Teen sues over Facebook bullying

Two classmates created a fake Facebook account in 14-year-old Alex Boston’s name, using it to suggest that the Georgia girl is fat, promiscuous, a drug user and a racist. Her middle school principal said the school can’t regulate off-campus activity. So the girl and her parents are suing the cyberbullies for libel.

The page features a distorted photo of  Boston.

The account was also used to post a racist video to YouTube that implied that Boston hated African-Americans, and to leave crude comments on the Facebook pages of other friends, suggesting she was sexually active and smoked marijuana.

. . . The activities exposed Boston to “hatred, contempt and ridicule by her classmates and peers,” according to the complaint, which accuses the teens of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks punitive damages. The parents of the defendants are named in the suit because they paid for the internet access that allowed their children to create the account and post the messages, and allegedly failed to supervise their activity.

Georgia law doesn’t penalize cyberbullying and schools have no authority over students’ off-campus behavior.

According to the lawyer, Facebook did not respond to requests to delete the false account until after the lawsuit was filed and publicized on CNN.

75 minutes without Facebook: Is that so hard?

College students show up for class, then spend 75 minutes checking Facebook photos, sending Tweets to friends and ignoring the professor.  She thinks it’s rude. They disagree.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Is it the professor’s job to teach manners?

‘We’ got into Yale? Don’t Facebook it

It’s tacky to brag about your kids’ college acceptances on Facebook, writes Rosemary Sellers. Especially if you write that “we” got into Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth.

Yes, it feeds the college frenzy, but there’s no way to keep middle-class parents quiet when their children hit the Ivy jackpot.

Admissions staff check Facebook profiles

In the college application, you’re a teen-age saint who tutors the underprivileged and picks up trash in the park. Online, you’re a party guy or gal flashing gang signs and strewing beer cans.

College admissions officers are looking at applicants’ Facebook profiles, according to Kaplan’s 2010 College Admissions Survey. (Here’s an infographic.) They also check Twitter and YouTube. Sixty-two percent said social-media profiles usually help applicants get accepted; 38 percent said  online profiles hurt students’ chances.

Newark bickers over Facebook donation

Newark’s troubled schools are getting $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Mayor Cory Booker has raised another $44 million in donations, so far.  But Newark is split on how to spend the windfall, reports the Wall Street Journal. Booker, who spent $1 million surveying what parents want from the schools, plans to close failing schools, open new schools and let charters share space with district-run schools. He also wants longer school days and weaker tenure protections for principals and teachers.

This week, nearly $1 million was awarded to five new high schools, which will share space with existing schools. Critics say the money should go to the old schools. And they want Booker to reveal the donors who gave $44 million.

“I know you’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Councilwoman Mildred Crump at a public hearing Wednesday evening at City Hall. “Well I’m checking this one out.” Residents in the audience applauded her sentiment.

Only 22 percent of Newark’s high school students pass the state graduation exam and earn a diploma on schedule; another 33 percent graduate through an alternative system. Tens of thousands of children are on charter-school waiting lists. Even before Zuckerberg’s donation was announced in September, new schools were in the planning stages, Booker points out.

Newark schools have been under state control since 1995.  Republican Gov. Chris Christie fired the superintendent in February. Booker, a Democrat, is collaborating with Christie on school reform plans. That’s angered and alarmed unionized teachers and their political allies who don’t want to see the spread of non-union charter schools.

(Councilwoman) Crump joined a union rally and protest outside of City Hall Wednesday afternoon before the public hearing. She implored the protesters to vote for a certain slate of candidates on April 27. “We have a clear choice between those who will do nothing for labor and those who will do everything for labor,” she said into the microphone. She told the protesters to vote for the three candidates who “are about labor.” She then led people in a chant: “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” and added: “Jobs that are safe and secure!”

District enrollment is declining. Some 400 school district employees may lose their jobs this year.

Newark school woes transcend money, summarizes USA Today. “Last week the school advisory board voted against opening the new schools. The district plans to open them anyway. Students are already signing up.”

Laptop-closing prof accused of battery

A professor who shut a student’s laptop — allegedly hurting her finger — was arrested for battery last week, reports The Spectator, Valdosta State University‘s student newspaper.

Frank J. Rybicki was teaching a class on Law and the Media, when he told Krista Bowman, 22, to stop surfing web sites unconnected to the class. She argued. He closed the laptop. She went to the police.

Rybicki, out on bail, has been suspended with pay. Students who witnessed the incident were told by campus police officers not to discuss what they saw, reports the Spectator.

In the comments, many students strongly support the professor and accuse the student of being rude and disruptive. One commenter points out the student had “plenty of other options.”

A Don’t be so rude in a classroom.
B If you are going to play on your laptop .. either don’t take the laptop to class, or don’t take yourself to class
C Do what the teacher says for half a second; he / she probably knows more than you do so grow up and take some responsibilities; College isn’t another episode of High School where you can get away with being a distraction; some people here WANT to learn, if you don’t care, .. then get out! Or at least be somewhat polite.
D Don’t take this to such an extreme!!!!

Many professors say they have students who text, tweet, update their Facebook status and let their cell phones ring in class — and then complain the professor didn’t explain the material well enough.

Facebook is public

A New Jersey teacher who called her first-grade students “future criminals” on Facebook has been suspended with pay.  The Paterson teacher also wrote she feels like a “warden.” Several parents complained.

Chicago Public Schools officials are investigating a teacher who posted a photo on her Facebook page of a seven-year-old girl who wore Jolly Rancher candies in her hair for picture day. The girl’s mother is threatening to sue, saying the teacher — who was not the girl’s classroom teacher — and commenters made fun of the girl.

In the face-to-face insult category, a Connecticut math teacher is headed to a termination hearing for asking an overweight student if he’d eaten his homework.

School district officials say the comment was the latest in a string of demeaning remarks over (Robert) Wollkind’s 32-year career, including telling a student he hated him.

Wollkind said he’s socially awkward and has trouble reading other people’s emotions because of his Asperger’s Syndrome. I suppose he could have thought it was a funny joke rather than a hurtful put-down.  “More than 1,000 Brookfield parents and students have signed a petition supporting him,” reports the Boston Globe.

Doctors warn of ‘Facebook depression’

Depression-prone teens can feel even worse when they see that classmates have lots of “friends,” activities and “photos of happy-looking people having great times,” pediatricians warn.

“It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,” said Abby Abolt, 16, a Chicago high school sophomore and frequent Facebook user.

Closed little worlds

American students are depressed, lazy and not learning very much, writes John Tierney on James Fallows’ Atlantic blog.  Tierney cites a raft of recent studies as well as years of experience as a college professor and now as a high school teacher.

I teach at an “elite” (effete?) independent school for girls in the Boston area. . . . Some of the students I teach work really hard.

. . . But, my sense is that most of the students at this school spend enormous amounts of time watching television, checking out Facebook, and otherwise engaging in totally unproductive activity. They certainly don’t read anything! In fact, I would say that the number one problem in contemporary American education is that students do not read enough. Their reading comprehension is horrible. Their vocabularies are impoverished. They cannot talk about anything outside their own closed little worlds.

In a follow-up, Tierney quotes an e-mail from a “beloved and prominent professor at a small liberal-arts college in New England,” who writes:

You know, I have a special place in my heart for our [Asian] students, who exhibit few of the troublesome traits you lament. The American students are nice kids, and I like them, but I don’t respect them. I guess that’s the thing.

There are intellectually curious, well-read and hard-working students out there, Tierney concedes. But he doesn’t think they’re the norm.

Growing up digital and distracted

Young people today are wired for distraction, concludes a New York Times story.

Vishal Singh, a 17-year-old student at Woodside High in Silicon Valley, gets through only 43 pages of his summer reading because he’s busy surfing Facebook and YouTube and making digital videos.  On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

Trying to fight wired with wired, Principal David Reilly “has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.”

Instead of skaters, jocks and band geeks, students split into texters and gamers, “Facebook addict and YouTube potato,” write the Times.

Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

. . . But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”

Shy students escape into the world of video games.

Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

Yes, it’s the same Woodside High as in Waiting for Superman.