Guilty as charged? No way!

Stupid and unfit to teach? You bet!

She could not possibly have dealt with the pop-ups in a worse way. What an idiot. She was "not allowed" to touch anything, but had no problem with touching the monitor to move it ... hmmm

Posted by: Donna at April 3, 2007 4:52 PM

Too harsh Donna. Computer illiterate yes, an idiot no. Amero is innocent, the IT Supervisor, Judge, Prosecutor, Detective/Prosecution computer expert, Defense Attorney, and at least one member of the jury are also computer illiterate when it comes to the standard of expertise required in this case. There are a number of people that need some community service in this case, but Amero isn't one of them. Losing the right to teach is too extreme, how about a good basic computer course for Amero and consideration of future career options for all the others considering that a persons career and future are at stake.

Posted by: stan at May 9, 2007 12:35 AM

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