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February 28, 2001
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The state of Florida has charged a teenage student with a felony violation of a wiretapping law for taping her chemistry class lecture.
posted by jfuller (32 comments total)

 
And yet Linda Tripp got away with it in Maryland thanks to Starr granting her immunity for wiretapping in order to get the president for getting a blow job. Wiretapping concerns me more.
posted by terrapin at 11:23 AM on February 28, 2001


It is always good to learn that Florida strickly follows legal procedures.
posted by Postroad at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2001


And that they support their student's efforts to get more out of classes.
posted by Su at 11:49 AM on February 28, 2001


Okay, this wins the prize for stupidest thing of the month. I truly do not understand how some people think...and it's becoming increasingly frightening...
posted by rushmc at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2001


It seems to me that Florida has finally succeeded in becoming the dumb-ass state...congratulations are in order...
posted by slackbash at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2001


My question -- having seen the quality of Florida educators -- is what could a high school teacher have said that would be worth taping?
posted by darren at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2001


This could only happen in America. I wish I could say it could only happen in Florida...
posted by Loudmax at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2001


Isn't Florida the place where a couple of Democrats got off after releasing tapes of.. whatisname.. The old Repub speaker of the House... cell phone conversations? Regardless, this is stupid, and should not stick.
posted by thirteen at 12:23 PM on February 28, 2001


We have an adversarial relationship between students and teachers. It has degenerated to the point where this teacher feels she must turn to the courts to "protect" herself since the school (sensibly, IMO) dropped the issue back in October. In grad school we were encouraged to record lectures, and most instructors let us place our recorders up front. I remember an ambidextrous neurophysiology prof who got a kick out of writing notes while simultaneously drawing diagrams. Very entertaining, but a total nightmare without a recording to refer to. Highschoolers should be allowed to record lectures with the consent of the teacher.
posted by gimli at 12:25 PM on February 28, 2001


"But Shelaine Goss, the chemistry teacher, filed a complaint and the state filed charges against the teen February 5."

The school didn't penalize her, so her teacher filed charges against her. For taping her lecture. That just seems crazy to me.
posted by jennyb at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2001


Hey, gimli made the point I was trying to make...
posted by jennyb at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2001


How to put this delicately? We've got a problem (at least in my state, but I assume it's more or less nationwide), where public school teachers have developed an us-against-the-world mentatlity. Teachers are notoriously underpaid, and since their salaries are under the public microscope, there is a lot of resentment. Many teachers, in my experience, spend their off time in the teachers' room bitching (sometimes very justifiably, sometimes not) about they're mistreated by the State and the school administration. (The teachers' unions are usually pretty good at maintaining a disconnect between teachers and administrators.) I wouldn't be surprised if this case came out of that.

"I can't believe Principal So-and-so wouldn't back you up on this, Shelaine. You should take this to court!"

Now, I'm not necessarily blaming the teachers here. It a thankless job, and teachers are very much underpaid and underappreciated. I'm merely attempting to put this in some context. (I've worked in the public school system, and my mother has been a public school teacher for almost 35 years--for whatever that's worth.) In the culture of the teachers' room, things like this can easily get out of hand.
posted by jpoulos at 1:05 PM on February 28, 2001


"It seems to me that Florida has finally succeeded in becoming the dumb-ass state"

I realize this adds nothing to the discussion, but I really wanted to see it again.

Is there any info on *why* the teacher was so against being taped? Was she afraid of legal exposure in one of those "the skool fayled to tich me" lawsuits? Afraid the students might submit her lecture to one of those "Boring Teachers - UNCENSORED" websites? Does she just have a major stick up her butt?

|=| DISCLAIMER: all buttstick references are provided specifically for the entertainment of lance and jeffrey, who enjoy that sort of thing. |=|
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:22 PM on February 28, 2001


In the culture of the teachers' room, things like this can easily get out of hand.

Isn't it disturbing that the very people we entrust to teach our children to think logically and effectively demonstrate such poor reasoning skills themselves?

This teacher should be made and example of and fired. New motto: If you're too stupid to function yourself, you may not teach our children.
posted by rushmc at 1:31 PM on February 28, 2001


This is genuinely bizarre. I'm wondering if there is some backstory that we ought to know about--has the student been a hassle to deal with? Does the instructor have problems with maintaining authority? Is this a strike against the administration? Or...? Because I genuinely cannot see why anything more than a slap on the wrist was necessary. Surely "I won't do it again" ought to be sufficient? (And surely the instructor should be offering assistance to a student having problems, not a lawsuit?)
posted by thomas j wise at 1:33 PM on February 28, 2001


From the article: Florida law prohibits recording a person without their consent when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, except in public meetings or gatherings. Zaslaw's lawyer said Goss didn't have that expectation because there were 30 students in the classroom.

This is the action of a stupid prosecutor, and the student's lawyer is right on the mark. Florida's wiretap statute (Chapter 934) forbids the "interception" of an "oral communication" - but "interception" can be either listening or recording. The "oral communication" must be one that could reasonably be considered private by the person speaking. In other words, if the person talking knows that YOU are listening, it is not a crime for YOU to record it - only for some unknown third party.

Former FSU placekicker Scott Bentley was once charged under the same statute for secretly recording his sexual escapades.


posted by mikewas at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2001


Teachers are notoriously underpaid

I hear this a lot, but I just don't see it. The Average Teacher's Salary is over $38K, and since they only work about 9 months out of the year, that works out to a prorated amount of more than $50K. I'll buy that nobody wants to go into teaching because the perception is that they're underpaid, but I don't think they're at all underpaid.
posted by willnot at 5:03 PM on February 28, 2001


Obviously, this passionate teacher does not care about money - she is in because she wants to provide the best education she can and open young minds. Like all teachers. :)

Gimme a break. You'd think if a student was having trouble in the class, the teacher would offer to help, not file a stupid lawsuit. Shelaine should be fired.
posted by swank6 at 5:10 PM on February 28, 2001


Read here. The teacher had already left her high school - that is, resigned -- when she pressed the charges. Have long just lurked here, but found this story too curious to bear. Something didn't sound right about it -- big holes, sketchy reporting, as if done for a localized audience that already knew what was going on. Frankly, the linked story does not provide the ultimate answers either. Sounds like there may have been a possibility of sabotage or petty payback gone awry here, but who can say? Teachers, like any other workers out there in America, sometimes do stupid things when they leave or are under duress. On the other hand, it's a high stress, low-paid job to begin with and administrators have been known to jerk teachers around. Kids can push the weird and obnoxious thing to the limit, too, perish the thought.
posted by raysmj at 6:20 PM on February 28, 2001


Reposting the link mentioned above. Sorry!
posted by raysmj at 6:27 PM on February 28, 2001


This reminds me of the stories I've read about University professors threatening legal action against bookstores (and online services) for selling class notes. Ironically, the University of Florida actually did file suit against a company (and lost) for this alleged violation of intellectual property rights.

These are very different cases, though. I'm not quite sure where I stand on the class notes issue -- it's understandable that professors are upset when they see none of the money made from selling their work. At the same time, class notes give nothing but the information contained in the lectures (as opposed to a perfect transcript). This high school chemistry teacher, on the other hand, is upset that a student recorded the lectures for her own use. I wonder if this would be an issue if a disabled student was recording these lectures.

Even though I'm a college student, I'm fortunate to be unaffected by any of this. Nearly every class I've taken since transferring to the University of Illinois has had an official web page, with copies of the instructor's own lecture notes available for download. I feel that this is a fantastic trend, not because it allows me to skip class, but instead because I don't need to inconvenience my professor or classmates when I do have a valid reason for missing class.
posted by Eamon at 6:53 PM on February 28, 2001


The Average Teacher's Salary is over $38K, and since they only work about 9 months out of the year, that works out to a prorated amount of more than $50K

Why would you prorate the $38K? That amount is the yearly salary, not a 9 month salary. Therefore the prorated amount is misleading and wrong, since many teachers don't get the chance to work for more money over the summer through their school districts.
posted by JFunk2800 at 3:50 AM on March 1, 2001


Why would you prorate the $38K? That amount is the yearly salary, not a 9 month salary. Therefore the prorated amount is misleading and wrong, since many teachers don't get the chance to work for more money over the summer through their school districts.

Some of them work over the summer for the school districts. Some of them have other jobs in the summer, too.

Even if you don't take into account the three months off... remember, your salary increases every few years. If you're there a while, and get a master's degree, (which they pay for), your salary increases greatly. So does being a coach. The average is brought down by the large numbers of young women who don't stay at their job very long. (that's what the school districts hope when they hire them.)

You're right that they think they're underpaid. They're overestimating salaries in the private sector, though. I'm sorry, opressed, underpaid workers do not drive BMW's. Mr. Ungrey does. He is a high school teacher. His wife is a high school teacher. He doesn't come from money. He makes enough money as a high school teacher to drive a BMW. And have a nice house in Grandville.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:16 AM on March 1, 2001


This story was about a school district outside of Pensacola, Florida. So exactly where does the average salary discussion enter into it? What's the point here? The "average" means the average salary, not everyone's salary. I'm not sure what Pensacola teachers make, but being from and living in the Deep South, I think it would be safe to assume that the teacher in question was not driving arond in a BMW.

Also, yes, plenty of private sector salaries are lower than teachers', although whether that proves anything about anything is a point I can't address. Still, how would $38,000 times two give you enough for driving around in a BMW? Or even $45,000 times two, especially in an area that can afford such salaries? (Unless of course it's paid by the state, and there's an equity law at work.) Do the teachers in question have any children, a decent house? Or are they living on borrowed cash? Lots of Americans live outside their means, and it's often the most middle-class people around who act like they're ready for the estate tax, which they duly complain about, even if they will never pay it.
posted by raysmj at 6:38 AM on March 1, 2001


News this morning is that Assistant State Attorney John Molchan has dismissed the charges against the student. Obviously he must not be a native Floridiot.

Goss says she is "taking a year off from teaching." My hope is she takes longer than that.
posted by darren at 7:56 AM on March 1, 2001


Why would you prorate the $38K? That amount is the yearly salary, not a 9 month salary.

Yes, but whether you're a salaried employee or an hourly employee the underlying premise is that you're being compensated for the work that you do. Most people who are paid a yearly wage work about 50 out of 52 weeks a year. So, either they're paid an average pro-rated amount of $50K/year or they're paid $38K one heck of a paid vacation benefit. Either way, I think they're very fairly compensated.

As to why it's relevant to the article posted, it's not. But, a couple of people had mentioned previously that teachers were underpaid. It seems whenever the topic of teachers comes up people trot out the idea that they're underpaid. I just don't see it.
posted by willnot at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2001


If you're there a while, and get a master's degree, (which they pay for), your salary increases greatly

Well, in Missouri, at least, you're required to get a Master's and they don't pay for it.
posted by daveadams at 9:35 AM on March 1, 2001


willnot: So, either they're paid an average pro-rated amount of $50K/year. . .
It sure ain't pro-rated to 50K a year. Just ask my wife, who is an actual, honest to goodness school teacher.
willnot: or they're paid $38K one heck of a paid vacation benefit. Either way, I think they're very fairly compensated
So in your job, you are required to go to school to learn how to do your job better on your vacations? (btw: it's more like ten months of school year. Teachers are required to be preparing for school and doing paper work for weeks before and after the students show up.)
willnot: whether you're a salaried employee or an hourly employee the underlying premise is that you're being compensated for the work that you do
Let's see. Teachers have to be at school before the students get there. They're liable for what goes on in their classes even when they are outside the class - so no coffee breaks anytime they want them. And then they grade papers for hours in the evening - but no overtime. Oh, yeah. And parents of students who happen to be jerks (I left that ambiguous on purpose) can call up anytime at home to berate teachers (unlisted numbers don't always work when your employer gives out the number).
And that's not even in the inner city.
(Moral: get to know some real, honest-to-goodness, hardworking teachers. Check out what they really do. Then decide whether their salary is fair.)
posted by iceberg273 at 10:03 AM on March 1, 2001


As my girlfriend is a teacher, and we would both love for her to be making $38K--which she does not by any means at all, not even close, despite the fact that it's a hoity-toity school for wealthy tots--that figure looked sort of weird to me. So I did a little (very little) diddling around with that link. From the overview:

Data includes national average salaries or earnings for teachers, other school employees, government workers and professional employees over the past 30 years.

So . . . it's not really the average for just teachers, but for what? Principals? Government workers? Huh? I couldn't find what this could mean in my admittedly hurried scan of the site.

But even better is some of the things you didn't link to, willnot:

Teacher Salaries Fall Behind Inflation
Average Teacher Salary Exceeds 1977 Levels By About $3,750
Average Teacher Salary Increase In the Nineties is Smallest In 40Years
Teachers Relative Standard of Living Lowest in 40 Years
Share of Budget Lowest for Teachers in 30 Years
Average Teacher Salary in 1996 Falls Far Short of Earnings in Other Professions
New Teacher Salaries Lag Behind Beginning Salaries in Other Occupations


Sexy!
posted by Skot at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2001


Even if the salary is "reasonable for the work" step back for a minute and think about what you're saying.

Why would you ever want to limit a teacher's salary? That's the thing I really don't understand. If you're a good teacher, you should be pulling in 6 figures, dammit.
posted by cCranium at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2001


Oh, also. My girlfriend's parents were teachers for a good 30 years each. Her father's a retired high school teacher, who does regular substitutions. He recently got hired on for the rest of this school year at his old salary to cover a sick teacher. He and his wife were ecstatic when they found out he'd be getting his old salary (and benefits and whatnot) back because it's the highest a high school teacher in Ontario can make.

He's making $3,000/yr less than I am, and I've been out of college for just over two years, and I don't have a phenominal salary ($40k/yr., disclosure and all that) That is, quite simply, Not Right.

(dollar amounts in Canadian, because so am I)
posted by cCranium at 10:17 AM on March 1, 2001


Salaries paid to teachers aside, Ms. Goss should have a taste of her own medicine. I think the student ought to file a quarter of a million dollar harassment suit against Goss, and have a press conference where she is slammed eight ways from Sunday. Then, sit back, let Goss sweat for about a week, and then, drop the suit. Turnabout would be more than fair play.
posted by Dreama at 10:22 AM on March 1, 2001


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