In the Ardsley School District, located in southern Westchester, a member of the Board of Education recently resigned after vaguely threatening and insulting UStream videos were apparently posted by her son for all the world to see. The postings, and the young man’s apparent history of less-than-stellar behavior, set off a firestorm in the suburb that could have used a referee or at least a public relations spokesperson.
Ardsley Middle School was evacuated in the midst of state testing after several students reported that a website had posted a message titled “the-plot-to-bomb-ardsley.” According to police, the same student responsible for the lovely posting allegedly made threats earlier about the school and a female classmate in a Ustream video.
The police chief called the web posting “innuendo,” but more than 120 parents showed up at a public meeting to protest the initial decision not to remove the student until all the claims had been investigated by police. That was enough to persuade school officials to place the 14-year-old “in an alternative setting” for the rest of the school year.
No charges were filed, and police said there was no overt threat to students’ safety. School officials have not said whether the boy will be allowed back into the school in September, but his mother, the school board member, resigned once the smoke had cleared in the community.
In tony Briarcliff Manor last week, the usual pomp and circumstance of high school commencement took a turn for the bizarre (shades of MTV’s “Jackass”) when a graduateliterally dropped his pants and mooned his fellow grads and onlookers, did a 180 on the stage and mooned the dignitaries assembled there, then accepted his diploma from a shocked high school principal.
The District later took the diploma back, issued a harshly worded statement to the press, then filed charges against the student — disorderly conduct and exposure of a person. And in 10 seconds flat, the video was airing on YouTube. As of this evening, it had been seen 5,700 times.
Both of these incidents emphasize the power — good or bad — of the Internet. Shortly after the Ardsley Middle School was evacuated, I went on Ustream and looked for the video that had allegedly been posted by the offender. It had obviously been taken down, but there was a somewhat disturbing video of the young man, obviously watching something on his computer as the videocamera was running. He was typing, responding, and vaguely laughing. He looked almost like he’d spent years there. He looked like he needed some fresh air and a friend other than his laptop.
The Briarcliff student, on the other hand, looked like a high schooler who’d spent years waiting to stick to the school for which he obviously felt little fondness.
There are no easy answers and there’s no playbook for these incidents. They’re just cautionary tales. All caught on videotape.