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View Full Version : The strange case of Julie Amero



savafan
01-31-2007, 12:34 PM
http://www.courant.com/news/local/columnists/hc-rgreen0130.artjan30,0,6064060.column?coll=hc-utility-home

January 30, 2007

To believe that Julie Amero deserves to go to jail for exposing her students to pornography takes some work.

You have to accept that a pregnant substitute teacher decided that the right moment to start surfing porn was the Tuesday morning in 2004 when she sat before a classroom of seventh-graders at Kelly Middle School in Norwich.

You have to believe a police officer with relatively little computer detective training instead of programming experts around the world.

You must also believe that the Internet security of the Norwich schools could be penetrated by a part-time teacher described as computer illiterate.

No, this borders on the unbelievable, including the performance of her lawyer during a two-day trial earlier this month. Here are a few facts:

Pornographic "pop-up" website messages started appearing on the computer that Amero was using on the morning of Oct. 19, 2004.

For more than a year, Amero, now 40, had worked as a substitute and had passed background checks. A teacher logged her on to the classroom computer so that she could e-mail her husband, who was out of town. She was told not to turn the computer off.

Amero left the room briefly, and when she returned to the classroom there were students at the computer. A stream of pop-up porno advertisements began appearing. Panicking, Amero failed to do the obvious - pull the plug on the machine.

During the morning, she tried but could not prevent students from viewing the pop-up ads.

She said that she asked other teachers for help. They declined.

In the days and weeks after, an uproar ensued when parents and administrators learned what had happened.

Amero, of Windham, was charged with multiple counts of risk of injury to a minor. On Jan. 5, after a two-day jury trial, Amero was convicted on four counts.

Her husband, lawyer and supporters describe Amero as barely able to navigate e-mail.

"It is so far out, I cannot believe it," said W. Herbert Horner, a Montville computer consultant who testified for the defense, but who, because of an apparent error by Amero's lawyer, was unable to explain in detail to the jury what had happened.

Horner told me why the techie blogging world is apoplectic over this case: Software known as "spyware" had infected the computer in Amero's room.

This malicious software automatically directed the computer that Amero was using to the porn.

"This machine was open for anything to happen," said Horner, with 40 years of experience. "The people that write the pop-ups write the code to make it look as though you deliberately click on it."

Norwich Superintendent Pam Aubin, however, flatly told me "this wasn't a computer out of control."

"People are complicating this too much. [Amero] had a responsibility to teach the students. That didn't happen."

Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software Inc., a Florida computer security company, has taken up Amero's cause.

"She was a victim of a barrage of pop-ups that were not initiated by her."

Michael J. Frechette, the Norwich superintendent at the time of Amero's arrest, said this was simply a teacher with pornography. "We were just reacting to the facts."

The problem is that all the facts haven't been considered. Now Amero - who refused a deal that would have given her probation - faces a sentence on March 2 of as much as 40 years.

Does this sound like justice? I can't believe it.


http://publicdefender.typepad.com/public_defender_blog/2007/01/the_strange_cas.html

http://www.avertlabs.com/research/blog/?p=174

Yachtzee
01-31-2007, 11:53 PM
I used to teach at a technical school with other teachers who were highly tech-savvy and yet our machines had a problem with pop-up porn ads. The network admin and I personally tried to educate everyone on the dangers of downloading strange files from the internet. We had one instructor who had downloaded a seemingly harmless gradebook file that turned out to be infested with spyware and resulted in so many pop-ups hitting the computer that the only fix was to format and start over from scratch.

Ltlabner
02-01-2007, 08:03 AM
Isn't it wierd how these bizzare cases popup, somewhat routinely, where the justice system just slowly grinds over top of people while folks in the system meakly say, "nuttin I can do...".

Yet you have people with 10+ DUI's driving around....people getting redicuoulsy light sentences for serrrious crimes, or kicked out of jail early....and guys with rap sheets 10 miles long who get out of double murders because of some small technacality.

In the one case justice is a powerfull steamroller that can't be stopped. In others it's a flighty Jaguar just waiting to break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road.

TeamCasey
02-01-2007, 09:06 AM
She should countersue the school for not having a better firewall system with popup blockers.

I used to study an enzyme called gyrase. I got all kinds of inappropriate hits.

IslandRed
02-01-2007, 12:52 PM
Let me put it this way: She doesn't deserve to go to jail for this, and shame on anyone who thinks she did that intentionally. If people don't know what adware and spyware are, they should just keep their mouths shut. They're not competent to speak on the subject of computers.

But...

As I understand the story, once the porno pop-ups started coming up, they kept coming up, in full view of the students, all morning long. That's just unacceptable, and I don't care if she didn't get help from other teachers. Yank the plug from the wall. Or just turn it off. Yeah, I know she was told not to, but what's supposed to happen that was worse than what was happening? OK, so just turn the monitor off. Or turn the monitor towards the wall. Or tape a piece of construction paper over the screen. Use common sense. Do something. Teachers, including substitutes, are supposed to be able to think. (And it's a shame none of those seventh-graders -- most of whom are likely handy with a computer -- stepped up to help out.)

So no, don't send her to jail. But I'm not sure I'd want her teaching in my school again, either.

Edskin
02-01-2007, 12:58 PM
As I read this story, I am on a computer....in a classroom, as a substitute teacher.

Roy Tucker
02-01-2007, 12:59 PM
She should countersue the school for not having a better firewall system with popup blockers.

I used to study an enzyme called gyrase. I got all kinds of inappropriate hits.


Back in the early day of teh intranets, my daughter needed a book for school so I did a web search (I think I used Alta Vista then) on "Little Women".

:eek:

Google has gotten lots better.

But yeah, that sub should have used some kind of common sense. Fired from her sub job sure, a judge throw a stern warning her way, but jail is way excessive.

Yachtzee
02-01-2007, 01:02 PM
Let me put it this way: She doesn't deserve to go to jail for this, and shame on anyone who thinks she did that intentionally. If people don't know what adware and spyware are, they should just keep their mouths shut. They're not competent to speak on the subject of computers.

But...

As I understand the story, once the porno pop-ups started coming up, they kept coming up, in full view of the students, all morning long. That's just unacceptable, and I don't care if she didn't get help from other teachers. Yank the plug from the wall. Or just turn it off. Yeah, I know she was told not to, but what's supposed to happen that was worse than what was happening? OK, so just turn the monitor off. Or turn the monitor towards the wall. Or tape a piece of construction paper over the screen. Use common sense. Do something. Teachers, including substitutes, are supposed to be able to think. (And it's a shame none of those seventh-graders -- most of whom are likely handy with a computer -- stepped up to help out.)

So no, don't send her to jail. But I'm not sure I'd want her teaching in my school again, either.

I think that's a fair assessment. If a teacher isn't sharp enough and enough of an independent thinker to either shut down the computer or turn off the monitor, I wouldn't want her at my child's school. By the same token, I wouldn't want those teachers who refused to help her teaching at my school either.

I wouldn't expect the students to help out though. Based on my experience, the "helpful" students are the ones you have to watch out for. There have been many a time when a teacher was having a computer problem and ended up with "goatse" or "tubgirl" as their new desktop background when they logged on. (If you don't know about those two and really need to know, look them up in wikipedia but do not go searching for them on the web unless you have a cast-iron constitution and are not at work).

gonelong
02-01-2007, 01:15 PM
Let me put it this way: She doesn't deserve to go to jail for this, and shame on anyone who thinks she did that intentionally. If people don't know what adware and spyware are, they should just keep their mouths shut. They're not competent to speak on the subject of computers.

But...

As I understand the story, once the porno pop-ups started coming up, they kept coming up, in full view of the students, all morning long. That's just unacceptable, and I don't care if she didn't get help from other teachers. Yank the plug from the wall. Or just turn it off. Yeah, I know she was told not to, but what's supposed to happen that was worse than what was happening? OK, so just turn the monitor off. Or turn the monitor towards the wall. Or tape a piece of construction paper over the screen. Use common sense. Do something. Teachers, including substitutes, are supposed to be able to think. (And it's a shame none of those seventh-graders -- most of whom are likely handy with a computer -- stepped up to help out.)


Its possible she was using the computer to teach class that day. Many schools now have projectors in the classroom. Turning off the computer would have meant not teaching class that day?

Hindsight makes it easy to say she should have just canned it. Without details, she might have thought she had it under control a few times and was trying to get a little teaching in to salvage the day.


So no, don't send her to jail. But I'm not sure I'd want her teaching in my school again, either.

Agreed, no jail. I'd have to see the content that is being labeled as pornography before I'd get too worked up about it.

She should have at least had the good sense to call down the principle or whatever to show them what was going on.

I guess you can hardly blame other teachers for not wanting to get involved considering the outcome of this ladies plight.

GL

pedro
02-01-2007, 01:17 PM
Sounds like a lot of over reaction to me.

westofyou
02-01-2007, 01:31 PM
Get Mozilla and learn to grin and bare it Connecticut.

Yachtzee
02-01-2007, 03:19 PM
Its possible she was using the computer to teach class that day. Many schools now have projectors in the classroom. Turning off the computer would have meant not teaching class that day?

Hindsight makes it easy to say she should have just canned it. Without details, she might have thought she had it under control a few times and was trying to get a little teaching in to salvage the day.



Agreed, no jail. I'd have to see the content that is being labeled as pornography before I'd get too worked up about it.

She should have at least had the good sense to call down the principle or whatever to show them what was going on.

I guess you can hardly blame other teachers for not wanting to get involved considering the outcome of this ladies plight.

GL

It's never a good idea to have your lesson for the day be entirely technology-dependent. Sometimes you just have to go "analog" and use the chalkboard. Also, most schools have some sort of protocol to follow when a computer goes down. Whatever she would have done had the computer not booted up, she should have shut down and called the appropriate person. Leaving the computer on with porn pop-ups just seems really dizzy to me.

dabvu2498
02-01-2007, 03:24 PM
It's never a good idea to have your lesson for the day be entirely technology-dependent. Sometimes you just have to go "analog" and use the chalkboard. Also, most schools have some sort of protocol to follow when a computer goes down. Whatever she would have done had the computer not booted up, she should have shut down and called the appropriate person. Leaving the computer on with porn pop-ups just seems really dizzy to me.

Perhaps, but in this case being dizzy results in her having a felony conviction.

Yachtzee
02-01-2007, 05:45 PM
Perhaps, but in this case being dizzy results in her having a felony conviction.

Which, unless there are some facts we haven't heard, I find ridiculous. I once made the mistake of turning on a school computer that was connected to a projector after I turned on the projector. As soon as the machine booted up, a pop-up ad for a porn site was displayed on the big screen for all to see. You've never seen someone unplug a machine as fast as I did. After that I learned to always boot up the machine before students get to the classroom and never turn on the projector before booting up the machine.

oneupper
02-01-2007, 10:45 PM
This reminds me a lot of what happens when my 87-year old father turns on his computer. I have to make sure my kids aren't around.

Those pop-ups, however, are probably not there by accident.

Are there parental controls for your parents?