This will not wendell August 31, 2009 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Can we please consider deleting this question, on the basis that the poster, however sympathetic her personal situation might be, is asking for advice on something illegal or very potentially illegal?
posted by misha to Etiquette/Policy at 3:13 PM (184 comments total)

Yeah, that question had the alarms going off pretty much immediately.
posted by Skot at 3:19 PM on August 31, 2009


So you have no idea if it's legal or not, then? Maybe someone could look up the law where the asker is?
posted by ODiV at 3:20 PM on August 31, 2009


Why not let the answers clear that up, instead of deleting the question? The conversation seems to be making the point just fine.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


it's a case of the asker asking the wrong question. I can not even imagine how frustrating her situation is, but it seems like she does not intend to hear otherwise
posted by Think_Long at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2009


It's illegal, according to all the sites linked in the post, ODiV; I was quoting the AskMe Wiki, which says AskMes can be deleted if they are asking how to do something that is illegal or potentially illegal.
posted by misha at 3:23 PM on August 31, 2009


She seems like she's interacting just fine with the people who are in that thread, a few of whom have definitely mentioned that what she's considering may be illegal and offering other possible solutions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:23 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of questions in AskMe about potentially-illegal activities.

I gather from your tags that you think the poster is a paranoid helicopter parent. Does that feeling have something to do with why you'd like to see the question deleted?
posted by box at 3:25 PM on August 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'd bet a lot of money that this is motivated by the recent news story of a woman who did something similar and uncovered the fact that her son was being abused. At least in Atlanta, it doesn't appear that the legality of it was called into question.

If we don't know if it's illegal (or if the possibility exists that it's legal in some places), then I don't think there's grounds for deleting the thread. Perhaps unwise, but that isn't grounds for deleting it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually, it looks like it may be illegal in Atlanta (or so the school district accused the moether at one point). It doesn't look like it got much traction, though.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:28 PM on August 31, 2009


I have two clients right now in the same situation. Because we have a decent social welfare system in the UK they were able to move from their middle class lives to social housing and the dole in order to stay home and parent their two severely autistic kids 24 / 7. nadawi might not have that choice and that makes me angry.

The thing is, autism shit happens and it is just random to us neurotypical sometimes. So the kids violence could be caused by abuse at the school, but the fact that the TEACHER CALLED to report violence makes me think that there are legal avenues still to try and that the OP is acting from fear and irrationality at the moment.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2009


It's illegal, according to all the sites linked in the post, ODiV

That's funny, I read that one party's consent is required and I take it as a given that she's allowed to record these conversations because she would be able to consent for her son, being a minor. I'm no lawyer though, obviously.

Interesting that we both read the same words and come to a different conclusion.

I haven't been able to find anything that speaks to minors yet, but I'm interested.
posted by ODiV at 3:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sure hope her son doesn't listen to any copyrighted music while she's recording.
posted by Elmore at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


Helicopter parent? Really?
posted by kathrineg at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2009


And paranoid? Abuse and mistreatment happen, and it's scary.
posted by kathrineg at 3:38 PM on August 31, 2009


I'm of two minds, here. I don't especially sympathize with the asker, and I personally think the only correct answer to that question is "you're crazy and unethical if you think you have the right to do this," but I'm not sure that being disliked is enough to merit deletion. That leaves the original concern of legality, and I am fairly opposed to the deletion of discussion of illegal acts. There are things I'm proud of having done that would be illegal in many parts of the US, and I'd like the freedom to discuss them if I so choose.

Having said that, I trust our moderators' individual and collective judgement. I may on rare occasions disagree with an individual deletion but my trust has yet to be violated in any fundamental way that would make me question it. That still holds true in the case of this particular thread.
posted by majick at 3:42 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, box, as a parent I do think that the poster is (in her own words) paranoid, and over-reacting (hence the helicopter parent tag). I've been a panicking, over-protective parent myself, and I do think that that she is being well counseled to reflect and to not take this course of action.

My chief concern is that the best answer she has chosen in the thread is where to find covert recording devices.
posted by misha at 3:43 PM on August 31, 2009


Given that the child in question is autistic, I don't really see how this is an example of helicopter parenting.
posted by spaltavian at 3:44 PM on August 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


One cannot "helicopter parent" an autistic child. The kid can't use the bathroom by himself.
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


but the fact that the TEACHER CALLED to report violence

Yeah, that kind of thing can really disrupt your critical thinking circuits. You start thinking: "Well, does my kid have it in for the teacher or the other way around?" I've been in situations where my child was targeting someone, and where the teacher wasn't targeting per se, but definitely not helping my child or the other kids in the room.

I can understand why you'd want an impartial recorder - it tells more of the story than a non verbal kid or a teacher who seems like s/he doesn't want your kid around.

That being said, there are more ways to get at the right outcome. The OP needs to calm down a bit and think about what needs to happen, not what she wants to do.
posted by lysdexic at 3:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


misha, you may owe me 15 cents for using "this will not wendell" in a post title. I had specifically authorized its use in comments, but NOT in post titles. As soon as my copyright attorney settles with jessamyn (who claims First Use in that context, but I have established control over ALL uses of "wendell" in lower case at MetaFilter), he'll be in touch with you.

And there were teenytiny recording devices when I was a kid, I'm sure I would have been continuously monitored from 4th grade on...
posted by wendell at 3:51 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


(hence the helicopter parent tag)

You could probably use a "helicopter modding" tag.
posted by dhammond at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


The OP of the question is getting solid advice, on the legalities and the answering of her question. She also said she has someone investigating the actual legality of what she is thinking of doing. So, AskMe is providing good advice that would get terminated if the question is removed. It is up to the OP to take that advice or not. Say no to Helicopter moderation.

As well someone up thread has said, there is some gray area seeing as the mom could conceivability give consent for the child.
posted by edgeways at 3:55 PM on August 31, 2009


Hm, looks like Louisiana's got some issues providing services to special needs kids.
posted by lysdexic at 3:57 PM on August 31, 2009


I've been a panicking, over-protective parent myself

But you're over that, and now you're just a panicking, over-protective MeFite?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:59 PM on August 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


I removed the helicopter parent tag. I wasn't trying to be offensive, just think in *this situation*, it fits. Of course a special needs child naturally warrants closer supervision

I do think, as someone with an autistic family member, that parents of children on the autistic spectrum have to be, if anything, more rational and less prone to ZOMG impulsive action when navigating the mazes of the educational system.

I'm bowing out of the thread, so as not to helicopter mod any more myself.

Wendell, I owe you 15c!
posted by misha at 3:59 PM on August 31, 2009


My chief concern is that the best answer she has chosen in the thread is where to find covert recording devices.

She also picked the one that told her to go ahead and do it, even though it didn't answer her question.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2009


The child is autistic. As the parent of an autistic child, I think this is a brilliant idea. I'd want to talk to his teacher about it if I were sending him to school with the microphone. But it's not a bad idea.

I've secretly recorded my child, too, in an effort to track his development progress.

Know how I did it? I put a videocamera on the table and pressed RECORD.

Know why I could do it secretly?

Because his condition means he's disconnected from the world.

A marching band could walk through the room, and it's 50-50 odds of him noticing it.

This is what autism looks like.

Now, if everyone could be so kind as to climb down off the fucking soap boxes ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:35 PM on August 31, 2009 [32 favorites]


I can't believe you just equated recording your shild in your own home with a video camera to sewing a hidden microphone into a child's shirt to not only record him, but the people around him. Without their consent.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:39 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is that your actual motivation for asking that the question be deleted, or is that the nearest convenient excuse for your request?

If you really care that it is illegal, I expect to see you in MetaTalk posting about nearly every pot-related question. Yup.
posted by adipocere at 4:41 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


"nadawi might not have that choice and that makes me angry."

huh?

i was saying in the thread that the poster, mitzyjalapeno, stated in the thread that private schools are out and transferring takes too long (which i don't understand, if you start the 6 weeks now, that time will be up by the time you are able to record, process, report on, and have any sort of positive outcome through her chosen path). i was wondering if she doesn't see any other option besides this school, what does she hope to gain by recording - especially if the recording in and of itself is illegal.

also, i'm glad this metatalk was posted. especially if things are being deleted from the ask.me thread for being off topic. seems like this is a perfect place to do all that.
posted by nadawi at 4:43 PM on August 31, 2009


I can't believe you just equated recording your shild in your own home with a video camera to sewing a hidden microphone into a child's shirt to not only record him, but the people around him. Without their consent.

You did see the "I'd talk to his teacher about it" line, right? Of course you did. I'm sure you read and comprehended the entire comment. So I'll just assume you're being willfully obtuse.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:46 PM on August 31, 2009


And more to the point, to expand a little bit on the FAQ "don't ask illegal stuff" guideline. In short, we'd like people to not ask illegal questions because often they tend to go poorly and/or they're likely to get mathowie in some sort of trouble he'd prefer not to be in. So, for a few examples

- How do I get the best deals from the pot dealers in Manhattan [locally illegal, likely not approved]
- If I smoke pot in Amsterdam and come through customs smelling like it, will I get searched [something illegal in the US, not illegal elsewhere, okay question]
- How do I get revenge on __________ [people tend to come up with many illegal answers and fight a lot, not approved]
- I need an abortion and I live someplace where they're illegal [locally illegal, not against the mores of MeFi generally, okay question]
- How do I get a crack for the latest Photoshop I downloaded from The Pirate Bay [locally quasi-illegal but mostly not approvable because we don't want to become a warez AskMe site, not approved]

More to the point, while we're happy with people asking about borderline topics, we reserve the right to remove questions for no more complicated reason than "this is illegal and/or this will get the site in trouble" and so we have that guideline in the FAQ. This doesn't mean that every question on something that's illegal in the US will be removed, just that they're borderline cases at best and people need to be aware of that. We'd like to not help people commit large-scale crimes or fraud, generally.

And yes, for the record, I'm sort of sorry we ever approved the "how to dispose of a body" question because people tend to bring it up in threads like these.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:49 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


you included the possibility of talking to his teacher, but you've missed the point about secretly taping everyone else's kids without their parents consent.
posted by nadawi at 4:50 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: "You did see the "I'd talk to his teacher about it" line, right? Of course you did. I'm sure you read and comprehended the entire comment. So I'll just assume you're being willfully obtuse."

Is it possible for the teacher to give consent to record the other students and faculty the child comes in contact with, I wonder?
posted by boo_radley at 4:51 PM on August 31, 2009


you included the possibility of talking to his teacher, but you've missed the point about secretly taping everyone else's kids without their parents consent.

OK, so now I know you're being willfully obtuse and falsely pedantic.

Now, here's another homespun cliche: Please get down off the cross. Someone else needs the wood.

/remove from recent activity.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:56 PM on August 31, 2009


i'm not being willfully obtuse, but you are responding to all questioning of your ideas by insulting the people doing the questioning. this often points to someone who doesn't actually have a strong argument.
posted by nadawi at 5:00 PM on August 31, 2009


well i guess we ain't got cool papa bell to kick around no more
posted by boo_radley at 5:00 PM on August 31, 2009


Threads where people argue a lot would go better if they were food fights instead.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:10 PM on August 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


I always hoped that the moderation on Metafilter was human powered rather than bylaw and ordinance dominated and so it proves. "Illegal" really does cover a lot. Despite initial reservations about the nature and brevity of the initial question, the OP appears to have her head screwed on, she's getting good answers, and the situation is entirely worthy. Good luck to her.
posted by fire&wings at 5:10 PM on August 31, 2009


How do I get the best deals from pot dealers in Manhattan?
posted by waraw at 5:12 PM on August 31, 2009


i wonder how the poster would respond if her child was secretly recorded by another parent with a kid in the same program. i wonder if those recordings were used to expel her child from the school/program, would the poster seek legal action against the people who did the recording.
posted by nadawi at 5:17 PM on August 31, 2009


How do I get the best deals from pot dealers in Manhattan?

Rob 'em.
posted by box at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't believe you just equated recording your shild in your own home with a video camera to sewing a hidden microphone into a child's shirt to not only record him, but the people around him. Without their consent.

You did see the "I'd talk to his teacher about it" line, right? Of course you did. I'm sure you read and comprehended the entire comment. So I'll just assume you're being willfully obtuse.


I'm pretty certain that most children interact with more than just the one teacher at school, and that's part of the secret recording. Otherwise, why not just pin an obvious microphone to the kid's collar so that everyone can see it and know what's up?

On preview, I see you've just decided to be insulting and then run away. Cheers!
posted by oneirodynia at 5:24 PM on August 31, 2009


In many states, of which I believe that Georgia is one, you can legally record any question to which you are a party. In other words: it is possible (likely) that in Atlanta, only one party needs to consent to the recording. None of the others need even be aware of it.

If the parent can consent for the child in this situation, it doesn't matter even a little bit that the parents of the other children haven't consented.

Further, even in a state where surreptitious recording is illegal, it might still be legal to searching for, find, or possess the equipment to do so (as such equipment would also have various LEGAL uses as well) so, at the very least, everything the poster is wanting to do is plausibly legal.

Finally, teachers and/or school board officials claiming that something is illegal is suspect because the odds are very slim that they are lawyers or otherwise know what they're talking about. This is doubly true where the thing that they're claiming is illegal is also something they don't want you to do and don't have the power to stop you from doing themselves.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:26 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that any conclusions about surreptitious recording might be complicated by the fact that the school isn't a public place.
posted by box at 5:30 PM on August 31, 2009


even if you take the legal question out of it - is it ethical to record mentally handicapped children that aren't yours?
posted by nadawi at 5:31 PM on August 31, 2009


How do I get the best deals from pot dealers in Manhattan?

Pirate Bay.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:44 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm bowing out of the thread, so as not to helicopter mod any more myself.

Wendell, I owe you 15c!
posted by misha at 3:59 PM on August 31 [+] [!]



If OP cannot engage in further discussion on her callout then let's close this up, shall we?
posted by special-k at 5:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm the aunt of a non-speaking autistic child and understand entirely why the parents of such a child can seem entirely irrational. When I think of something potentially damaging my nephew I can become irrational, too. Hell my breathing changed just seeing the "helicopter parent" tag.
My nephew can't speak, he can be annoying to others and when he is stressed by something at school or on the bus, my sister knows something is up but must be a detective to figure it out. If the stressor in his environment does not get addressed the situation can spiral out of control. My sister is an absolute beast if she thinks someone is mistreating her son. I think it is an inherent quality that comes with the territory when you are called on to parent a child that requires so much.

So, "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
posted by readery at 5:48 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do I get the best deals from pot dealers in Manhattan?

Fake badge, real gun.
posted by box at 5:51 PM on August 31, 2009


we'd like people to not ask illegal questions

Woah, woah, woah—illegal questions? What an interesting concept. I wonder if my Librarian keeps them back in the banned book room, or if she just knows 'em all by heart.
Sorry! Clowny pedantry surceased.
posted by carsonb at 5:51 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


any conclusions surreptitious recording might be complicated by the fact that the school isn't a public place.

...why would you think that? Recording phone conversations -- far more private than walking around a school -- are legal to record with single-party consent in most places. Similarly with private, face-to-face conversations in someone's living room.


is it ethical to record mentally handicapped children that aren't yours?

Why wouldn't it be? More to the point of this post, is there a blanket AskMe prohibition on potentially unethical activities?
posted by toomuchpete at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2009


even if you take the legal question out of it - is it ethical to record mentally handicapped children that aren't yours?

If a person doesn't have a conception of privacy, or have secrets it's in their best interest to have remain secret, I'm not sure you can cause them any harm by surveillance. The issue is that you can't know who this bug is going to pick up when attached to an autistic child who is unaware of it.

What if two of the people working their are discussing their sex lives or something within earshot of the boy? I think they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Does that trump this woman's (totally understandable) concern for her son's welfare - it gets tricky fast.

I'm encouraging her to go a different route primarily because I don't think this will work out well for her or her son. If it does her son no good we conveniently bypass the moral quandaries involve with possible privacy intrusion as their is no benefit to make it worth considering.
posted by phrontist at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2009


"are legal to record with single-party consent in most places."

Many. I meant "many" places.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2009


I think they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

You think two people having a conversation within earshot of a third party have a reasonable expectation of privacy from that party?

That's . . . bizarre.

(To say nothing of the fact that if two teachers are talking about their sex lives within earshot of students, that might be a good reason to record them)
posted by toomuchpete at 5:56 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


toomuchpete - as questions about the ethics about this are getting deleted from the ask.me thread, i took that to mean that the mods would rather the discussions happen here. i realize it's not directly related to the original callout, but it seems like metatalk often balloons to include more than just the original issues of the callout.
posted by nadawi at 6:01 PM on August 31, 2009


Oh, I see. The way you segued into it, I thought you were going at something else. Sorry about that.

...I'm still not sure what the ethical problem would be with the recording, assuming the microphone wasn't significantly more powerful than the hearing of the wearer.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:04 PM on August 31, 2009


I would secretly record my child if I thought something was up at his school. He is autistic also and I will go all juggernaut on someone that I think is mistreating him. Luckily for my wife and I we have very good teachers and therapists for him.
posted by Gravitus at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


You think two people having a conversation within earshot of a third party have a reasonable expectation of privacy from that party?

That's . . . bizarre.


Well, I don't know the situation obviously, but many autistic people could not be expected to listen to or parse the speech going on around them, especially about something personal like that. So you could talk freely around them without being concerned about them repeating it or thinking ill of you. Again, lots of assumptions here, but she says he is nonverbal to the point that he can't describe abuse.
posted by phrontist at 6:12 PM on August 31, 2009


My chief concern is that the best answer she has chosen in the thread is where to find covert recording devices.

Why? It's precisely the best answer to the question she actually asked.
posted by padraigin at 6:14 PM on August 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


I took myself out of the thread for a while to get some air and so I wouldn't be commenting on every other comment, after the "helicopter modding" mention above. If you all feel this issue is resolved and no one else has any problems with the question, fine. I don't think I'm alone in my concern about the legal and ethical concerns, though.
posted by misha at 6:15 PM on August 31, 2009


Question: Is there difference between sending your son out with a mike in his collar and setting a hidden teddy cam up to watch the baby sitter? Some nanny-cam cases have documented horrible abuse and been widely publicized. Nobody seemed to care much if it was illegal or not.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:16 PM on August 31, 2009


She also said she has someone investigating the actual legality of what she is thinking of doing.

This is a really important point I think. The poster over there didn't ask about the legalities involved because she's already getting that advice elsewhere, presumably from someone actually qualified to give it to her. Instead she asked about the technical side and that's what should be addressed in the answers, particularly now she's posted this clarification in response to those bringing up the legal issues. There was nothing in the question seeking opinions about her plan but people just can't help but give them anyway.

Personally I think her proposed idea is terrible and there are better ways to deal with the situation. But so what? She didn't ask my opinion and if it turns out to be legal then it's up to her to do it or not.
posted by shelleycat at 6:19 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, I don't know the situation obviously, but many autistic people could not be expected to listen to or parse the speech going on around them, especially about something personal like that.

Thinking someone can't do something and them being unable to do something are two wholly different things.

Would someone who had been deaf for years but miraculously gained the ability to hear be guilty of violating the privacy of someone having a conversation in his presence?

Is pretending to be asleep while two people carry on a conversation a violation of their privacy?

What about individuals who assume that someone can't speak a particular language and then converse in it, when that person can -- in reality -- understand them?

The bottom line is that you really have no reasonable expectation of privacy if you're knowingly having a conversation around a third party, whatever your assumptions might be about that.

I'm also a bit unclear on why a teacher's right to say things privately to or around a student somehow trumps the parent's right to know what is happening to or around their child during the school day.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:27 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


SLC Mom: I'm pretty sure you're allowed to have surveillance in your own home.
posted by odinsdream at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2009


That seems like a very odd standard, phrontist. By that same standard would it be unethical for someone to put a camera in the room of a comatose person to see if their caretaker was abusing them? After all, the caretaker is assuming that the comatose person can't see, hear, or tell anyone about anything, and if privacy is more important than protecting a disabled person—which seems to be the underlying principle at work—then it's clearly impermissible.

That seems like a crappy standard. Plus, just because someone with severe autism (or someone with Down's or MR, or hell even someone in a PVS or coma) might be assumed to be unaware of their surroundings doesn't necessarily mean that they are totally unaware, all the time. I think it's completely reasonable to expect caretakers to afford them the same level of discretion that anyone else would get, in terms of not talking about their sex lives in front of them.

It's not like having sex while the cat is watching, it's a person.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:37 PM on August 31, 2009


i'd be more in favor of secretly recording the teacher if other mentally challenged minors weren't involved in the recordings. part of me really wants to think what this mom is considering is totally sane and just in a "anything to protect my kid" sort of way - but then i think about the other parents, the ones who might get caught in the crossfire. i think about how angry i would be if secret recordings of my (hypothetical) child were played on the nightly news, devoid of context. a lot of things go on in a special ed classroom that wouldn't be acceptable in a non special ed class. some teachers give more leeway towards inappropriate vocalizations and the like. these are things that can't be easily judged when all you have is whatever the mic picks up.

this is a super thorny issue, no lie - but i do wonder what the response would be if a mefite came here with the question of "my autistic child was secretly recorded by another parent and now they are using those recordings to get my kid kicked out of his program"
posted by nadawi at 6:43 PM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


A few practical points that make this whole damn thing pretty much moot:

a) Lav or "spy" mics are small. Recording devices that can hold the audio from an ENTIRE EIGHT HOUR PLUS SCHOOL DAY typically are not. Where is all this audio getting stored? Or is the kid turning it on at select times?

b) Ok, you found a way to store all that audio. Now... you're going to listen to 8-9 hours of audio every single night looking for the "gotcha??"

c) The kid is autistic, but you're going to sew a strange object into his shirt and expect him not to play with it or tell anyone about it?

d) He's going to wear the same shirt every day?

e) When the poor teacher inevitably figures out what's going on, and he's kicked out of the school, no private school in the world would take on the liability, even if the parent had the money. So it's to home school he'll be goin'.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:56 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


toomuchpete: like I said, I'm not a lawyer, and it sounds like you know more about this stuff than I do.

I work in a semi-public space, and we've got a no-photography-or-videotaping-without-administrative-consent policy. Such a policy, as I understand it, would restrict someone from surreptitiously videotaping their activities while inside the building. I could imagine a school having a similar policy. But, again, I'm no lawyer, and I could be wrong about all this.
posted by box at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2009


My chief concern is that the best answer she has chosen in the thread is where to find covert recording devices.

But...but...that's exactly what she wanted to know.

I don't think I'm alone in my concern about the legal and ethical concerns, though.

And there are certainly ways to express that concern within the AskMe guidelines. But coming to MeTa to suggest deleting a question you have a problem with is just astonishingly bad form. Not least because it's not at all clear there's anything illegal about what she's planning to do.
posted by mediareport at 7:17 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


What you can see here in a lot of the comments is the huge gap between the parents of autistic children who are responding to this and the people who don't have the slightest idea about the daily tribulations of raising an autistic child. One thing that people don't realize is that every autistic kid is different. Every. One. Of. Them. Is. Different. It's really hard for anybody who doesn't/hasn't deal(t) with autistics kids, or people, to understand that. I'm saying this because inevitably someone pops up and starts to speak about autistic people in generalities, which is a very hard thing to do. It is a spectrum for a reason.
It is hard enough for people to raise their children, much less an autistic one, into normal adults. To do this with an autistic kid, it has been proven one of the best ways is to constantly monitor their progress. I'm not saying I'm alright with people secretly recording conversations me, but if an autistic kid conversed with me and I found out later that the conversation was recorded I would be alright with that. Actually I kind of think it would be really cool because that means someone is really putting in the time for that kid to have a chance at "normality".
That's just me though. I'm not going to go into a nervous sweat thinking that someone else's intentions are to have other children's voices "played on the nightly news" or "my autistic child was secretly recorded by another parent and now they are using those recordings to get my kid kicked out of his program". Which is a little bit hysterical if you ask me.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:40 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


goddamn misha this is the worst callout of all time
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Would someone who had been deaf for years but miraculously gained the ability to hear be guilty of violating the privacy of someone having a conversation in his presence?

Is pretending to be asleep while two people carry on a conversation a violation of their privacy?

What about individuals who assume that someone can't speak a particular language and then converse in it, when that person can -- in reality -- understand them?


In all three examples, the "guilt" of the individual in question is ambiguous, depending on whether he is deliberately deceiving the two conversers. If two strangers on the street assume I can't speak their language, that's not my problem (though it would be courteous to let them know I can understand them), and I'm basically ethically in the clear. If I deliberately set up a situation where I fool others into thinking I'm deaf so I can hear their secrets, that's much more dubious. If I also record what they're saying, that's not just icing on the cake, that's a whole nother layer.

Talking about your personal life around students or patients, even those who cannot understand, is discourteous and unprofessional, but secretly recording people is (in general) really scuzzy. There's not only deceit involved, but there's a very particular iniquity between the observer and the observed: I know everything about you but you know nothing about me. That kind of deliberate, malicious power imbalance isn't considered OK in our society unless you've got a damned good reason.

Whether this woman has a damned good reason, I don't really know, and I'm glad it's not up to me to decide. But even if she does, that's no reason to brush off secretly recording people as being 100% clean and ethical and comparable to overhearing someone in a park. It's not.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:52 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Keep the question, and keep the responses that point out all the reasons why this might be a bad idea. There are some AskMe questions that border on Hitler asking how best to eliminate an ethnic minority, but this is not one of them. The OP needs an education that goes slightly beyond the tight boundaries of the question. The real question is how to get information. The OP has some bad, perhaps even illegal ideas about how to get that information, and the proper answer focuses on how to get the information not how to get it in the way the OP wants to do it. Sometimes people just haven't thought through their problem well before posting. We should focus on solving the problem not on a blinkered answer to the question as asked. We aren't robots, we are, as a group, rather intelligent and thoughtful. So technically the question is flawed, but this place is up to providing answers to the problem at hand. (and I hope those solutions are better than the sort of tepid response I think I gave)
posted by caddis at 7:53 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


the case that got the OP thinking about sewing a recording device on her son had parts of those tapes played on the nightly news.

the OP mentions three times in her responses that not only are teachers targets of her potential recordings, the other kids in his school are also targets of her investigation.

i don't think it takes being hysterical to question the effect these covert surveillance techniques might have on the other special needs kids who are around the OP's child.

and not that it really matters, but i'm not ignorant of the autism spectrum. i use to babysit many autistic kids (as well as kids with other mental/behavioral challenges that most other babysitters in my town turned down)
posted by nadawi at 8:07 PM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


So are you available Friday...

damn, you're too far away.
posted by lysdexic at 8:30 PM on August 31, 2009


The problem here is not the question, but that answers questioning the wisdom of actually hiding a mike on this kid are deleted. I understand how schools abuse information. However, if you want to get good information to make them change their position, behavior etc. you have to do it legitimately. This thread is a train wreck with the best answers being how to do all the wrong things. When that gets pointed out it gets deleted. I guess you can post all the issues here in this thread. What difference does that make to the OP? The original thread gets moderated to delete the noise and then there is a pointer to this thread where all the bitching against them occurs. Is it really any different than having the noise in the original thread? If I were the OP my "feelings" would be hurt regardless of in which thread in the comments occurred.
posted by caddis at 8:32 PM on August 31, 2009


answers questioning the wisdom of actually hiding a mike on this kid are deleted.

That's not the case.

Questions that ask the OP "What the hell are you thinking?" and that generally berate her are removed even if they also answer the question. I'm really not psyched with the question specifically because it's so contentious that people answer it angrily and then presume that their responses are removed because of their content. Once a thread is also in MetaTalk, people who want to complain about the person who asked the question should do it here, not vent at them in the thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:36 PM on August 31, 2009


I'm not assuming anyone is ignorant of autism until they have shown themselves to be. I didn't point out specifics, but I noticed a few people here seem to have the wrong idea about it.
I may be wrong nadawai, but I didn't see where the asker was trying to "target" someone. She wanted to know if something was going on with a specific person, but yet I don't think that needs some kind of drawn out implication that she is going to "take them down" or something.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:45 PM on August 31, 2009


Oh my God, you tight-assed nannies.

First off, the standard toward questions of dubious legality or morality should be to let them stand, for the same reasons that unpleasant speech should never be illegal—because a good answer can always address the possible issues raised in the question's framing. Deleting this serves no good whatsoever, as it's insane to think that Metafilter aided or abetted criminal behavior here.

Second, this isn't even necessarily illegal, but I'm not qualified to make a call either way, and I doubt that most of you are either—anyone a privacy and media law expert from Louisiana? No? Then shut up about your legal concerns, because you're at best talking out of your ass.

Third, recording without consent is something to get het up about? Even though a school is not per se public space, arguing that there is an expectation of privacy is far-fetched at best, and consent only really matters if she's looking to make these evidence. Aside from that, there's only the moral panic about the possibility of violating consent—where is the actual harm?

So what we've got is a bunch of unfounded and insulting "concern" over something that's frankly none of our business outside of our ability to answer the question. If you can, then do so. If you can't, shut the hell up and leave her alone.
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 PM on August 31, 2009 [20 favorites]


klangklangston: "consent only really matters if she's looking to make these evidence."

so you're a Louisiana lawyer yourself?
(i kid because i like, klang)
posted by boo_radley at 9:03 PM on August 31, 2009


Fair point—media law could be different in Louisiana. In the vast majority of states, while there are nominal fines for people making recordings without consent, they're meant only really to keep folks from perving on their neighbors. California still has hidden-camera journalism, despite being a two-party consent state, for example. You can get sued, but that presupposes that the recordings are inherently damaging, and if they're damaging it's easy to go to a jury and show that they were worth breaking the law for.
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 PM on August 31, 2009


But still, the passive voice "Can we please consider deleting this?" should be met with, "Considered, denied," and that should be the end of it.
posted by klangklangston at 9:13 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just asked my wife about this. She runs a preschool (and has nannied professionally). In fact, she's worked on a theater project where the preschool children were audiotaped so their words could be adapted into a stage project: she got the prior consent (on paper) of every single parent that that was okay with them. Her children include the children of judges and lawyers. Her children included (at the time) some fairly famous parents; one set of parents made it absolutely clear that their child was not to be photographed unless they gave their okay (I don't imagine that they thought of unauthorized audiotaping).

I don't know about the legalities; neither does my wife. I will say that my wife's immediate reaction was viscerally negative, and that more than one parent would lose their shit to learn about something like this. Let's take this to the next logical idea: would everyone be okay with attaching a pinhole cam to the kid, and having him film all the children at play (or at war, whatever)? Remember that you don't have any idea what the film is going to be used for.

I'm not a parent. I don't know what it's like to have to worry about kids. I do know that a lot of parents would be really, really upset to have their kids surreptitiously surveiled under any circumstances. Is that really so weird? Klang, I think you're a good guy, but do you really think that slinging around words like "tight-assed nannies" is useful?
posted by Skot at 9:33 PM on August 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a crappy callout. The woman is trying to find a way to find out if her child is being abused or otherwise being treated well. This has nothing to do with the legality of recording without disclosure. It has everything to do with child safety. She has not stated an intention to use the recording in a court of law or in any way other than to find out what is going on. To me the issue is what she does with the recording after she has it rather than the actual recording.

It is illegal to speed, so asking about the best kind of radar detector would get a callout? Come on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:34 PM on August 31, 2009


This is a crappy callout. The woman is trying to find a way to find out if her child is being abused or otherwise being treated well.

By bugging her child. Does that sound like the best possible solution?

She has not stated an intention to use the recording in a court of law or in any way other than to find out what is going on.

Her intentions matter not one whit, right? I think there's even some saying involving the road to hell.

I don't know if the post should be deleted, and I'm sure glad I don't have to make that call. But I will say that it skeeved me out big time.
posted by Skot at 9:48 PM on August 31, 2009


lysdexic: "Hm, looks like Louisiana's got some issues providing services to special needs kids."

Louisiana has trouble providing services to regular-needs kids. Oy.
posted by radioamy at 9:50 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


but do you really think that slinging around words like "tight-assed nannies" is useful?

I don't think so. I think "ninnies" is much more germane in this case.
I googled and fully expected "Tight Ass(ed) Nannies" would come up as one of those porn series.
No such luck.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:13 PM on August 31, 2009


She has not stated an intention to use the recording in a court of law or in any way other than to find out what is going on. To me the issue is what she does with the recording after she has it rather than the actual recording.

So, if it turns out that the teacher is beating her kid... she's not going to sue or press charges?

Anyway, I actually looked up the criminal statutes for LA, and couldn't find any specific prohibition against what she's planning. So, it defaults to the Federal wiretapping statute. I'm too tired to delve into that.
posted by Netzapper at 10:15 PM on August 31, 2009


Radioamy - and this is apparently a NEW ORLEANS Public School, not just a Louisiana one. Oy is right! My kids go to a New Orleans public school, but they can tell me exactly what goes on there and I'm pretty welcome to hang around in the school. (Have lunch, substitute, volunteer, etc.) Tape away, I say.

The issue as I see it is that she feels she needs to see if he should be taken out of the school immediately. She can apply for a transfer and wait, but if there's abuse or something going on, she needs to get him out now and worry about legality, getting in another school, etc. later when he's safe.
posted by artychoke at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2009


"Klang, I think you're a good guy, but do you really think that slinging around words like "tight-assed nannies" is useful?"

Well, yes, frankly. Especially to someone playing at all sorts of passive language and in-jokes while trying to dress up their moral panic in legalistic terms.

I know that parents at your wife's school could possibly lose their shit over their kids being taped, and I don't doubt that prior consent there was a good move. On the other hand, that people may lose their shit doesn't mean they're right, especially regarding parents, who lose their shit over all sorts of moronic scares. And that no one stands up to them and says, "So what?" perpetuates a culture where parents organize as a faction.

I mean, seriously, aside from the parents freaking out, what would the harm have been in using these kids speech? Their copyrights might not have been sufficiently protected? Their likenesses may have been used commercially? That seems pretty far-fetched. It's fine to be protective of kids—I don't expect parents to act any differently. But parents can be idiots just like any other group, and the bullshit about "thinking of the children" justifies so much repressive stupidity that telling them to chill out is appropriate, and people who would presume to act on the behalf of hypothetical objecting parents need to be told to knock it off because they're acting like tight-assed nannies.

People who ask questions on Ask Metafilter are, by and large, adults responsible for their own actions. And since law is not congruent with morality, retreating to a question of legality is a stupid course to take when dealing with other adults. Likewise, people who chose to give advice on Ask Metafilter are also adults. If you don't like the answer they give, disagree and give a better answer. Don't try to get the question deleted.

I've noticed myself making arguments for a broader view of what's acceptable here more frequently of late. This isn't because I don't trust the mods—I do. But it's because otherwise, there's an appearance of public consensus that I think is stifling, and counter to the best interests of Metafilter as a community. I resent the deletionist tendencies of some members of the community here (even as I recognize that they're valuable members, etc.), and I fear that if no one says anything, they'll be taken as orthodoxy.

Maybe this is just my long-term reaction against the morality of Midwestern mothers (some of my best friends are Midwestern mothers). But I'd like to think that disagreeing in strong terms—calling bullshit on bullshit—cuts through a lot of the perfunctory dance of passive phrasing that allows dumb ideas to persist far too long.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2009 [10 favorites]


On the other hand, that people may lose their shit doesn't mean they're right, especially regarding parents, who lose their shit over all sorts of moronic scares.

Every day, EVERY FUCKING DAY, I lose my shit and tell my daughter "Watch out for klangklangston".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:30 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe the child having a difficult time transitioning would be better served by having a "shadow" adult they are familiar with for a while at the school until they adjust and feel comfortable rather than being outfitted with an electronic recording device.

After all, if the child speaks only about ten per cent of the time, recording devices will actually tell you only a fraction of the information you need to help them.

I just came in to thank everyone at MetaTalk because even when there's a raging battle about something I learn so much from watching the discussion.

On most other websites, the discussion is often at the troll level and stays there. So thanks, folks.
posted by effluvia at 10:46 PM on August 31, 2009


I disagree.
posted by philip-random at 10:56 PM on August 31, 2009


After all, if the child speaks only about ten per cent of the time, recording devices will actually tell you only a fraction of the information you need to help them.

That's not exactly true. I could be way off base but I believe she meant he only says actual coherent words ten percent of the time. It's not uncommon for autistic kids to go to speech therapy due to any number of co-morbid diagnosis (speech/language disorders). From what I gather there is quite a bit of nuance to what, how, when, where, and whom kids will say something and to what, when, how, where, and whom they will make noise or specific noises or even non-sense words.
Anyway, I don't think it was as much for that as it was for finding out what these new behavior triggers for her son are.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:29 PM on August 31, 2009


It has everything to do with child safety

True. I'd like my daughter to not be taped and recorded in her preschool and school by people with motivations I may well find questionable for uses I am unaware of.
posted by rodgerd at 12:07 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


And since law is not congruent with morality, retreating to a question of legality is a stupid course to take when dealing with other adults.

Bear in mind also, that her notion to do this seems to have been triggered by a very similar case (also in a state with a one party law) in which parents did this. Not only were they not prosecuted, but the recording that the parents made was found to be admissible in court.

Granted, the school is appealing that decision, but the parents in that case actually *have* a legal finding in their favour. The school, as yet, doesn't.

If I were a parent in a similar situation, trying to make a decision about the legality, I'd go with what I knew to be legal precedent as opposed to listening to a load of internet blowhards.

it's a case of the asker asking the wrong question.

It's a case of standard MeFi peanut gallery wanting to answer the question they wish had been asked as opposed to the one that actually *was* asked.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:22 AM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd like my daughter to not be taped and recorded in her preschool and school by people with motivations I may well find questionable for uses I am unaware of.

Her motivation is to figure out her son's behavioral triggers, something which I'm led to believe is very important for the parents of autists. What's questionable about this? And you're not unaware of the "uses" either -- she intends to use the recording to figure out her son's behavioral triggers. You've described the AskMe rather disingenuously so that it rings pedophile alarms. I don't see how that helps clarify anything.
posted by creasy boy at 12:43 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that the prob is that mitzy simply ignored derail advice rather than engaging wih I in any way. I expect this is because engaging with it could unleash emotion such as pain at being a parent of a special needs kid, frustration at the school system, etc that she is not prepared to deal with right now. That's allowed, and works well in a stranger interaction, not so well in a familiar community. Mitzy has a year to respond, tho, and I hope she will engage with our derail answers when she is feeling better as they come from a very positive place.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:45 AM on September 1, 2009


Grace of God, I must be reading a whole different site than you. You think that AskMe obligates posters to debate all derail advice offered them? It's not a debating forum, and derail advice is derail fucking advice. The poster is a grown woman dealing with a serious challenge that almost none of us have first-hand experience with, she has made a decision, and has asked a specific question. AskMe is there for her to ask such a question, and she doesn't owe it to the community to justify herself.
posted by creasy boy at 2:04 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Creasy boy, sorry for not being clear. Put simply, she has every right to ignore what she wishes but this has led to a community reaction, and the reaction could be resolved by responding to the derails. She has no obligation at all to respond, of course.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:27 AM on September 1, 2009


OK, that sounds reasonable. Sorry to jump on you.
posted by creasy boy at 2:39 AM on September 1, 2009


But still, the passive voice "Can we please consider deleting this?" should be met with, "Considered, denied," and that should be the end of it.

That's not in the passive voice. "Can we please consider that this be deleted?" would be the passive construction.
posted by painquale at 2:44 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Can it please be considered that this be deleted?"
posted by shammack at 5:06 AM on September 1, 2009


"Have you stopped deleting this post yet?"
posted by box at 6:22 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even if the act of making the recordings was illegal, the poster here may well decide that the potential of legal action against her is outweighed by the potential that something bad is going on at the school. Kinda like deciding that I'm willing to risk a jaywalking ticket to cross the street and help someone in need.

The key difference, to me, is that detail- knowingly breaking the law and willing to accept the consequences is far more ethical than knowingly breaking the law and expecting to get a pass because I had a good reason for it.
posted by gjc at 6:30 AM on September 1, 2009


The passivity is not one of grammatical construction. Rather, it's "we" versus "I" and "consider deleting" versus "please delete" and, most obviously, the "illegal" part. The poster of the MetaTalk has not chimed in with other MetaTalk posts about the illegality of other questions which are also in legal gray areas; therefore, the illegal bit is an excuse for the more covert reason "I don't like this post."

Just say, "I do not find this ethical. Please delete it." That's honest.
posted by adipocere at 6:43 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: "But still, the passive voice "Can we please consider deleting this?" should be met with, "Considered, denied," and that should be the end of it."

Yeah, agreed.
posted by boo_radley at 6:57 AM on September 1, 2009


A lot of my frustration with the original question, coming back now and looking at it in the light of day, is that the poster has so many other legal options, including, as mentioned by several in the thread (yes, including me) her child's IEP, which allows her to request a conference with the teachers, principal, guidance counselor and anyone else involved in her child's education at any time.

The OP doesn't seem interested in pursuing any of the legal options available to her, which were put in place to protect her child in the first place, and hasn't responded to anyone offering her any advice other than where to get recording devices. She saw the Atlanta incident after her son had an episode where he kicked his teacher and punched his father, she panicked, and jumped to smuggling a recording device into the classroom for her "solution". Please note that she mentions herself that she is also concerned with other kids in the class because her neighbor's daughter once had trouble with some other kids in *her* class. This is not a specific, "I think this teacher is doing this bad thing to my child." It's a knee-jerk reaction to her son's difficulty in a new school.

I'm an aunt of an autistic child, have a child with special needs and an IEP, and I'm definitely an advocate for parental rights and for the best possible outcome for children with special needs. Apparently, I'm also a "tight-assed nanny" (or ninny, take your pick) because I can see this whole thing turning into a train wreck and don't think we should encourage parents to turn vigilante, or ignore it when they do.

This is not some parent sticking it to the man by recording her son. This is a parent who doesn't want to take the time to work within the system and doesn't care about the rights of the teachers, the other students or anyone else in the school.

Her son is only 7. He's going to be in the school system for a long time. It's unfortunate that the OP has chosen not to work with her son's educators to find a long-term solution that is in his best interest.

Let the question stand, but I can't see this as a success.
posted by misha at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh, and for the record, I have never supported any AskMe that condoned breaking the law.
posted by misha at 7:12 AM on September 1, 2009


Where can I rent a gun?
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2009


Buying the device isn't illegal, and the poster has said that she will be checking the legality of recording her kid this way. I think it was fine to bring up the possibility that what she wants to do might not be legal, and fine to suggest other possible ways to address her situation, but isn't insisting that the post be deleted pretty much calling her a liar? It's not illegal if it's not illegal (I don't think we've seen a cite that it is yet?), and it's not illegal if she finds out it's illegal and doesn't do it. If she finds out it's legal, and she does it, it's not illegal.
posted by taz at 7:37 AM on September 1, 2009


Worst callout ever.
posted by chugg at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Every day, EVERY FUCKING DAY, I lose my shit and tell my daughter "Watch out for klangklangston"."

Truly, you should never have married me.

("Daddy, what's a klangklangston?"
"I hope to God you never find out, honey. He's my spouse.")
posted by klangklangston at 7:48 AM on September 1, 2009


"Her son is only 7. He's going to be in the school system for a long time. It's unfortunate that the OP has chosen not to work with her son's educators to find a long-term solution that is in his best interest."

There's your answer. Put it up, and if she ignores it then, well, she's an adult making her own decision. Calling for the deletion just because you don't think she's choosing to follow your advice is petty vindictiveness.
posted by klangklangston at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


How is it illegal? I didn't read the whole thread but if no one brought this up then it needs to be brought up. Recording devices are not illegal. The reason why warrants are issued for wiretaps and such is because we are protected by the constitution from government/enforcement agencies. It never says anything about protecting your privacy from private citizens. Anyone can go anywhere wearing a wire if they want to and record a whole days worth of conversations.

If the poster wants to she can wire her child and have him walk around and she can listen to whatever was said to him. Perhaps a bully is picking on him when the teachers are not around? Everyone says go through the system first. Well the system often has everyone's best interests at heart and not your child's.

Grant it this is sneaky and sort of unethical but her child has a mental disorder and has special needs. The child's behavior has started becoming more violent since he got to his new school. Obviously something smells a little fishy.

Personally I feel for her and think she is just looking out for her child. I would try the teacher conference first and ask to see what their curriculum looks like, maybe talk to other parents before I wired my child but I am not in their shoes so I am not going to judge them.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder how y'all manage to have opinions on so many things.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:05 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know more about this subject than you can possibly imagine, Bookhouse.
posted by Mister_A at 8:07 AM on September 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anyone can go anywhere wearing a wire if they want to and record a whole days worth of conversations.

Actually, no. States regulate how many participants in a conversation must be notified of the recording. Here's a handy dandy guide. Apparently Louisiana does not require consent of all parties.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


The responses that don't answer the question should have been deleted, and I'm quite surprised that they weren't. I thought it was one of the primary rules of AskMe. That they were left to stand allowed the derail to take over.
In retrospect, I think the OP should have asked "So I'm looking for an audio recorder, about the size of a dime or so, that I can stitch inside my son's a collar. Where would I find such a thing?", and left the details about her son out of it.
posted by rocket88 at 8:33 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


The responses that don't answer the question should have been deleted, and I'm quite surprised that they weren't.

That would meant only posting answers that ignored the big ol’ eavesdropping elephant in the thread. Impossible. Askme’s are entitled to get the entire range of opinions from the thread, not a direct call and response.
posted by Think_Long at 8:40 AM on September 1, 2009


The responses that don't answer the question should have been deleted, and I'm quite surprised that they weren't.

Civil responses that try to address the actual problem given are usually okay presuming that people stay decent. We delete grouchy "this is a bad question and you are a bad person for asking it" types of responses, but other responses that addressed other ways to solve the stated problem are usually left in.

It's a tricky case-by-case thing and one that we went over in pretty serious detail in another recent Meta thread (as well as seeing it in action in an even more recent MeTa thread). The more dramatic and/or serious the question is, the more people really really want to find a way to help out and/or holler at people (including the OP) who are, to their mind, not helping. So an answer that seems to have

- read the question
- understood the constraints
- offers an alternative while clearly framing it as an alternative
- while being at least civil

Is usually okay. We deleted a lot of comments from that thread that were basically advice to parents with autistic children. Not because there's anything wrong with that, but because it's easy enough to email/MeMail the OP (pretty sure, didn't check actually) and that sort of "oh here's generalized advice to someone living the sort of life you lead) isn't really condusive to getting the more specifc question answered. It's the "Use condoms!" advice equivalent to a sex position question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:49 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mister_A : Where can I rent a gun?

Looks like a place called Classic Pistol will hook you up.
posted by quin at 9:03 AM on September 1, 2009


OP here.

even if you take the legal question out of it - is it ethical to record mentally handicapped children that aren't yours?

In my son's special ed class, there is one other student, who transferred the same time as him, who he already knows. I've spent time with him and his parents, and my son gets along well with him. I called her and am waiting on a call back to get her permission.

I'm more concerned about the four different teachers he's interacting with, especially because the last time I was there, I walked around a corner to find two aides talking about the clubs they went to the previous weekend and what they were drinking, etc. They were at least ten feet away from any children, but they also weren't talking in low voices either. I did speak with the principal, as soon as I got my son settled, and she agreed with me, that it was not acceptable, and that she would speak to them. I found out when I spoke to his teacher yesterday that now the principal is on partial maternity leave. So, she's only at the school Mondays and Fridays.

His teacher, who told me she would be his primary teacher, except for math and reading when he's mainstreamed, mentioned yesterday that when she walked through the classroom he seemed to be upset. She continued to say that she goes in the classroom a couple of times a day, because she has supplies in there. She was the original person that I explained some of his quirks to, because she asked me. I felt like I had someone that at least knew more than just that he was diagnosed as autistic. Now, not so much.

When I ask to meet the mainstream teacher, she's always unavailable. I'm pushing for her to attend the parent-teacher conference we're scheduling, but I was told that "we don't things that way."

I have asked for daily communication, just by writing a couple sentences in a notebook that we have set up for that specifically, to let me know what's going on everyday. I've actually received these a few times. He comes home every day, I ask him "How was your day?" and his response is "How was your day?" Some days he smiles, or says "no!" So I basically have no idea what is happening for the seven and a half hours when he's there. I've never had a problem with his other teachers and therapists with basic communication before. That's making me wary to begin with.

I did not respond to any of the derails because they didn't answer the question I asked. I don't know if it's legal yet or not, but that doesn't change the fact that I want to know what's going on with him. If I ask the teachers to cooperate with me in this, any possible harmful behavior from them will be stopped, simply because they wouldn't want to be on tape. Mind you, I'm not certain that this is not all based on his transfer. It could be, but it might not be. I'd like to hear what is being said to him, not what he's saying. I just want to hear it. I frequently watch his behavior without his knowing, and even though it varies from self-stimming, repeated play, echolalia, and infrequent pretend play, it's all normal for him. This was confirmed by all of his previous teachers.

So my response is this: I asked for information on how to find a particular device that is not illegal to buy. I didn't ask for moral and ethical advice or criticisms. To the people that actually answered my question, thank you.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


OK, I only need it for like 15 minutes.
posted by Mister_A at 9:13 AM on September 1, 2009


You know, this is about the 20th thread I've seen where someone has labeled it 'worst callout ever' over the past few years. But no additional information.

Alone, the phrase really doesn't explain the posters reason why they think this particular callout deserves this honor in their opinion.

So it's sort of feels likes someone coming into a contentious conversation but only declares: 'your argument sucks!'. It might suck, but could people please take a sentence or two to flesh out their perspective? The best parts of conversations like this are their opinions. Even a "worst callout ever, because I agree with what person X said five posts up" would do the trick.

By the way Misha, I don't know if the OP's post should be deleted, but I do like that your callout gave an opportunity for us to discuss the issue of people's discomfort with what is being asked in askme. I think your post discussing your discomfort about the strategy she is choosing to pursue is well stated.

Lastly, all the name calling is really just unnecessary.
posted by anitanita at 9:14 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This call-out is in bad faith. Misha tried to engage mitzyjalapeno on the AskMe thread itself by suggesting she reconsider her plan and look for a different solution altogether. Mitzyjalapeno, as is her right, ignored misha's responses throughout the thread, since her comments were not an answer to the question she asked.

Instead of simply saying her piece and moving on, however, misha defiantly comes to Meta and says, symbolically, "This poster ignored my advice, therefore her question should be deleted".

Hiding behind so-called legal concerns is weak. The only legal precedence we have to go on thus far is a lawsuit that actually supports the poster. It is in no way obvious that what the asker wants to do is blatantly illegal and therefore could potentially put this website in danger. Trying to use that faux-concern a justification to shut down a question from a user who is going through an immensely difficult and upsetting situation is poor form.
posted by The Gooch at 9:19 AM on September 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Let the question stand, but I can't see this as a success.

A success for what? It's a question, and not a moral test, even if there may be moral aspects to the question and the possible solutions. One of the burdens of supporting self-determination for people is that you have to recognize that sometimes people will abridge the self-determination of others, at which point there are consequences. This callout was bad for all of the reasons already noted, most notably the fact that it was disingenuous. But it was also bad because in arguing to "protect the privacy" of those who might be recorded without their consent, it sought to abridge the right of someone to even think about doing something that misha deemed unacceptable. The latter seems like the much more dubious infringement.
posted by OmieWise at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2009


I've never understood the dynamic of starting a MetaTalk post to talk about a subject that is supposedly too risky to talk about.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:38 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I ask the teachers to cooperate with me in this, any possible harmful behavior from them will be stopped, simply because they wouldn't want to be on tape.

And this would be a bad thing how?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:40 AM on September 1, 2009


If I ask the teachers to cooperate with me in this, any possible harmful behavior from them will be stopped, simply because they wouldn't want to be on tape.

And this would be a bad thing how?


Because it would most likely resume when I was no longer make an issue of it.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2009


Making, not make.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2009


Because it would most likely resume when I was no longer make an issue of it.

I don't get it. So, hypothetically speaking, you would warn the teachers that you're putting a recorder on your son, and then after some length of time you would tell them "Hey, I'm not going to use the recorded any more. Go nuts!"? Why not warn them, which would, in theory, immediately stop any wrongdoing, and continue to send the recorder indefinitely, on a random or intermittent basis if necessary. The teachers have been warned, and if they forget or just don't care about the recorder, you'll get the evidence you need to know what's going on. If they behave properly, then they either always were or have at least cleaned up their act.

Wouldn't that be the fastest way to improve the situation for your son?
posted by owtytrof at 10:00 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


owtytrof, I was hoping to limit any recording to six to eight weeks and fix the problem. Once I stopped it, no, I wouldn't tell them, but actually observing in the classroom would be very obvious.

I hadn't thought of your option, though, although I agree that it would most likely be an effective short-term solution. I'm also concerned about the long-term, and as I said, I don't want to do this forever. I want these people to do their jobs correctly, whether the problem is another child bullying and/or teasing my son, the teachers not actually giving a damn or even being harmful to him, or just getting them to communicate and work with me. I'm trying to cover all bases on this, through several different avenues and the government options available. I'm getting a lot of red tape, though, and I don't want my son to slip through the cracks. I'm trying to find another option, just in case. My husband and I haven't decided to go through with this yet.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:24 AM on September 1, 2009


Wouldn't that be the fastest way to improve the situation for your son?


Wouldn't that only be a 'band-aid' solution and not actually stop the problem if it was in fact a abuse situation? What happens if mitzyjalapeno's son goes to a different school. The abuse situation is still at the old school.
posted by chugg at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2009


You know, this is about the 20th thread I've seen where someone has labeled it 'worst callout ever' over the past few years. But no additional information.

Alone, the phrase really doesn't explain the posters reason why they think this particular callout deserves this honor in their opinion.


It is the worst callout ever because the action is not explicitly illegal at all. I thought everyone else already covered that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:42 AM on September 1, 2009


The abuse situation is still at the old school.

Point taken.

So, then, would it be better to get that 'band-aid' on now, immediately, if perhaps temporarily, stopping any abuse and keeping an ear(so to speak) out for future problems, or to keep her son in a potentially abusive situation that much longer in order to gather evidence to permanently end this particular instance? That's if the situation is, in fact, abusive. It's a difficult choice, and one I'm glad that I don't have to make. Personally, though, I would lean towards the former, in the interest of my child's immediate well-being.
posted by owtytrof at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2009


it sought to abridge the right of someone to even think about doing something that misha deemed unacceptable

That's not what this callout was about, and your generalization is just insulting.

Omiewise, I've been here for a while, and so have you. I disagree with people, amicably, and they with me, all the time. I rarely post callouts of any kind. I sincerely felt this was against community guidelines, as defined in the Wiki. Jessamyn's response dealt with those concerns. I further explained my position later in this same thread.
posted by misha at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2009


"the recording that the parents made was found to be admissible in court."

well, if we're going to discuss this case, and it's going to be used to show that what the OP is considering is totally legal - we should also consider that an appeal has been filed that states, in part that the judge erred in "admitting the testimony regarding the audiotape into evidence."

so, the legal precedent isn't actually clear yet.
posted by nadawi at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2009


That's not what this callout was about, and your generalization is just insulting.

Actually, misha, I wasn't trying to be insulting, and I have no interest in cutting you or trying to pass judgment on you as a person. But I don't think your view of the matter of this callout is accurate. I understand you were incensed, and I read your clarifying comments, and I quoted the last part of your major clarification because I think it shows that you're still viewing the matter through an inappropriately moral lens. I can't really think of any other way to read the metrics of success and failure here. That's ok, as I said, I don't think this indicates that you're a bad person, but it doesn't make your position one that's particularly defensible (or at least persuasive, to me).

I also don't mean to suggest that you should feel differently about this issue, or that your emotional reaction was inappropriate. I happen to think that the poster's question was fine, and that her desired action, while distasteful, is unlikely to result in major harm. However, what's at issue in this callout is not your emotional reaction, or your opinions on what this mother should do, but what you think the community should do about a private course of action you disagree with someone else taking. It's that crossing from personal reaction to an attempt to legislate the acceptability of things you disagree with that characterizes this callout for me, and that's still present in your qualifying comments, however resigned they might be.
posted by OmieWise at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


well, if we're going to discuss this case, and it's going to be used to show that what the OP is considering is totally legal - we should also consider that an appeal has been filed that states, in part that the judge erred in "admitting the testimony regarding the audiotape into evidence."

What, you mean in exactly the way that I did in the very post that you were quoting from?

Granted, the school is appealing that decision, but the parents in that case actually *have* a legal finding in their favour. The school, as yet, doesn't.

posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2009


I left out a clause from one sentence above: I happen to think that the poster's question was fine, and that her desired action, while distasteful, is unlikely to result in major harm, but I can see why other people feel differently.
posted by OmieWise at 11:51 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not seeing the evil.

The OP wants to know how her son talks at school vs. how he talks at home. She'd like to see and compare for herself. It would only need to be a one shot deal. Why it all has to be covert, I'm not really clear on (talking to the teacher seems like a pretty obvious first step).

Seems to me like a good mom being a good mom.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:52 AM on September 1, 2009


If the other case happened in a different state (which I seem to recall it did) is the legal precedent relevant to this hypothetical case at all?
posted by Dysk at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2009


Sys Rq: I think everyone can agree that the covert aspect is exactly what caused all the problems. As someone mentioned in the original AskMe question, there would likely be no problem legal or otherwise with hanging a recorder around his neck, or getting the school to provide a location where one can sit for the day.

The motive behind the desire for covert recording, and the covert recording itself, are what people seem to be most concerned about.
posted by odinsdream at 12:02 PM on September 1, 2009


Yeah, reading the original thread, and, well, yeah.

Still, she's doing it to protect her kid.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2009



I'm not seeing the evil.

The OP wants to know how her son talks at school vs. how he talks at home. She'd like to see and compare for herself. It would only need to be a one shot deal. Why it all has to be covert, I'm not really clear on (talking to the teacher seems like a pretty obvious first step).


From mitzyjalapeno:

I'm more concerned about the four different teachers he's interacting with, especially because the last time I was there, I walked around a corner to find two aides talking about the clubs they went to the previous weekend and what they were drinking, etc.

The secret recording is explicitly about these other adults.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2009


I don't quite understand, perhaps because I don't interact with autistic children. You say after the transfer the child's behavior changed. He's become violent and angry. You don't get on particularly well with the staff at the new school. You think he doesn't either and you suspect that kids are teasing him. Really there could be a dozen reasons for his change of behavior-- The transfer itself, not getting on well with a particular group of kids or teachers, anything. Just because he doesn't get on with the new students doesn't mean they are teasing or bullying him. Some groups just never cohere as a class. That could be what he's reacting to. No?

It seems you've concluded because of this tv report that the teachers are to blame. Why not consult with his physicians and therapists and get a professional opinion? Could it not be that as he's getting older his behavior is changing too and you all will have to come up with new approaches to rein in the violence? There just seem to be so many unknown factors.

Say you "bug" the child and hear something you find objectionable. How will you know that caused his behavior? You can ask the teacher to stop doing whatever, but say his behavior continues. Will you still blame his behavior on the teacher's former practices, on what you heard, or will you consider other just as likely scenarios as the root of the problem (trauma of transfer, poor group dynamics due to luck of the draw)?

I might have missed the explanation, but why can't he transfer back to the old school? Knowing nothing about nothing I'd put my money on the transfer and its disruption of his routine that is causing the trouble.

Whatever the problem, it seems like surreptitiously listening to conversations won't to tell you much if anything because you can't know if what you hear is what he hears and what sets him off. Right? This is not snark, I am sincerely confused.
posted by vincele at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2009


Still, she's doing it to protect her kid.

Oh please. Nobody is suggesting otherwise. "Think of the children!" is an atrocious debating tactic that does not lead to reasonable discourse.
posted by odinsdream at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I agree, odinstream. Also a terrible tactic: Disagreeing on the basis of tactic.

But, let's put it another way: Who would it harm?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:49 PM on September 1, 2009


The transfer is a possible cause, but to transfer back would take time, and, if my understanding is correct, we'll be doing it again next year, and the year after that. It would definitely be feasible - I'm still talking with my husband about it. I haven't decided.

I don't think that the only possible cause is someone mistreating him at his school. But I am getting ambivalent answers and contradictions from the staff. They're also seeming less than eager to help, and that's making me wonder. So I'm trying to figure out if this is a possible cause, while at the same time keeping other options in mind. That article didn't make me think that automatically the teachers must be at fault, but it gave me an idea to find something that might give me more information to work with.

Sys Rq - If there's no harm being done to him, then it wouldn't harm anyone.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:56 PM on September 1, 2009


But, let's put it another way: Who would it harm?

This entire thread has gone through the options pretty well, in my opinion.

My point was that your comment states the obvious: that a parent wishes to protect their child. Nobody has argued otherwise. Moreover, it's not relevant.
posted by odinsdream at 1:01 PM on September 1, 2009


Moreover, it's not relevant.

what
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on September 1, 2009


mitzy - the question i've asked a couple of times (and i understand you're under no obligation to answer it) but it keeps coming up in your explanations -

if you plan to record him for 6-8 weeks and transferring him takes 6 weeks - how will recording him save time on the transfer? why would you have to redo the transfer next year? if there's a school that is better than the one he's at, have you considered moving to be in the district that's more beneficial to him?

also - while i'm asking questions - if a parent unknown to you recorded the classroom, would you be upset that your child was being recorded without your consent?
posted by nadawi at 1:51 PM on September 1, 2009


If the other case happened in a different state (which I seem to recall it did) is the legal precedent relevant to this hypothetical case at all?

Gotta be at least as relevant as uninformed internet guesswork by non-lawyers making claims that it's almost certainly illegal -- which was the whole reason for the call out in the first place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:16 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


nadawi, I'm trying to prevent moving him again. I don't want him to finally adjust to the layout of the new school six weeks down the line and then transfer him and disrupt everything again. I'm just not sure what's best to do.

Regarding the transfer itself, it would be within the school system for our parish (county). Also, a transfer request within the school district is not assured. I have to submit the correct paperwork, with a copy of his IEP, to a local person who will approve or not, then it's sent to Baton Rouge to be approved or not by another official, then sent to an attorney in Baton Rouge who can approve it or not. I've been told that the process is slow, and that the transfers actually go through about 30% of the time.

Also, I don't drive, so anywhere that could possibly have a better school system is a bad idea. I am the only working parent and I have to be able to actually get to work. Financial constraints would also be a huge problem with moving.

And no, I wouldn't care if someone else recorded my child, as long as it was in the course of a normal school day.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:18 PM on September 1, 2009


And no, I wouldn't care if someone else recorded my child, as long as it was in the course of a normal school day.

Do you mind if I come bug your office?
posted by Netzapper at 2:23 PM on September 1, 2009


Actually, no. There are enough people wandering around here listening to everything going on that it wouldn't make a difference.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:24 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, I've been reading this whole thread and thinking: what would I do in mitzyjalapeno's situation, if my autistic child was behaving differently and aggressively, and I was getting sort of a 'run around' response from the school.

I know this isn't the point of this thread, but I realize, I have about 20 good pro and con reasons for bugging. But I'm not really sure, based on what mitzyjalapeno has shared, what other options would help her test her theory that there's something going on that is setting her boy off.

She's talked to the principal, she's reached out to some teachers, she's attempted to visit the school, and considered transferring. I'm not saying bugging is the answer, but could someone share with me what some other options would be for her? No snark intended, but I don't have a child, I don't have an autistic child, and frankly, my interaction with the under 15 crowd or their educators is limited. So, what else might work. (please feel free to point out if there were any other suggestions made above - for example, Misha made a few, and there was the possibility of visiting her child's physician to discuss the problem.....)
posted by anitanita at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2009


Lav or "spy" mics are small. Recording devices that can hold the audio from an ENTIRE EIGHT HOUR PLUS SCHOOL DAY typically are not. Where is all this audio getting stored?

Seriously? MicroSDHC cards smaller than my fingernail hold 16GB now. That's about 54 hours of uncompressed 44.1khz*16bit audio; with basic compression you wouldn't even fill that up with 8 hours of SD video. The batteries will take up more space than the electronics, but again probably less than you'd think.

Do you mind if I come bug your office?

If I was teaching children, especially mentally challenged children? I'd welcome it. A friend was permanently moved from elementary school teaching to paper pushing after being accused of child molestation; he might have ended up moved to a prison cell if it hadn't been proven that the accusations were false.
posted by roystgnr at 3:31 PM on September 1, 2009


1. I think mitzi's proposed solution is unwise and I hope she reconsiders honest discussion with the school, starting with her surprise, if not outrage, that the mainstream teacher has been unavailable for a meeting, regardless of an appearance at the regular conference.

2. But I think misha's callout violates the community spirit of MeFi much more than does mitzi's question (which, in fact, violates nothing at all in any site guideline whatsoever), and I think it would be nice if misha acknowledged that she has at least understood the criticisms of her (to me) unnecessary attack on another member's honest question, and at least vaguely promises to at least think a little bit longer before suggesting in MeTa that another member's honest question be deleted.
posted by mediareport at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mitz: You think you need to bug your kid, go ahead; but should probably double check with a lawyer first in your jurisdiction to make sure it's legal, then do it.

I think you've already expended way too much effort justifying her question to a bunch of armchair lawyers and ethicists. The legal question should be left up to a lawyer in the OP's jurisdiction, and as for the ethics - they're like assholes, etc. etc.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 5:25 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do you mind if I come bug your office?

Do you think me bugging your office and me bugging myself and walking into your office are the same?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 5:26 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really understand the need to know. I mean, who amongst us hasn't wanted to record or know things of a much lesser nature, such as vandals or what the boss or co-workers are saying about us? And to extrapolate that feeling to your child possibly being in a negative environment, well, that's a really BIG feeling. I'd want to know: it's perfectly natural.

My dad was instrumental in mainstreaming kids in his years of being a teacher/administrator. He told me stories of autistic children who wouldn't talk to anyone, but if left alone, they would walk up to a tree, hug it, and if you listened very closely, they would say, "hello, tree."

What struck me recently was the story of Carly Fleischmann (YouTube video from 20/20 about an autistic girl who was deemed uncommunicable until a chance accident w/a computer keyboard at age 12). Take a few minutes and watch this, it is really amazing stuff and it gets me every time. I guess when I'm reading comments about teachers talking about their personal lives in front of the students, well, they and everyone else who interacts with autistic people should watch this before they do so.

My sister-in-law is developmentally disabled and lives in a group home, has a job, has a boyfriend, attends cultural events, etc. She is fortunate to have a great environment and family who both interacts and advocates for her when physical or mental health issues crop up. And she can't talk quickly or clearly but she understand what people are saying all right so boo on anyone who thinks they're talking over her.

I can only say that it's a big red flag for me reading that they don't encourage drop-in visitors and there are not too many students in the classroom? Maybe I misread that, but if so, I'd drop in anyway and say I forgot Jr.'s lunch or sweater or somethin' just to see how they react. You go, Mom.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:34 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I've been reading this whole thread and thinking: what would I do in mitzyjalapeno's situation, if my autistic child was behaving differently and aggressively, and I was getting sort of a 'run around' response from the school.


I have two sons with Fragile X, a genetic disorder that results in autistic behavior and developmental delays. Change of any kind was hard for both of them. A new school year is change, and changes like moving from elementary school with one teacher in one classroom to a multi-teacher class was the kind of thing that would trigger big setbacks in their behavior.

I ask him "How was your day?" and his response is "How was your day?"

Exactly. It's very frustrating when the communication barriers are that big, but in my heart I usually knew when there was something more wrong than usual. Still, I have to stick by what I said in the thread. Call an IEP meeting. Know your rights, and make any alliances you can with the district people, the therapists, the principal, an aide - try to turn the situation around so that when your kid succeeds, they feel like they succeeded. Help them have a positive stake in your child's success. It is really hard to do this. Really hard. But you are your child's advocate, and this is your job for right now.
posted by tizzie at 7:44 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Agreed. An IEP meeting is a more rational solution than covertly recording conversations. It's not worth making this comment in the original thread due to the excessive moderation. I guess they don't want the OP to have her feelings hurt by hearing people say that what she proposes is an incredibly bad idea, immoral, and likely illegal.

I have some experience with these school systems. Sometimes the people really do need to be called out, confronted with the evidence of their own misdeeds. However, if that is how you start out you will make them your enemy and not your friend. Often they want to do the right thing, especially for the kids that really need the help. You have failed to work the system first. You pull a stunt like this and you and your child are marked for his career in the school system. Good luck with that. Is that what is best for the child? What you are proposing is the type of solution that might be called for when all else fails, not a first pass. You are taking a flame thrower to friend and foe alike.

You have marked as best answer all manner of covert listening device cites. Not smart. Not good for your child. Try making the school system your friend first. If that fails then move towards the nuclear options.
posted by caddis at 8:11 PM on September 1, 2009


I guess they don't want the OP to have her feelings hurt by hearing people say that what she proposes is an incredibly bad idea, immoral, and likely illegal.

Oh, please, stop with the crap already. There are plenty of comments in that thread clearly stating that there are much better "work the system" tactics. Of course, you know that, but can't help making a bullshit crack about moderation anyway.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I guess they don't want the OP to have her feelings hurt by hearing people say that what she proposes is an incredibly bad idea, immoral, and likely illegal.

I don't know what's up, caddis—you're either too close to this somehow or just too dedicated in abstract to the weird anti-moderation grudgematch that thread and this topic has become, I don't know which—but you are acting like a jerk about this well out of proportion with having had your initial "what the hell are you thinking?" rebuke deleted from the thread. It was a crappy way of approaching the question, we deleted it, and then you came back into that thread with bitchy metacommentary that you know doesn't belong in askme.

Metatalk and email are available for you to complain about moderation stuff if you need to; if you had a problem with your initial comment being deleted, that was the way to do it. This isn't new stuff. But you cede the basic benefit of the doubt on that front when you knowingly shit on the guidelines in the green, and that's what your second comment was doing.

You managed to get back on track with your third comment, which, let's be clear on this, is still in that thread, so I'm not sure why you decided to be a jerk about it further in here after the fact, but it's pretty crap behavior and I wish you could cut it the hell out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 PM on September 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metatalk and email are available for you to complain about moderation stuff if you need to;

*checks subdomain* Huh? Did you just call him a jerk, for "complaining" in metatalk?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 4:37 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You have marked as best answer all manner of covert listening device cites.

Considering the question was, in essence, "Can you recommend a covert listening device that can be concealed in a shirt", why is it shocking or controversial that responses that answered the question accurately would be marked "best"? Many of the responses here read like people who are pissy because the asker ignored their derails.
posted by The Gooch at 6:55 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you just call him a jerk, for "complaining" in metatalk?

I just said he was acting like a jerk by complaining about moderation in a comment in askme, and for further complaining about it again over here just for good measure even though his subsequent not-being-a-jerk comment in askme wasn't removed, without addressing that wrinkle in the least.

A complaint taken to the right place immediately? That isn't bad behavior, no. That's also not what actually happened here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:02 AM on September 2, 2009


Anyone can go anywhere wearing a wire if they want to and record a whole days worth of conversations.

Actually, no. States regulate how many participants in a conversation must be notified of the recording. Here's a handy dandy guide. Apparently Louisiana does not require consent of all parties.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:30 AM on September 1 [2 favorites +] [!]


You are 50/50 on this point. Without reading these laws I cannot accurately say what they all mean. Laws are made to be very broad for a reason. Like everything in life there are times when an action is perfectly legal and when it is completely illegal. Take killing someone for example. At time of war, men are expected to shoot to kill, however if you are not at war and you shoot to kill then it is murder (in most cases). Same can be applied here. If she is recording information to blackmail, sell trade secrets, publish a bad article, or invade privacy then it would be illegal. I do not think that this was the intended purpose. The mother here just wanted to find out what is going on at her son's school for his behavior to change like it has. Maybe a bully or a teacher is abusing her son? She could then pull her son out of harms way. Now if she were to use the information gathered against the suspect in question, at that point I would talk to a lawyer to see what is legal and what is not. I know this is a moral, ethical, and legal gray area but recording someone without them knowing is not a violation of their rights. Like I said earlier our rights protect us from the government and not private citizens. If this were not the case then nanny cams would be illegal and private eyes would not be able to take pictures of cheating husbands and wives.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:01 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder how y'all manage to have opinions on so many things.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:05 AM on September 1


I'm quoting this for emphasis and because it really does say what I feel.
posted by ob at 8:16 AM on September 2, 2009


Sometimes I wonder how y'all manage to have opinions on so many things.

Flextime is a beautiful thing.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2009


If this were not the case then nanny cams would be illegal and private eyes would not be able to take pictures of cheating husbands and wives.

And no stores would be able to put up CCTV cameras. I don't recall ever granting permission to a store to record my image while I wander through, nor have I ever heard of a successful challenge to a store that does this.

If the recording issue was such a no-no, surely someone would have brought this lawsuit a long time ago?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2009


And no stores would be able to put up CCTV cameras.

There's a big difference between putting up a bunch of camera globes on your ceiling, some of which may or may not contain cameras, while having a sign near the front of the store pointing out that you record for security purposes, and concealed recording of school children.
posted by nomisxid at 9:53 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have two sons with Fragile X, a genetic disorder that results in autistic behavior and developmental delays. Change of any kind was hard for both of them. A new school year is change, and changes like moving from elementary school with one teacher in one classroom to a multi-teacher class was the kind of thing that would trigger big setbacks in their behavior.

This.

I also have a son with Autism and transitions of any sort are tough for him. A transition to a new school with new kids and new teachers can be overwhelming. My first instinct would be that the transition to the new school itself is driving these behaviors. Especially if he's been physical in the past.

To her credit, Mitzi did acknowledge that the change may be driving this.

Still, I have to stick by what I said in the thread. Call an IEP meeting. Know your rights, and make any alliances you can with the district people, the therapists, the principal, an aide - try to turn the situation around so that when your kid succeeds, they feel like they succeeded. Help them have a positive stake in your child's success. It is really hard to do this. Really hard. But you are your child's advocate, and this is your job for right now.

Once again, I agree with Tizzie. I live in L.A. not LA so YMMV but the IEP was designed for situations like this. An IEP can facilitate a change in teachers, schools or address the issue with the specific teacher. You may choose to hire an attorney or an advocate, both of which are expensive but, again in L.A., if you win the case, the district has to pay for attorney's fees. Even the threat of an IEP to the principal or superintendent may spur the communication you need.

Do you have a specific aide for your son? If not, an IEP is the place to demand one. The argument to make is that without a specific aide, there is a "demonstrated risk of regression" for your son. (actually that phrase and "Least restrictive education" are both very helpful in getting the district to pay attention to you.)

In terms of communication with the school and what's happening during the day, an aide, who is specifically assigned to your son could be tremendously helpful. An aide could (and should) also be the in-school advocate for your child and can be someone that can report back to you every day on your child. In fact, it is the aide who would generally write a few sentences about your son's day, not the teacher.

The teacher should absolutely be available to speak with you but I think it's unrealistic to expect a teacher handling dozens of kids to write a few sentences every day on your son while handling dozens of kids. That should be the role of your aide.

And as far as the aides, you mentioned that you saw a few aides discussing clubs and the like. You need to realize that most aides are young women in their early twenties. The young women I have worked with are hard working, professional and LOVE their kids. My son has benefitted tremendously from their help. But as young people, they are going to go to clubs, have active dating lives and giggle and gossip with their friends. As long as they are doing their job, please ignore the rest.

As far as the exact issue at hand, I don't think it's a good idea. Not from a legal standpoint but from a pragmatic standpoint, unless there is abuse. And it seems to me that you have no other evidence that it's abuse except that there was a report on TV (in other words, no evidence).

And unless you find evidence of abuse, I think that the tapes will not be effective. They may show some minor mistreatment or harrassment. But in bringing forward these tapes, you will mark yourself as a troublemaking, crazy person. And, I fear that the end result will be that everyone shies away from your child, isolating him even further than the autism already is.

In other words, if you go to war with guns blazing, expect the district to fire back. And your son will be caught in the crossfire. That's not good for anyone, especially your son.

If you want more info on IEPs and IEP strategies, please feel free to memail me.
posted by cjets at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2009


Moreover, it's not relevant.

what


It's not relevant because nobody has claimed that she isn't interested in protecting her child. Putting out the "Well, let's be reasonable folks, this is about a child's safety!" is a way of framing the debate, intentionally or not, as between "People who care about a child's safety" and "People who don't care about a child's safety." Thus it's quite easy for you to bolster your argument with this appeal to emotion. That's why it's irrelevant to the discussion. Everybody is working in good faith toward the goal of solving the problem, including alternatives to covert recording. Nobody has suggested that the child should be abused at school and that she should suck it up because of ${REASONS}.
posted by odinsdream at 10:08 AM on September 2, 2009


If you want more info on IEPs and IEP strategies, please feel free to memail me.

Me, too.
posted by tizzie at 10:12 AM on September 2, 2009


There's a big difference between putting up a bunch of camera globes on your ceiling, some of which may or may not contain cameras, while having a sign near the front of the store pointing out that you record for security purposes, and concealed recording of school children.

A difference in law? Cite please.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:30 AM on September 2, 2009


A difference in law? Cite please.

Expectation of privacy.

A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

It's not clear how a court would rule on this situation in particular, but to act like future litigants against mitzy don't have any potential recourse seems willfully disingenuous.
posted by nomisxid at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009


First, no, my son doesn't have an aide assigned to him only.

Second, this morning we stopped at his school after I'd gotten him on the bus, and I walked into the office, and rudely demanded to see the acting principal. It was probably not the best way to make friends, but I tried that already, and it didn't get me results quickly enough. I spoke with another teacher, who said I had to speak with someone who was on vacation, and that she wasn't sure who could answer any questions I may have had. I sat down and didn't leave the office, and eventually she found the teacher who heads the Spec. Ed. dept. for the school. I and my husband voiced our concerns and actually got answers. We also got the news that this week his main teacher will be moving to kindergarten, because she's really a kindergarten teacher with almost no experience in Special Ed. She's being replaced by a 3rd grade teacher (my son is in 2nd) who has some experience with autistic children. I asked when exactly this was happening and said that I would like to sit down with the new teacher, and I was told that they're still not sure yet when or if it will happen. We also found out that all of my son's tests and paperwork were supposedly being sent home to me, so that I would be kept informed of what he's doing. That's never happened, and now, supposedly, it will change. I'm not holding my breath, and I still haven't decided on what we're going to do. Thanks for all of your input, everyone.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 3:03 PM on September 2, 2009


Wow, mitzyjalapeno, I sincerely feel for you. Now that you have really painted a picture of what it has been like, I can see where all your frustration has been coming from.

This school is giving you the runaround, sounds disorganized and ill-prepared, and if you have any other options whatsoever, I'd seriously consider getting your son out of that place.

I don't know if it will help, but I do know that around here, if you had trouble with a school and went right to the school board's commissioner for your district and spoke with him/her, you would generally get prompt results.

Where I live, for example, on the webpage for the county schools, you can download, in pdf format, all the addresses, home phone numbers and email addresses for every commissioner on our school board.

Naturally, you want to work through the school if you can, but if you are not getting the answers you need to help your son, contacting the school board member for your district could be really helpful. They are elected officials who count on votes from parents to keep their jobs and will work for you because it is also in their own best interests.
posted by misha at 4:38 PM on September 2, 2009


Just to address one of the derails- the laws covering privacy and recording are wildly different for video versus sound.

Yes, there are tons of ways to handle this situation, and no one-size-fits-all solution. We shouldn't expect that a parent should try solutions in a flowchart sort of manner, this sort of thing needs to be attacked on multiple fronts.

Finally, hell yeah I would try to record what was going on in a classroom if my kid was having weird problems, and super-especially if that kid was unable to articulate it. I can't be the only one who had bad/evil teachers whose behavior was different when talking to parents and administrators versus when they were alone in the classroom. Is it unfair to suspect an innocent teacher? Yes. But being a teacher doesn't give them the absolute right to fairness, just as none of us have the absolute right to fairness in our jobs. If the customer is unhappy, sometimes we need to change our behavior. I know I don't get a vote on this, but if I was a teacher, I would encourage parents to try and trip me up. I'd probably install a webcam so they could pop in at any time and reassure themselves that I'm doing my job.

(As for the student records privacy end-run, if recording what happens in a classroom violates a student's right to privacy, that can only be because the teacher already had violated said privacy. The classroom isn't group therapy- if I'm a student and my grades and performance are subject to privacy, then there's no reason the other students in the classroom should have any more access to it than anyone else.)
posted by gjc at 7:40 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


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