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About a year after Columbine, I had a similar, seriously angry student. Other teachers complained about him constantly, but I felt that he and I had reached a precarious peace. I knew he was angry, and I allowed him to be while studiously doing what I could not to provoke him. However, on a creative writing assignment, he pushed me past the point of looking the other way. The assignment was to pretend that an inanimate object you use everyday can suddenly speak. He chose his punching bag. The scary part was that once he realized his punching bag was the one screaming and crying, he got a charge out of it and laid into the bag that much more violently, just to get more reaction from it. Eventually, the bag learned to shut up and take its beating quietly, and thus the beating ended. The sadistic nature of the writing scared me. REALLY scared me. I felt obligated to turn over his writing to guidance who then forwarded it to the administration. Nothing ever happened to him, as far as I know, and he graduated without incident. But I know I felt better sharing that inside scoop with others higher up--if anything had happened, I would have felt terribly guilty had I not allowed the school's decision-makers to make informed decisions. It's a much tougher call when it's not coming from a class assignment though.


The first case, are the students talking about another student on their blogs? If so, I might try and talk to the blog writers about whatever they had written just to see if it was idle gossip or the inside scoop.

The second case, I'm not sure but I honestly think you might have some kind of legal obligation to report this. I know that at my school we've been told repeatedly that if we suspect any kind of child abuse that we have to report it. I just wouldn't take a chance with something like that, and honestly, maybe he could get a little help.


Not sure what to make of the first problem, while your teacher friend may be right in that the student isn't "talking" about hurting himself he is actively doing so. Let's face it, vodka and Xanax is a lethal combination.. but what to do about it.. hmmm.. that's a toughie

The second situation is more troubling.. As evidenced by both Columbine and the more recent Red Lake tragedies, there is no way to know when a student has crossed that line in his or her own mind, much less when they might possibly snap and bring it into everyones reality.
I would have to agree with Lisais, you may have some legal obligation to report it, or if you aren't comfortable doing that, perhaps confiding in a trusted administration associate. I would venture to say though that you can't just sit by and wonder when and if angry boy will cross that line.. And I certainly don't wanna have to send a news crew over to cover it.. At the very least someone should speak to angry boy and explain to him that in this day and age, that kind of talk is not only unacceptable, but a one way ticket to a very bad place, especially if he means in it a joking "boy being a boy" kind of way.. no good can come of it.. But I really don't think you can or should ignore it...
best of luck..

Zach Adams

Well, I Am Not A Teacher (though I'm working on my certification for HS English), but it seems to me that by inviting you to visit a (presumably) "unlocked" and publicly viewable blog, the student did not consider the information posted there to be "in confidence". I could be wrong, of course, and it's entirely different if access to the site is locked to a "friends list" like some on Blogspot and Livejournal choose to do. But assuming that it is an openly visible site and the student just passed you a URL (by the way, did you ASK for that URL or was it given without a request? That might make a difference too, though I'm not entirely sure how), it's kind of out there. Anyone who searches for Stoner's name, or Angry Boy's, could find this information. As such, I wouldn't think you were violating the students' confidence. But I Am Not A Teacher and I Could Be Wrong, so...whatever.


Well, you've right to be concerned about the situation and by writing about it on your blog you're now either a part of the solution or you're in one big Kahona trouble if the kiddo's do something stupid.

This is more then a simple scenario of you wanting to help a student, you'd better consider kicking this one up the "ladder of concern" to the big office in the corner.

I've enjoyed your cute and provocative stories, but now we're talking "your certificate and future career" is on the line. It isn't going to be so pretty when a smart mind like yours is whimpering on the stand and the Mr. NotSoNice lawyer is looking down on you asking questions like "...and Ms. Hip Teacher, how long did you know that this child was delusional and capable of killing his classmates?" or "Will you speak a little louder when you address the court and parents of the deceased as you respond to the question, - I want you to be clear about this, "Was it a long period of time or just briefly that you know this underage child was experimenting with drugs and alcohol before they took their own life?"


I've taught in urban environments for a long time and while I'm not the expert, given the litigious nature of our societies, recently I preface decisions like the one you are contemplating with the question, "Is this situation worth my teaching certificate?"


I would talk to and forward the link to the blog to the student's guidance councilor. Let him or her deal with this. You don't have time and do not need the responsibility as has been mentioned in previous comments.

John Blake

I work everyday with students with behavioral problems. My students know that I would turn them in immediately. They never confide such pages with me. I would never tell anyone what they should do, but if my students told me about a blog that that contained defaming comments like calling a fellow educator a bi%$h, I would not stop until I told my school counselor and my school principal. I would cover my a$$. My family and their welfare are more important than second guessing blogged content. Students and teachers must realize that blogs are just like wearing the words on a t-shirt. If they want to record a rant or rave and have no one know about it, write it on toilet paper with water soluable markers and flush it as soon as they write it! Our right to privacy ends when it impacts others. Would any of these students go into a crowded movie theater or gym and yell FIRE?


Hipteacher, I think you've got to be the mean old teacher on this one. Let your department head know, then refer the kid to the counselor. BTW, counselors are obligated to keep things private unless it's in the harm oneself or others category--and the counselors are trained to make this judgment on a daily basis. The vodka at school and the comments about teachers make this NOT a privacy issue. The students have already brought their personal issues to the school. Best of luck to you and the students. (I think they'll forgive you, too. They know the boundary between student and teacher, even a hip-teacher.)

Bud Hunt

Hipteacher --

Your students are publishing in public. They trusted you. Live up to that trust and pass along the dangerous information. If someone's getting hurt, help them find help. Discovering uncomfortable information via a blog is no different than discovering a note in the hallway or overhearing a conversation during a passing period -- unless, of course, you choose to ignore what you've heard. But you're too hip for that.
More importantly, I don't think it's necessarily a problem to read students' personal blogs -- provided the students are aware that you are and that you've either gotten permission or been invited. Such involvement, though, does come with a price, as you've pointed out in your post.
I'm glad to see that you're struggling with these issues, though, as I am, too.


Besides passing info along to counselors, I would talk to Stoner Boy and Angry Boy. I wasn't clear whether Stoner Boy is the blogger or is just talked about in someone else's blog. If he gave you his non-school blog URL and wrote about his own drug use, I'd say he's looking for a reaction from you.

Unfortunately, a lot of really well-meaning adults find it distasteful to share their own ideas of right and wrong with kids because they don't want to "impose" their own views. That often leaves the radical fundamentalists as the only people willing to talk about ethics.

I found (when I taught junior high and at-risk h.s.) that kids were hungry to hear what I thought about drugs and alcohol, maybe because I wasn't preachy or judgmental (I'd never imply that people who did certain things were bad, only that it might have been a bad decision). I shared my own experiences (sometimes under the guise of 'a close friend of mine') and expressed my concerns when students talked about other students' activities (even if they were laughing about it, as was common).

If someone's blogging about someone else, using their name especially, it might also be time for a talk about the ethics and legality of that.

W.r.t. Traci's posting about the kid with the punching bag--I'd read that as an abuse story with the boy getting beat up until he learned not to cry out, and I'd still definitely report it to a counselor.

Angry violent kids are likely abused themselves and you do have a legal and ethical obligation to report it. I wouldn't think of it as "ratting" on the kids though, but trying to find them the help they need. And I'd explain that to the kids when I told them why I was concerned and why I was sharing my concerns with a counselor.


Zero Tolerance. Bomb threats at airports in the form of a joke are absolutely no joke to authorities--this is NO different.
Good suggestion to make it a classroom policy/announcement ahead of time so students know you do not tolerate any references to violations of said ZT and WILL report it. It IS a trust issue. Parents are trusting you to keep their kids safe-first. As a parent, I would not like it if my child's teacher did not speak up. Their life and yours is on the line. (and CYA)


You're a teacher. You *always* tell. It's what the teacher instinct tells us to do.


Hello follow e ducators.
Have you heard that teachers may now own and bring to school tazers? What do you think? I think I can never do this because I am so afraid I will lose my patience and use it inappropriately. I can three or four writhing on the classroom floor begging for mercy. A teacher was grabbed by her necklace recently because she took up a cell phone. Mys tudents took the incident well saying, "He is our of here." Do you think resource officers should be able to keep a tazer?

arvind s. grover

Students haven't realized the comments passed in the hall are not the same as comments passed on their blog. Students talking in the hall to a friend, "I know I just failed my bio test, I hope this school burns down with my test in it..."

Student on their blog, "I hope my school burns down..."
Now we have a BIG problem.

We need to educate our young people that their voices online have impact, and they are responsible for that impact.

21apples - learning in the 21st century

8 Year

How long have you been teaching?

Also, think about it...if these were your kids, I mean your actual children and if you didn't know about it but their teacher happened across it....would you want their teacher to tell you>?


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Tom Darling

Why is being concerned "selling out"?

The real issue is if you trust the system you work in. It should be assumed (and I know this is not true in many places) that the administration, counselors, and teachers are all working the best interests of the student. Like it or not, you are now involved. Like it or not, you now have an obligation to follow this through. This is what happens when you move beyond "teaching a subject" and actually get involved in a student's life (teaching a student).

It may be nothing--kids are kids--but you (or any single teacher) cannot know this. It is your responsibility as a human being to expand the circle. If it is nothing, it will peter out.

The wrong assumption is that you can somehow control this, that you simply talking to the student will change any serious behavior. Even if we are talking a brilliant you and a close friend, expanding the circle is important. That you are a professional, and this is all in a professional capacity (in the end, that is what it is, and these kids are simply your students), you are obligated to pass this onto those people in your system whose job it is to deal with it.

You protect your job by kicking it upstairs, but, more importantly, you protect the child by expanding the circle to people who have a larger perspective, experience, and resources.


I agree with Tom - you've gotta tell someone when you see stuff like this. The peculiar nature of any work with children lies in being the ADULT - being the one who recognizes the big picture and acts on it. We're not here to be the kids' friends - they've got enough friends in their lives. We're here to act as adults, and to protect as many people as we can.

Outside of that, I think it's VERY important that all kids learn very early on that what they say in public is... well... PUBLIC. If indeed they don't want their parents and administration to know they're drinking, taking drugs, etc., then they need to know that they cannot post that information on the Internet. They certainly need to know that they can't invite adults in authority positions to read this stuff.

Kids partied and did stupid things when I was young. But they had the sense not to take photos of themselves and put them on the bulletin board at the supermarket where their mother and the local police shopped. I think it's really important for them to learn that blogging this stuff is basically posting it where any and every person can find it.


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