In defense of Julie Amero

Julie Amero is the substitute teacher facing prison time — a maximum of 40 years — because she didn’t know how to turn off pornographic pop-ups that on a classroom computer. The school had let the anti-spyware protection expire; someone forgot to pay the vendor.

I’d like to join I Speak of Dreams, Casting Out Nines and others in asking bloggers to contribute to Amero’s defense fund. A teacher should not be held responsible for an unprotected computer.

Here’s an interview with Amero.

Update: Jim Miller suggests contracting out computer systems management since few schools are able to hire technically proficient people to manage their systems. That’s very true. Schools probably have the worst tech support of any computer-using institution. It doesn’t get in the budget.

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  1. Independent George says:

    Interesting juxtaposition between this story, and Jobs’ rant immediately preceding it.

    I’m no union apologist – I actually agree with much of Jobs’ complaints – but this case is a good example of why they exist in the first place, and why they won’t (and shouldn’t) be going anywhere.

  2. Yes, but you’d think the teachers’ unions would be leading the charge to defend Amero and they’re not. Maybe it’s because she’s a substitute teacher, but you’d think the unions would see the risk to all teachers with net-linked classroom computers.

  3. Miller Smith says:

    A penis is on the screen in the classroom full of kids. I leave it there because I was told not to turn it off. This goes on for hours and hours and hours.

    You’ve got to be kidding me!

    I don’t care what I was told. I will pull the damn thing out of the wall if I have too.

    OTOH, charges? A trial? That’s insane. There wa some very poor judgement on the part of this teacher to just follow her orders to not turn off the computer. She must be really stupid to follow such orders.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I suspect she will own the district if there are any users on the jury.

  5. wayne martin says:

    The reporting of this case leaves much untold. There are, by now, hundreds of papers that have run various aspects of this story in their papers. More of the detail can be found on-line, if one is willing to do a little work.

    Of course, many key questions are never asked…hence, never answered. It also looks like Amero’s lawyer might not have been all that tech literate either, making her defense doubtful. In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens wrote: “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.” And here we see an example of what Dicken’s was trying to alert his readers.
    Here is a Blog dedicated to this matter:

    Not clear if there are any laws prohibiting the infestation of school computers with Ad-Ware that can produce pornographic images, but allowing this software to produce such images results in a provable charge of conduct leading “to the injury of a child”. (Wonder if there same charge would be laid at the feet of a store selling pornographic images in CT?)

    And as noted in other posts .. not a peep from the Teachers’ Unions. Even if the Union decided to send a strong message to its members, and others thinking about not wanting to join the Teachers’ Union, one would think that this situation would have the Union demanding filters on school computers, required Ad-ware/Virus sweeps by the District’s IT department, and laws protecting teachers (Union or not) from prosecution from software operating on school computers that was not installed by the School District.

    This issues of this case that we can see in the media are just the tip of the iceburg.

  6. Independent George says:

    Good point, Joanne. Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if maybe the union is trying to scapegoat her in order to shield one of the regular teachers. I hope that’s not the case (aside from the moral repugnance, it also weakens the teachers’ positions in the long-run).

  7. Cardinal Fang says:

    There’s general consensus among tech bloggers that the pop-ups were not any teacher’s fault, but were put up because the computer was infected with a virus. So there’s no regular teacher to be shielded in this case.

  8. Thanks for devoting space to this matter. It certainly seems like a travesty of justice and a witch hunt gone unchecked.

    I’m a parent who has experienced my share of frustration at the impossibility of shielding my children from inappropriate images but to scapegoat a poor substitute teacher for our cultural epidemic of smut and the ignorance it perpetuates….

    If she goes to prison then none of us are safe.

    Where’s Alan Dershowitz?

  9. Oh the other hand, why wouldn’t a normal person just cover the monitor screen?

    It’s not what happened with the computer that I blame her for; it’s not doing anything to keep it from being visible. How hard would it have been to cover the screen with a sheet of paper.

    Not that she should go to jail, but really. . .

  10. She did turn the thing away from students through.
    But, yes, of course she should have unplugged the monitor.

    I’m sure she wishes she had…

  11. Actually, before Mrs. Amero ever got to the classroom, the user of this computer had been visiting, a dating site, for some time as well as other questionable websites. (See for a computer expert’s analysis.) Thus, the regular teacher is at risk here.


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