Regrettable Remix

This must be Controversy in our Schools Week. First it was the Pennsylvania teacher’s suspension for making disparaging comments about students on her blog and now it is the Michigan man arrested for posting a video of himself singing sexually explicit lyrics to school children.

It appears that Evan Emory, a would-be viral video musician, misled the school officials by getting permission to sing to school kids and filmed them listening to an innocuous song. He later entered the same classroom and recorded himself singing a vulgar song that he later edited into the footage of himself singing to kids. Posting this mashup video to YouTube earned him a trip to the slammer and a charge of manufacturing child sexual abusive materials that could result in a 15-20 year prison sentence.

If you thought that a high school English teacher blogging mean things about her students gets people worked up, try making a raunchy video that includes elementary kids. I don’t know what he could be thinking other than simply trying to become famous by taking advantage of people’s trust in him.

One aspect of this story that is different from the blogging teacher story is that this young man is clearly remorseful, a fact that often seems to weigh heavily in the court of public opinion. In the Muskegon News, he is quoted as saying “he feels like a jackass“. Unfortunately for Emory, only time will tell if being sorry is enough to clear this mess up for him.

I shared this story with my Digital Media class today to get their take on it. I want students becoming digital media professionals who take seriously the power and the responsibility that goes with making digital media projects & posting them online.

Our discussion turned to Will Ferrell’s video that features his tiny tot of a daughter portraying a profanity spewing landlord, and the Scarface school play video that went viral a while back. The big difference between Emory’s video and these is that the parents of the children featured gave their consent.

Stories such as these sadden me, because it adds to the fear, uncertainty and doubt about schools using digital media tools to depict children online.

What do you think? Did the local law enforcement officials over-react in this case? I have seen at least one writer who thinks so. Should he be charged with a sexual abuse crime? What about the school? Was the school in any way responsible for allowing this to happen?

I think if they haven’t already done so, it is time for schools to examine in detail the policies pertaining to online digital media and their students, explicitly spelling out expectations. What should these policies look like? Forbid all images and videos of children recorded in school? Permit limited uses, only with parental permission? I’m curious what people think about this issue.

6 thoughts on “Regrettable Remix

  1. Despite a law enforcement background I often wonder if police and legal remedies aren’t the wrong solution for stupidity. I prefer leaving that option for what I would call “true threats to society.”

    That said, there’s a reason you and I believe in social media training from the start of school. We need to help kids develop the skills and sense, the boundaries and ethics, which allow responsible success in this new environment.

    Whether it is these stories, or an unrepentant phone hacker running communications for the British Prime Minister, or just the kind of nonsense spilling out of the Governor of New Jersey’s mouth on YouTube, what we have is a lack of understanding of appropriate conduct in public.

    We won’t fix that by running away from it. We fix it by engaging our students.

  2. Certainly the video guy should not be in teaching. Goes beyond being a schmuck. What led to him doing what he did? Find out and help him fix it… oops, this is America where we punish and abuse people rather than rehab them. As for the “jackass” live and learn. Stupid sure, but at least that teacher sounds redeemable. Our schools already require parental consent for use of images/video and/or stills of students. Not sure that would have prevented what the “musician” nuthead did. The Web is public. Gotta remember that. Always.

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  4. Hi my name is Brittany and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I do not feel that the simple fact that Emory feels sorry for his actions is enough to let him off easy. The fact that he exposed children in the classroom to such lyrics is enough reason for me to prove that this man is not fit to be a teacher.

    Thanks
    Brittany

  5. @Brittany, maybe I wasn’t clear in the post. Evan Emory is a 21 year old musician – college aged, not a teacher. The question isn’t whether or not he should teach, but whether or not he should go to prison for what he did.

    @Ira, your point about teaching kids is well taken. I haven’t been following the New Jersey governor closely, but maybe I should. He seems to be ahead of other politicians as far as his understanding of the potential of YouTube as a communications medium. However, expecting a politician to express a balanced point of view, regardless of party, seems an impossible expectation. However, if we teach kids not only about responsible use of the technology, but also how it can be used, abused and manipulated, as in this story, maybe someday we will someday have a society that can respond appropriately when it discovers it’s been hoodwinked.

  6. Bill,

    Yes, we can not expect politicians to be balanced, but I suppose we can try to raise a society better at not bullying people, or, as you say, better at rejecting the words of bullies. My pick with the Governor of New Jersey is not in his use of Twitter and YouTube, but in his use of those tools to bully and harass people and, most specifically, to break down the social norms in schools by demonizing educators.

    Crap Detection, always an issue dear to my heart…
    http://www.teachablemoment.org/ideas/crapdetecting.html

    – Ira

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