Previous by DateNext by Date Date Index
Previous by ThreadNext by Thread Thread Index
LM_NET Archive

Please feel free to forward.

The Julie Amero Tragedy

The tragic case of Julie Amero, a substitute teacher who was convicted of
³impairing the morals of minor² because pornographic images were visible on
a computer in her classroom has riveted the attention of many in the
education and computer security community. A new report, written by Nancy
Willard, M.S., J.D., Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible
Internet Use, has just been released. This report presents a comprehensive
review of the materials related to the case. Among the findings:

* The situation described by Amero is consistent with what is called a ³porn
trap² or ³mouse trap.² When this occurs, the browser is no longer under the
control of the user and porn images will simply keep popping up until the
computer is turned off.
* Amero had been specifically told not to turn off the computer and probably
did not know how. So she turned the computer so that students could not see
the images. She could not lock the door when she left the room to get help
because she did not have a key.
* Amero went to get help at a break and described the pop-up situation.
People who are intentionally accessing inappropriate material do not try to
get help. She told the assistant principal after school and described the
situation to the principal, Scott Fain, the following day. The school
reported the incident to the police just over a week later. Fain did not
tell the investigating officer what he knew of Ameroıs activities on that
day or her report to him the following day. He withheld information that
would have allowed the officer to determine that Ameroıs access was not
* The computer had inadequate security and the browser would not block
pop-ups. The districtıs content filter license had lapsed due to lack of
payment. The technology director, Hartz, did not evaluate whether any
malware was on the computer or the pattern of sites that appeared in the
history log to determine whether the access was intentional or accidental.
Hartz also did not tell the investigating officer that the content filter
license had lapsed.

* The police computer crimes expert also did not determine whether there was
any malware on the computer. He also testified in court that Amero had to
intentionally access the sites for them to appear on the logs. This is
totally inaccurate.
* Ameroıs response to this situation was far from reckless. Of the
approximately 60 students who were in the classroom only10 saw anything. Of
those, 6 specifically stated that they tried to look at the computer after
being told of the situation by another student. Many students reported that
Amero took specific efforts to block their view when she became aware that
they were trying to see.
* The situation did not impair the morals of the students. Eight students
reported seeing mild erotica. The two students who reported seeing people
engaged in sex also reported that there were a bunch of little pictures on
the screen. One was a distance from the screen and the other reported that
the teacher did not notice him, so he must not have been very close.
* A recent study found that 42% of young people between the ages of 10 and
17 have viewed online pornography, one-third intentionally, two-thirds
accidentally. Nine percent of these incidents reportedly occurred at school.
There is no research evidence regarding the impact of such viewing.
The full report is available on the Center for Responsible Internet Use web
site at Also available on this site are Willardıs recent
presentation notes addressing cyber-secure schools and cyberbullying. These
presentation notes outline the concerns associated with youth online
activity and strategies recommended for schools to address such concerns.

Nancy E. Willard has degrees in special education and law. She taught ³at
risk² children, practiced computer law, and was an educational technology
consultant before focusing her professional attention on issues of youth
risk online and effective Internet use management in schools. Nancy
frequently conducts workshops for educators. She is expanding her use of
Internet technologies to deliver ³virtual² presentations and classes. She is
the author of two books: Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the
Challenge of Online Social Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research
Press) and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Use the
Internet Safety and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass).

For more information contact: Nancy Willard at

Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress. New edition, published by Research Press.

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly. Jossey-Bass (March 16, 2007)

Please note: All LM_NET postings are protected by copyright law.
  You can prevent most e-mail filters from deleting LM_NET postings
  by adding LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU to your e-mail address book.
To change your LM_NET status, e-mail to:
In the message write EITHER: 1) SIGNOFF LM_NET  2) SET LM_NET NOMAIL
3) SET LM_NET MAIL  4) SET LM_NET DIGEST  * Allow for confirmation.
 * LM_NET Help & Information:
 * LM_NET Archive:
 * EL-Announce with LM_NET Select:
 * LM_NET Supporters:

LM_NET Mailing List Home