Lady Forced to Delete Pix of Kids (Not Hers) with Mall Santa

Hi Readers: Is there some way we can convince Americans (and then the world, and then the galaxy) that taking pictures of a child who is out and about in public is not the same as sexually violating them? Because the fact is:  Most people taking pictures of kids are not doing it to get off on ’em. And for those few who are, dare I ask: So what? It’s like that disclaimer at the end of a movie: No child was harmed in the making of this photo.

I think the hysteria about kiddie picture taking stems from a lot of sources:

1 – The belief that anyone interested in kids other than their own MUST be a pedophile. (And what a lovely notion that is.)

2 – The deep-rooted fear that a picture really DOES capture the soul.

3 – The conviction on the part of some parents that their kids are SO preternaturally attractive that they are going to be singled out by everyone, including talent scouts, college admissions officers, and perverts.

4 – The idea that, “I once heard something about a picture of some kid that ended up on the Internet and…” I.e., some half-baked urban myth that doesn’t even make SENSE, but rattles around in the collective consciousness.

So here’s the story of a middle aged woman who wanted to take some sweet Christmas photos at the mall (I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms to some of us). She shot some photos of kids talking to Santa, and the kids’ mom kicked shot her dead.

Well, not quite. But the mom certainly killed the photographer’s Christmas spirit. So did the security guard who demanded she delete the photos of the kids.

Now the weird twist is that the photographer lady is actually a former West Virginia State Senator. And in a column she wrote about the mall/photo experience she says:

The woman who had stalked me through the mall did not know that I am a former state legislator who initiated and succeeded in creating strict laws against pedophiles in the West Virginia legislature. To me, the random child in my picture was simply a representation of a special moment in a human life and an innocent attempt to capture the magic of Christmas.

I just wonder how her “strict laws against pedophiles” dealt with other folks just trying to capture a special moment. Let’s hope her laws were measured and sane. And let’s hope that what we all get this season is the gift of calming down and connecting, instead of fearing everyone and everything. — L.

School Uses Laptops to Spy on Kids: The Update. Really Weird Update.

Hi Folks! Just read this bizarre new wrinkle on TechDirt about the case of the Pennsylvania school that gave its 1800 students laptops and then used them to spy on the kids — 42 times! While the school claims it activated the cameras only when trying to track down a lost or stolen computer, nonetheless the original student we were talking about here was disciplined for selling or taking drugs. That’s an activity the kid did in his own home, as witnessed by a school administrator  via a secretly activated laptop.

And the administrator witnessed wrong! The drugs turned out to be Mike & Ike candies, says TechDirt! And now my worry is not just that the school was spying, and not just that it got it all wrong, but that someday kids WILL be spied on and WILL be disciplined for eating candy! Or, God forbid, homemade baked goods! (See below.) Aieeeee! — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: School Gives Kids Laptops Then Uses them To Spy!

Readers — This is just incredible! A school in suburban Philadelphia issued its kids laptops without mentioning one little detail. According to a report in Courthouse News (which quotes from a federal class action suit):

[There was no] reference made “to the fact that the school district has the ability to remotely activate the embedded webam at any time the school district wished to intercept images from that webcam of anyone or anything appearing in front of the camera.

The complaint states: “On November 11, 2009, plaintiffs were for the first time informed of the above-mentioned capability [spying] and practice by the school district when Lindy Matsko (‘Matsko’), an assistant principal at Harriton High School, informed minor plaintiff that the school district was of the belief that minor plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district.

I guess that school will finally be able to see who is doing their homework. And what they’re wearing. (Or not.)  I think this is going to be a big case. — Lenore