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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Learn to joke,' say teens who faked teacher TikToks with sex, pedophilia

Middle school is the worst. Kids hit puberty and turn deeply stupid for a few years before they learn to handle it. Even so, the seventh and eighth graders at Great Valley Middle School in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb seem to have hit a new low in immaturity, reports Natasha Singer in the New York Times.

In February, students set up fake TikTok accounts in the names of 22 teachers, added real or altered family photos and used them for "pedophilia innuendo, racist memes, homophobia and made-up sexual hookups among teachers."

Several students were suspended briefly, writes Singer, and the school held an assembly on responsible use of technology. In June, two female students posted an "apology" of sorts.

“We never meant for it to get this far, obviously,” one of the students said in the video. “I never wanted to get suspended.”
“Move on. Learn to joke,” the other student said about a teacher. “I am 13 years old,” she added, using an expletive for emphasis, “and you’re like 40 going on 50.”

Some of the fake TikTok posts "seemed jokey and benign," writes Singer, but others were "sexualized." Examples include "a collaged photo with the heads of two male teachers pasted onto a man and woman partially naked in bed" and another teacher's wedding photo with his wife mostly cropped out and a caption implying the teacher had married a male student.

“Many of my students spend hours and hours and hours on TikTok, and I think it’s just desensitized them to the fact that we’re real people,” said Bettina Scibilia, an eight-grade English teacher. “They didn’t feel what a violation this was to create these accounts and impersonate us and mock our children and mock what we love.”

The district is taking a wishy-washy stance. “While we wish we could do more to hold students accountable, we are legally limited in what action we can take when students communicate off campus during nonschool hours on personal devices,” Daniel Goffredo, the district’s superintendent, said in a statement.

However, schools can regulate speech that disrupts the school environment, which these accounts surely did.

In the comments, a Virginia teacher named Judy wrote about her response when an eighth-grader started a fake Instagram account with the teacher's name and photo. "I assigned the entire class dense articles about successful libel and defamation lawsuits, along with quizzes, tests, and dreaded 'essay answers'." The account disappeared. "The guilty student was quickly outed by his classmates who were no longer amused. The joys of teaching 13-year-olds ... "

Meg McCormick, a school psychologist in Minneapolis, did not urge counseling. She wrote: "I would encourage the victimized teachers to pursue legal action and civil lawsuit action against the perpetrators and their families." This is not just "kids being kids," she argued. "All known perpetrators and their parents should face stiff penalties and be made an example of and the school district should immediately implement a district wide ban on cell phones at school." At that point, she wrote, "the parents of these pubescent criminals should step up, restrict all online activity and get their children into therapy pronto."

2 коментарі

08 лип.

Legal action is definitely in order. Libel, defamation, etc, as Ms McCormick wrote. The only way to reign in teenagers would seem to be parental action. Schools have limited tools even if they were interested, which this district didn't seem to be. I suspect that the district is more afraid of retaliatory legal action if they do anything than they are worried about their teachers' reputations.


07 лип.

Three cheers for Meg McCormick, who recommends a legal and peaceful remedy. In the Texas barrios, some kids and their parents would be subject to beatings or drive-bys. Not everyone thinks your "jokes" are funny.

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