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Kallie Pechacek A Journey into the World of Bad Bad Teachers Bad Bad Teacher http://badbadteacher.com/ http://badbadteachersomy.blogspot.com/ Hub elements: a. Blog and blog posts i. Video bar ii. Slideshow of recently accused/updated teachers iii. Configure HTML/JavaScript for an external video b. Map of the locations of accused teachers and accompanying descriptions for each teacher (there’s a picture of the map and a URL to link to virtual map below it) c. External links


It is a disturbing moment when you hear the news. A substitute teacher from the middle school you attended has just been accused of a sexual relationship with one of her students. This woman also happens to be your next-door-neighbor—a woman you grew up trusting and would have never imagined doing such a thing. What she did is not a normal action in society, but the type of action that sends town gossip and accusations out of control. There will be those who defend her for who they always thought her to be, giving her the benefit of the doubt, and those who join the crusade of gossip and accusations and fight to shame her for what she supposedly did. Then there is an entirely different community of individuals who take the enforcement of this norm to a whole new level. Bad Bad Teacher is an online community reporting on the dark side of teacher-student relations. The latest school sex scandals are posted online for the world to see, and any individual is given the chance to take a stab at or defend the accused. After spending some time researching Bad Bad Teachers, I can say this community demonstrates public shaming at its best. But in online form, it can cause a permanent stain to the reputation of the accused. The site’s “about page” claims the site exists not to glorify bad behavior, but rather shed light upon a serious problem and one that appears to be getting worse with each passing month and year. Bad Bad Teacher’s Webmaster posts teachers newly accused of behaving badly and in various sundry ways, usually criminal in nature, almost everyday. Users are then allowed to post comments about the teacher for the world to see, which in light of an issue this serious could pose several legal and ethical implications. After much research into this community, including textually analyzing the site and comments made about different teachers and interviewing the Webmaster through email, I decided to focus my research on the modes of control used on the site, amendment issues possibly arising due to the site—specifically libel and right to a fair trial—, and how the marketplace of ideas plays out within the site. Upon entering the Bad Bad Teacher community, the overall disturbing tone of the site is


immediately set by its black background. Next, the user’s eye would most likely go to the title of the site, Bad Bad Teacher, and its subtitle, “School Sex Scandals-The Dark Side of Teacher-Student Relations,” to immediately inform the user what they are getting into when entering the site. Already understanding the seriousness of the topic covered on this site, the user can hardly leave without seeing the red, bolded notice at the top of the screen reading: All individuals listed on this site are presumed innocent unless they have been found guilty in a court of law. However, as I will cover later in this ethnography, individuals participating in this community post comments about teachers within the site as if they have never seen the disclaimer. Investigating the site further, a user will find a “home,” “about,” “categories,” “comments,” “contact,” “disclaimer,” “FAQs,” “links,” “privacy,” and “site news” tab they can browse to find more about what this community is about, or they can scroll down and take a look at the most recently accused or updated teachers’ profiles. The right side of the site includes different ways to search the database of accused teachers for ease of use. Teachers can be searched as recently post, according to archived date, according to a recent comment made on their behalf, according to the teacher’s specialty (math, coach, science, etc.), according to the type of school they taught at (elementary school, middle school, etc.), or according to the state in which the teacher was referenced to work. There is also a category for “school staff” (school personnel that do not fall under another category), for “administrators” (principals, counselors, etc.), for “teachers-miscellaneous” (the teacher’s specialty cannot be determined), for “church schools,” for “private schools,” for “charter school,” for teachers proven “not guilty,” for “high-profile cases,” and for “charges dropped” on teachers. There are also several categories noted by abbreviations to denote the nature of the accused, the alleged victim and nature of the defense (i.e. FE-CP- cases with female school employee and child pornography). Finally, there is a category labeled the “hall of shame” which includes previously posted teachers that have since been proven guilty of their charges.


Teachers are listed by date in the order they were most recently posted/updated, and accompanying text describes what they have been accused of. The user immediately knows if a teacher was recently proven guilty when a red, guilty box appears next to the name or if the teacher was recently proven innocent when a lime green, not guilty box appears. Often times there are additional articles and sites a user can link to within the teacher’s profile and find more information about the latest happenings in regards to the teacher’s accusation, trial, etc. Most times these links include news media reporting from the specific town or city where the teacher was accused or a larger news outlet reporting on the accused. As more information comes in and the trial for each teacher wears on, the profiles for accused teachers continue to grow as updated. At the bottom of each accused teacher’s profile there is a “comments” hyperlink, which allows users to post their opinions or knowledge about the accused, the trial, or the issue at large. All users are invited to post comments about any teacher without having to build a profile, sign up as a user, or get pre-approval before commenting. All they are required to provide is their email address. Otherwise, users can create a fake name and username providing the anonymity they may desire while posting. As stated under the “privacy” tab, log files including internet protocol addresses, type of browser, Internet Service Provider, date/time stamp, referring/exit pages, and number of clicks to analyze trends, administer the site, track user’s movement around the site, and gather demographic information are used. However, personally identifiable information is not collected about users. Cookies are also allowed in the Bad Bad Teacher community, but the site has no access and claims no control over these cookies used by third-party advertisers. Therefore, visitors to Bad Bad Teacher can expect to be tracked based on their Internet use. Bad Bad Teacher’s aim is to address teachers going against a societal norm, which leads to the first ethical issue I analyzed within this online community. It is clear that sexual relations between a teacher and student is socially frowned upon and wrong, and this site serves to shed light on this


problem. Profiles are created on this site for teachers who have been accused of sexual acts with students, and general users are encouraged to comment on their behalf. Usually comments are coming from concerned citizens, parents who have children the school where the teacher was accused or children who were actually taught by the teacher, or students themselves. My textual analysis has made me believe that most comments are made in attempt to address and reinforce this norm, and those commenting feel they are helping to bring justice to and solve this problem. In this way, norms as a mode of control for the site are being followed. However, other users’ comments show how norms are not working as a mode of control on Bad Bad Teacher, because their comments aim to make a joke about the issue addressed on the site. Some users make comments like, “Why is the student upset. That teacher is smoking hot,” or “I’d bang her.” However, these comments should be addressed by another mode of control used in the Bad Bad Teacher online community, the Webmaster. The Webmaster is the general overseer of the site and has all control over what is posted and who posts. However, the Webmaster claims no control over the advertisements on the site and, as stated in the “about” tab, no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy or value of any of the information provided by external sites to which he links within the site. As discovered through an email interview, the Webmaster claims sole responsibility for posting the latest teachers accused of sexual misconduct with students, but gives credit to numerous volunteers that provide “tips” on cases that have recently occurred. He later wrote, “ I have a meta-search engine, plus the usual – Google, Yahoo, MSN and such. Plus a LOT of tipsters in the law enforcement, news media and education communities (K. Pechacek, personal contact, April 29, 2009).” Overall, he has a lot of people on his side, helping him find these supposed wrong doing teachers. But if users click the “disclaimer” tab they may find another mode of control used on the site, as within this tab the Webmaster disclaims any liability to Bad Bad Teacher for damages of any kind


arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on any information contained within the site. Liability is a mode of control in this case because, if successful, it should cause users to self-regulate what they post to make sure it is in line with the site’s guidelines and will not get them in trouble. But above all, the Webmaster serves as the main mode of control for this community. As a mode of control for the Bad Bad Teacher online community, the Webmaster acts as a filter. He finds the teachers posted to the site and the information on their accompanying profile. He also serves to overlook comments posted by users to make sure they abide by the guidelines he created and listed in the “comments” tab within the site. As claimed within the “comments” tab, “Reader comments submitted to BadBadTeacher.com may be held in a moderation queue awaiting administrator approval (Webmaster) before being posted. The moderation queue is reviewed on a regular basis and comments are added to the system in as timely a manner as possible.” The Webmaster welcomes and approves comments of all sorts as long as they meet the site’s guidelines. While analyzing several conversations within the community I came across many posts that, in my understanding and according to the “comment” guidelines, should be considered inappropriate and be excluded from the site. In fact, I have come to an understanding that the Webmaster allows pretty much anything to be posted as long as it does not include foul language or names of specific people that should not be written about. And even when he addresses foul language it is usually only so much as changing all or part of the word to asterisks, pound signs, etc. to take the place of the word, but the tone of the sentence remains. The Webmaster’s role as a filter demonstrates under-breadth. For example, this string of comments posted about Anne Knopf, a substitute teacher from Prescott, WI, shows the Webmaster’s negligence to adhere to number eight of the guidelines for filtering comments. (The following comments were cut down a bit to save space):
Anonymous Says: July 17th, 2008 at 3:01 pm I have an idea who is on this site sticking up for this sick woman and now I know why you think it’s ok to blame the child. You have issues yourself and are known to be a bit irrational at times. Maybe you need medication. In


fact, I strongly suggest it. A countless number of people move into our school district every year because of its reputation. Unlike Anne Knopf, our community, especially our school district, has a standard of integrity. I guess if you’re from Ellsworth (a community overcome by white trash), then you wouldn’t know about that. Anon Says: July 21st, 2008 at 9:01 am That Anonymous person from comment 32, 36, 25, and so on needs to get off *their* soap-box. Whoever they think they are. Ellsworth may be white trash but Prescott sure has he11 isn’t any better. That’s for damn sure. Anon Says: July 21st, 2008 at 10:04 pm Why doesn’t every single one of you grow up here and quit posting about someone you don’t know… how does that sound? Sounds like commenter 37 and 36 have quite the little history. Neither of you know what you’re talking about, neither of you are going to be happy with what you’re saying to each other, Prescott isn’t any better than Ellsworth, Ellsworth isn’t any better than Prescott …………you both need to grow up, and give it up. Just goes to show how ridiculous some people can be. Who ever you both are, aren’t anything special. Not surprising when it comes from Prescott and Ellsworth, especially Prescott.

(http://badbadteacher.com/anne-knopf/?cp=all#comments) As shown, these comments, specifically the italicized parts, became more about personally attacking other users than commenting on the issue at large. These comments should have been altered/removed by the site’s filter, the Webmaster. I came across other examples of under-breadth throughout comments about teachers where the Webmaster failed to filter out words in all CAPS that indicate shouting (going against #11 in the comment guidelines). For example, this comment about Loren Leoni, an English teacher and freshman girl’s volleyball coach at Belvidere High School in Belvidere, Illinois, reads:

Another comment made about Leoni slipped the Webmaster’s filter as it was simply posted as an


attempt to get attention without offering meaningful commentary about the teacher/issue being addresses (going against # 4 in the comment guidelines):
Tito Says: March 19th, 2009 at 9:06 am I’d suck her toes (http://badbadteacher.com/loren-leoni/#comments)

Finally, I would think the Webmaster should be responsible for making sure anything posted to the site is fact and not rumor or simply allegations being spread about the teachers on the site. However, the Webmaster covers for himself on the “about” page where he states, “Nothing published on this site should be construed as a statement of fact regarding guilt or innocence of anyone accused of anything prior to the accused teachers having their day in court, which obviously includes a fair and completed trial.” The Webmaster does not proof users’ comments for factuality, and many comments about the teachers make accusations of the teacher’s guilt or innocence before a verdict has been reached at their trial. Most comments say things like “she’s guilty for sure” or make claims about knowing bits of information in regards to the teacher’s guilt, but in actuality most of these comments are just rumor and could be false since the Webmaster does not check for validity of statements made. So as users of Bad Bad Teacher make comments, usually shaming accused teachers, a permanent profile is made for these teachers that could be completely false and damaging to their reputation. Aside from modes of control, I discovered a few other legal implications that could arise from the Bad Bad Teacher online community. Shaming has taken to the Internet and users feel it is their way to enforce community norms. However, shaming online takes a new form since it can permanently harm someone’s reputation. The Internet is a tool of permanence, because after something is written about an individual it does not go away. Anything ever written about an individual online compiles into somewhat of a permanent profile that will follow them forever, even if “deleted” by the individual at some point. Therefore, users commenting about teachers on Bad Bad Teacher pose somewhat of a “bad bad” situation for the teacher and possibly themselves.


Since the Webmaster does not filter comments for validity, users are welcome to post any statement they want, true or false, as long as it meets the “comment” guidelines. And after much textual analysis of the site’s comments, I believe many of the statements made about different teachers could jeopardize the teacher’s right to a fair trial. Any information or comments posted to Bad Bad Teacher are open to the public and run the possibility of being accessed and used against the teacher in the court of law, therefore affecting the trial’s outcome. Secondly, the profile/comments posted about a teacher are only removed after a teacher proven not guilty or their attorney requests it. Even if technically “removed,” the information from Bad Bad Teacher will follow accused teachers for life, so if what is posted is false and defamatory it could cause some serious legal issues in the aftermath of a trial where a teacher is proven innocent. Although the Webmaster stated in our interview that no one has ever tried to file libel or being placed in a false light, I believe some teachers proven not guilty after a profile was created about them on Bad Bad Teacher would have a decent case for either. After reading a large breadth of comments about teachers, I would definitely say many comments existing within Bad Bad Teacher qualify as defamatory. These comments and accusations used to publicly shame teachers on the site could permanently damage their reputation even if they are later proven innocent. Future employers, friends, and partners, initially unaware of the accusations, could find the teacher’s Bad Bad Teacher profile on the Web and misjudge them based on the information provided, even though it had later been proven false. This information could cost the teacher a job, friendship, or relationship in the future. The plaintiff could claim the profile published about them on Bad Bad Teacher was proven false in the court of law, could claim the profile defamatory as it has since tarnished their character and reputation in the eyes of others, and could claim the user who posted the defamatory comments on Bad Bad Teacher to be at fault. This being said, I think some of the teachers on the site, if proven not guilty and with a good lawyer, could prove libel from posts within this online community.


Finally after much research looking into this online community, I was actually able to see the marketplace of ideas playing out, which claims that competition of ideas will eventually reveal the truth. This theory dominates current discussions of how the First Amendment should be analyzed, and the theory can be seen on Bad Bad Teachers. As participants are free to express their opinions about the teachers residing within the site, comments posted by users defending the teacher compete with comments posted by users shaming and accusing the teacher of being guilty. According to this theory, practicing freedom of speech on this site lets one user say what they feel and allows another user to come back and challenge their initial comment, and competing ideas of this sort within the site should eventually reveal the truth. In fact, Bad Bad Teacher says in their “comment” guidelines that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with anyone’s opinion including those of the operators of the site, as it is ultimately this freedom that supposedly brings forth the truth. Overall, the public shaming occurring on Bad Bad Teacher is intended to help enforce a serious societal norm. Posts and comments within the site are an attempt to shed light on and possibly help end sexual teacher-student relations that should not be occurring. Focusing on such a serious and touchy issue immediately places this site in a legal and ethical light. After spending a lot of time investigating the site and the content within it, I found norms, liability, and filtering all working as modes of control to help control potential errors or ethical/legal dilemmas. However, I found that the extremity of this issue seems to make it difficult for any mode of control to operate as a complete success within this online community, and several legal issues could still emerge from its content. Specifically, I found that the profiles posted about accused teachers pose a threat to their right to a fair trial and could ultimately be used as legit evidence for a libel case. The online Bad Bad Teacher community, as disturbing as it may appear and sound, has good intentions. And according to the Webmaster, “We get very few complaints about our site. By-in-large the complaints we receive are from persons that feel we actually do not go “far enough” with the site


(K. Pechacek, Personal Contact, April 29, 2009).” According to the marketplace of ideas theory, it is important to allow users on this site to continue to voice their opinions, and competing information should eventually bring forth the truth about the teachers on this site. Who knows, Bad Bad Teacher really could be a big step at fighting sexual teacher-student relations.


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