from the be-careful-how-you-“protect”-those-children dept
It’s often kind of amazing at how much moral panics by adults treat kids as if they’re completely stupid, and unable to do anything themselves. It’s a common theme in all sorts of moral panics, where adults insist that because some bad things could happen, they must be prevented entirely — without ever considering that maybe a large percentage of kids are capable enough to deal with the risks and dangers themselves.
The Boston Globe recently had an interesting article about how a group of middle school boys were able to use Discord to successfully track the creepy, disgusting, and inappropriate shit one of their teachers/coaches did towards their female classmates, and how that data is now being used in an investigation of the teacher, who has been put on leave.
In an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe, one of the boys described how in January 2021,he and his friends decided to start their “Pedo Database,” to track the teacher’s words and actions.
There’s even a (redacted) screenshot of the start of the channel.
The kids self-organized and used Discord as a useful tool for tracking the problematic interactions.
During COVID, as they attended class online, they’d open the Discord channel on a split-screen and document the teacher’s comments in real time:
“You all love me so choose love.”
“You gotta stand up and dance now.”
Everyone “in bathing suits tomorrow.”
Once they were back in class in person, the boys jotted down notes to add to the channel later: Flirting with one girl. Teasing another. Calling the girls “sweetheart” and “sunshine.” Asking one girl to take off her shoes and try wiggling her toes without moving her pinkies.
“I felt bad for [the girls] because sometimes it just seems like it was a humiliating thing,” the boy told the Globe. “He’d play a song and he’d make one of them get up and dance.”
When the school year ended, the boys told incoming students about the Discord channel and encouraged them to keep tabs on the teacher. All in all, eight boys were involved, he said.
Eventually, the teacher was removed from the school and put on leave, after the administration began an investigation following claims that “the teacher had stalked a pre-teen girl at the middle school while he was her coach, and had been inappropriate with other girls.”
The article notes that there had been multiple claims in the past against the teacher, but that other teachers and administrators long protected the teacher. Indeed, apparently the teacher bragged about how he’d survived such complaints for decades. And that’s when the kids stepped up and realized they needed to start doing something themselves.
“I don’t think there was a single adult who would ever — like their parents, my mom, like anybody in the school — who had ever really taken the whole thing seriously before,” he added.
The boy’s mother contacted Conlon, and now the “Pedo Database” is in the hands of the US attorney’s Office, the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the state Department of Education, and with lawyer Matthew Oliverio, who is conducting the school’s internal investigation.
“I did not ever think this would actually be used as evidence, but we always had it as if it was,” said the boy, who is now 15 and a student at North Kingstown High School. “So I’m glad that we did, even though it might have seemed like slightly stupid at times.”
So, here we have kids who used the internet to keep track of a teacher accused of preying on children. Seems like a good example of helping to protect children.
Yet, it seems worth noting that under various “protect the children” laws, this kind of activity would likely be blocked. Already, under COPPA, it’s questionable if the kids should even be allowed on Discord. Discord, like many websites, limits usage in its terms of service to those 13 years or older. That’s likely in an attempt to comply with COPPA. But, the article notes that the kids started keeping this database as 6th graders, when they were likely 11-years old.
Also, under California’s AB 2273, Discord likely would have been more aggressive in banning them, as it would have had to employ much more stringent age verification tools that likely would have barred them from the service entirely. Also, given the other requirements of the “Age Appropriate Design Code,” it seems likely that Discord would be doing things like barring a chat channel described as a “pedo database.” A bunch of kids discussing possible pedophilia? Clearly that should be blocked as potentially harmful.
So, once again, the law, rather than protecting kids, might have actually put them more at risk, and done more to actually protect adults who were putting kids’ safety at risk.