UPDATE! A Brilliant Girl and a Stupid Safety Assembly

Hi Folks — Here’s what the “stranger danger” lectures kids are getting at school looks like to a girl with the X-ray vision of Superman and the snark of a  middle school brainiac.  – L
Dear Free-Range Kids: I live in Edison, New Jersey. It’s a town with a large population, but for the most part people know each other pretty well. In elementary school, one of the parents told the school nurse I wasn’t wearing a jacket and the nurse called my parents and threatened to call DYFS, although the coat was in my backpack. This last year I was on a trip where a supervisor told me at 14 I was not yet old enough to decide that 60 degree weather was warm enough where I could hold my windbreaker and not wear it. Basically, I live in a town where everyone looks out for each other, no matter how annoyingly condescending their attempts at protecting us are.
Every middle school here had an assembly on “internet safety.” The man was talking to us about measures to take on social networking sites, which is of course not bad advice, though I’m much more concerned about bullying than rape. He told us two stories, the first of which was about a teenage girl who posted on her Facebook page that she would be home alone for the weekend, as her parents are out of town. Some strange man found this and  basically followed her to school, where she was cheer-leading, then followed her home and tried to invade, where he was stopped by the security system and everything went fine. The details are a little blurry, because honestly, I had my iPod out and was Googling the situation, which I’d decided was either made up or exaggerated. I found no results on Google and wrote it off as BS, I passed the iPod to one of my friends, who nodded, and we were more or less twiddling our thumbs, as I’m sure all schools intend their students to spend a majority of their time doing. Then, he goes onto another story, the kind that is obviously manipulative.
This time he talks about an eight year old girl, who had posted on her Facebook page that she was going to the park. Some man found the girl at the park, called her by name and told her his puppy was missing, then asked the young girl into the car with him. She does. The girl then looks down at the locks and realizes they’ve been duct taped. They go on to say she was raped, and if memory serves, killed.
At this point I’m pretty disgusted at the lengths they’re going to make us fear everything. It’s a sad story, and if it’s true, my sympathies are with the family and the incredibly rare situation which just occurred *also not on Google*. Then, they go on to tell the story of the kids who were bullied to the point of suicide because of things on Facebook. It’s ridiculous to assume that someone bullied on Facebook killed him or herself simply because of that, and as someone who knows victims of suicide, it’s personally offensive to watch it used solely as a way to prey on children and make money.
The way they’re telling the story, though, is obviously the media version. They’re selling propaganda, because the school district isn’t going to write a check for them saying everything is fine, just keep living.
After that, comes the sex offender registry, basically if a girl sends a naked picture of herself, then she’s a sex offender for manufacturing and distributing child pornography, and whichever lucky bloke she sends it to is in for possession, and if he happens to share the gift with one of his friends, then he’s got distribution too. While young girls probably ought not be full-frontal on their cell phone cameras, it by no means warrants (pun kind of intended) an arrest. Then they talk about how social networking allows drugs to be sold more easily, blah, blah, blah.
What they’ve basically done is terrified the five children who “respect” adults enough to believe everything they say; and given bullies the advice that, basically, in-person and physical bullying is better because it doesn’t leave a paper trail; and given a few sleazy kids in the audience a good way to sell more drugs. They have also have completely degraded women and young girls, who now have to feel like they will always be targets, that they are in fact not strong enough mentally or physically to defend themselves without an alarm that alerts the police every time the wind blows too hard, criminalized both teenage boys and men, and wasted the time of everyone in the audience. It basically culminated into a three-period-long assembly where everyone was crammed into the gym that could have been made more productive by handing out jump ropes.
Sorry I got a little ranty here. It just annoys me because my entire life I’ve been told what I’m not capable of deciding for myself. – Hope, a New Jersey just-starting-high school student 
Lenore again: I wrote back to Hope that the only bone I had to pick with her is about sexting — I think it IS a good idea to be warned about that, because the sex offender laws ARE Draconian and can  twist consensual behavior into hard time. And Hope — so brilliant — wrote back: 
 Of course sexting is a bad idea, as it can be permanently circulated. But it’s just not right to put a girl who took a picture of her own breasts in the same category as an adult doing it with small children. The laws should adapt as society does, and unfortunately there’s not enough of that.
Lenore again: Wow! Wish I’d been that brilliant before I even entered high school! Or after! Let’s hear it for Hope! 

Welcome, children — and please do not consult Snopes.

UPDATE! Here’s a great letter a reader named Deborah sent to her kids’ principal along with a copy of Hope’s post. It’s a template we can all use:
“Dear Principal,

Let me know if you are ever forced to schedule something like what Hope had to sit through so I can pull my boys out that day and teach them something closer to reality.


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85 Responses to UPDATE! A Brilliant Girl and a Stupid Safety Assembly

  1. Emily September 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Hope, are you SURE you’re just starting high school? From the looks of that article, you’re more intelligent and articulate than some people I went to university with.

  2. Selby September 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    …..an 8-year-old with a Facebook page?????

  3. Andy September 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    @Selby and? Kids with facebook accounts are quite common.

  4. Selby September 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    OK…..OK…..guess I’m tragically unhip.

  5. Cynthia812 September 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Wow, I’m impressed by this girl. You would think that the fact that they have to fabricate stories would alert the writers of these programs that it’s not as big a problem as they thought. Or maybe they just mistook CSI for the evening news.

  6. Kris September 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    What is it with NJ schools and jackets? Last year, when my kids were in NJ schools, they had a letter sent home in late autumn stating that parents were required to be sure their kids had coats or jackets that were fully zipped or buttoned. My older son has a tendency to overheat quickly. He has worn long sleeved shirts only twice ever and I forced him. He came in all sweaty so I stopped doing that. My son was warned at school one December afternoon by the lunch aide that if she caught him with his jacket unzipped he’d be sent to the principal’s office. Once I found out, I sent an email to his teacher (a wonderful woman) and explained the situation. She advocated for him on my behalf at the school, ensuring the aides knew to leave him alone.

    All was well after that, but it made me wonder why it was even necessary to “require” the zipping or buttoning of coats. Why does the principal of the school get to decide how my children dress? Or what my other son eats (that’s another story for another time). At least my daughter had no issues with stupidity at her school. I’m sure this will change as she’s in middle school now.

    Hope is a great and smart girl. Her parents have done a great job raising a critical thinker who does not take everything she hears at face value. I can only hope I am doing as well with my own children.

  7. Mary September 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Hope, my hat’s off to you! I didn’t have your eloquence and knack for perception even as a COLLEGE freshman! You rock!

    Lenore, I started to email to you a flyer that my 7-year-old brought home from school at the very beginning of the school year. It was for something called “Escape School.” I figured it was some silly thing at the school where kids could “escape” from the boredom and ridiculousness of school. Oh no.

    It was a 2-hour-long seminar for parents and kids, teaching children how to escape when a predator kidnaps them! I didn’t go, and neither did my son. I sort of wish now that I had gone, just to satisfy my morbid curiosity.

    The flyer was scary enough. It started out with a big, boldfaced heading: “THE WORLD IS A FRIGHTENING PLACE. LEARN TO BE SAFE!!!”

    …Then at the bottom: “Refreshments provided!”

    Well, that makes everything better.


  8. joanne September 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    As short as recess periods are, it isn’t like they’ll die of exposure if they’re outside for 20 minutes without a jacket. When I lived in Fairbanks (Alaska), the kids went outside until it hit below 30 below zero. Most of the older kids did not wear snow suits or snow pants. Sometimes, especially when it was ‘warmer’ (ie above zero after a few weeks below zero) they didn’t wear jackets at all.

    I often reflect as to how glad I am that the internet wasn’t around when I was a kid/teen. Even though I was bullied as a kid, the anonymity possibilities of cyberbullying (as well as the rapidness at which the information can travel) make it seem more than it may actually be to those of us who didn’t grow up dealing with that kind of stuff. I sometimes wonder if that isn’t what is going on with our obsession with cyberbullying. We’re projecting our own fears (and internet experiences if we’ve been on a message board, blog, chat etc) onto our kids not recognizing they’ve always been exposed to this stuff.

  9. TRS September 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    The basic things I tell my kids about the internet. If you want the world to read it then post it. Anything you want kept private do not put it on the internet, email, or text. If you have issues with a friend talk to them face to face about it.

    I went to an Internet safety parent class. The man that spoke to us told us that most kids are pretty savy about what to say and not to say on the internet.

    None the less I don’t think it is important for kids to have FB pages. If they do the privacy setting should be high. I know some HS kids that have over 2000 friends and their FB walls are not private. It just makes them a bigger target – and just need to be smart about what they share on the internet.

    If it takes someone that exaggerates the dangers of the internet to scare the crap out of these kid to over share every detail of their lives then so be it. The internet is new territory and I think even free range parents should hold some controls with their kids.

    It is not just them posting – it is also how they behave in public. My best friend’s daughter had multiple full ride volleyball scholarships were pulled because she got in a fight with a girl and the video was posted on youtube. Her mom and the girl asked youtube to take it down but they refused. So the video has her full name on it. Whenever she goes and applies for a job….. they are going to google her name and this lovely display of behavior will be for full view.

    The Internet can wreck your life if you are not careful. Teens brains are impulsive and not fully developed so they don’t make the best choices when it comes to the net and it takes strict controls and constant education to make these kids realize what can happen.

  10. Becky September 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    If the 8 year old girl was allegedly raped and killed, how do we know what the guy said about his puppy, or what she saw in regards to the duct taped locks. Really, do these folks even pay attention to what they’re saying? I hate stuff like this. I remember assemblies just like it when I was a kid, except they were trying to scare us away from pre-marital sex by telling false, scary stories about people who picked up AIDS. I felt insulted then, and I feel insulted now on this girl’s behalf.

  11. Warren September 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Hope, Please tell me you have plans on becoming Attorney General of the United States when you graduate.

    This young lady is a star, a shining example that despite the garbage fed to the young up and comers, some of them can think for themselves.

    Any college/university will be lucky to have this young lady in the future.

    Hope, a very fitting name, as she is the hope of the future.

    And to Hope’s parents, congrats.

  12. TRS September 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    The rest of the issues such as the jacket I agree with. My daughters can not do their homework on their middle school bus because it is too dangerous to have a pencil out.

    Internet safety is very serious. Anything you put on the Internet the world can read. Same with potential employers, college admissions, coaches……

    I went to HS in the 80s and basic word processors were just coming out. Internet did not come out until I was in my late 20’s. I am so glad we did not have it. I will refuse to let my kids destroy their lives with it. They have computers but my husband and I check their history. Husband is a professional hacker so my kids don’t stand a chance of hiding things and they know it. No FB pages for them either.

  13. Yan Seiner September 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    @Becky: Also, if the perp is watching and monitoring her facebook page, and can get to the park quickly, he (always he) has to be able to watch her house directly. Probably easier that way too. No facebook needed.

    The internet has opened up a whole new area of fear mongering. It’s not just the dirty old man in the park; it’s now the faceless nameless stranger who lurks in the cyber-shadows of the internet.

    How about providing coping tools? We know parents that prohibit their kids from using the internet and having phones. So they go to a friend’s house and access the internet there. They borrow their friends’ phones and text from them.

    Talk to your kids about the utter lack of privacy and security on the internet, and teach them how to do what they want to do safely, rather than behind your back.

    But really, this is nothing new. I remember watching the driver’s ed scare films in school.

  14. CrazyCatLady September 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Scare tactics don’t work in general for changing behavior. They learned this with drug and alcohol prevention years ago, but apparently the news didn’t spread to other aspects of life.

    After having lived in cold areas of the country, my sympathy to you for not being able to control your own body temperature. Cold is relative. My kids are always much warmer than I am. I don’t excessively control what they wear. I will make them take a coat, but it is up to them if they want it on or not. (Unless we have a huge wind chill way below zero.)

  15. Linda September 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Wow…I let my 3 year old decide whether or not she wants to actually wear her jacket, and I have done so since she was old enough communicate her desires ont he topic. My job as a parent is to make sure she always has one available to her in chilly weather (and I may dictate, “If you’re not going to wear it, *you* can carry it), but I don’t require her to wear it if she doesn’t want to.

    With rare exceptions, humans are simply not wired to allow themselves to freeze to death when there’s a jacket within arm’s reach. If she’s cold, she’ll put it on.

  16. GRS September 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Here’s a thought: Hope’s content is great, but she’s preaching to the choir. Hope, and/or her parents, should take this content and write an editorial for their local or nearby newspaper or other local forum. It would DEFINITELY be a NEEDED conversation starter IN THAT COMMUNITY on a number of fronts: Having kids lose classroom time for potentially ineffective lectures, state overreach vs. parental or personal judgment on how kids should dress in school, etc.

    It may help in the long run for more folks to “call out” schools and persons in their local media for this and other such situations whenever and wherever it happens, early and often.

    As Amy Goodman has said–and it is a GREAT quote–“Go to where the SILENCE is and say something” (emphasis added by me)

  17. Dave September 18, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Wow! There is hope. A young person with sanity How refreshing. There should be a way to stop schools from this kind of behavior. Passing on sensational stories even if true to scare our children is unacceptable. What ever happened to schools passing on facts and teaching our children to learn to reason and make good decisions for themselves?

  18. Yan Seiner September 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    @TRS: The privacy settings on FB are bogus. Do some research; FB security is pretty similar to a colander. Their password database has been compromised and they have also exposed “private” information through their API.

    Having a FB page makes them no more or less a target than being in a school play, or playing baseball, or having their face in the paper because they won paperboy of the month.

    The public behavior part I agree with; always behave as if you’re on parade. But the internet has nothing to do with that. You should always behave with decorum and honesty and honor. It takes work and guts, yes. But it cannot be done out of fear of the internet bogeyman.

    It’s not the internet that can wreck your life. The internet has no brain, no intent, and no conscience. It’s only our behavior that can wreck or make our lives.

  19. CrazyCatLady September 18, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Oh, and even if the temp is really cold, they know at this point to put their coats on. It was a little different when we first moved here from California, they really had no concept at that point. But one winter was all it took.

  20. Warren September 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    There is a way to stop the schools.

    Parents need to stand up to them, and the boards. All it takes is talking to some of the other parents, and then taking the time to go to the top.

    In grade 3 my daughters class had an open house. They were displaying a new technology they were using. Connecting a projector to the teachers computer. All fine and well. The subject they were using it for was a different story.

    The presentation they showed, which was a course of study, was a montage, of world news and history. Everything from 9/11, to famine, to protests, to war, to epidemics, to serial killers, to natural disasters. All showing the aftermath. And get this, set to Micheal Jackson music.

    The teacher told me that the sooner we expose people to these problems, the more likely they will think about solving these problems in the future.

    Myself and half a dozen other outspoken parents, went to the principal. Our opinion, that our children are just that children. They will have plenty of time to deal with the horrors, and tragedies that happen around the globe. Grade 3 students do not need to concern themselves with finding a solution to world hunger, and the numbers of children dying each year from it. They do not have long to be children, in this day and age. And making them feel like they need to address this stuff, doesnt help.

    We do not hide our children away, and tell them the world is all gumdrops and puppydogs. We also do believe that they have the right to be kids, and worry about this crap when they are adults.

    When the prinicpal gave us the line, “it is lessons set down by the board…”. She was informed to press her suit, and dust her desk, because we will be involving the media, the board, the local, provincial, and federal representatives. We would also be getting our family doctors involved to speak to healthy developement of children as compared to grooming adults to clean up our mess, and the mess made by our parents and son on.

    A week later, no notice, no fanfare, the presentation and topic just faded away.

  21. Denny September 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    I’ve taught preschool (and am currently a nanny). My thought about coats/outerwear is if a child is old enough to say he or she is not cold, then I think he or she’s fine. Another teacher I know looks to see if kids have goose bumps (I know some of the older preschoolers would rather not have on a coat because it makes it harder to move). I live in North Carolina, and people from further south get cold more easily, whereas people from further north do not. I figure someone knows if he’s cold or not.

  22. Denny September 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    I love this line above from Linda:

    “My job as a parent is to make sure she always has one available to her in chilly weather (and I may dictate, “If you’re not going to wear it, *you* can carry it), but I don’t require her to wear it if she doesn’t want to.”

    Great parenting, Linda!!!! I wish all parents gave children responsibility and allowed them to make decisions when necessary.

  23. BS assemblies September 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    When I was a kid they lied to us about drugs. There was a popular book called Go Ask Alice that was supposed to be the diary of a girl who took a lot of LSD.It was supposed to scare us away from dugs. I read it. It really made hallucinogens seem appealing. Anyway it was a fake.

    They lied and lied. They didn’t educate about drugs, they just lied and scared. So when I saw people who smoked pot and did not completely lose their minds, I distrusted them.

    Kids are not idiots and when you lie, they will stop trusting you and go find out for themselves.

  24. Trey September 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    And what is the lesson of this if you’re presenting?
    Verify the story? Or ask that smart phones be banned during your presentation?

    And if you’re a school principal that hired this bozo? Ban smart phones from the campus!

    Why do politicians and authority figures such as this presenter continue to act as if the ability to check their speeches still required a trip to the library and wasn’t instantly available?

  25. Beth September 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Here’s what I don’t get – how does the pervy guy who kidnapped the 8-year-old know EXACTLY which FB page to be monitoring during the EXACT time frame that she posts that she is going to the park? Do pervy guys have a group of FB pages that they routinely check just in case something useful is posted?

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just hang out at the park waiting for an unaccompanied child(which we are told pervy guys do ALL THE TIME)?

    And all the drama about security settings, yes absolutely make them as tight as possible, but there are about 955 million FB users across the world and each individual person is just a speck in this pool. We are not all being monitored by people unknown to us. The chance of even one of us being followed by a stranger has to be infinitesimal.

  26. Jemma September 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Great points but I am not sure about the argument that these details were made up “to make money”. Generally this kind of work is pro bono. Also the stories DO sound made up but just because something doesn’t come up on Google doesn’t mean it is necessay untrue. (Just as everything that appears on the Internet is not necessarily true).

    That said, the presenter can’t be too swift because if there is one demographic who can see right through phoniness it is teenagers. As this LW demonstrates teenagers are a very bright group!

  27. Neil M September 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Always nice to hear a bit of good sense amidst the fear-mongering to which we are all daily subjected.

  28. Bridget September 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    <3 Hope, you rock. Keep that smart head on your shoulders.

  29. Safety Author Melinda Reynolds Tripp September 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I am a huge fan of Lenore’s…………
    We can all be the parents of children who play outside, getting exercise,
    And being healthy young people…..it is the parents who are the most afraid, so let’s just get them teaching their kids the basics, so the parents can feel better about letting their children out to play!

    Why does everyone continue to make safety so difficult?
    I have been empowering young people for fifteen years, they are not afraid, they are empowered.
    Teach your child to say No (refuse) a bad situation or bad behavior,
    Teach your child to quickly go to a trusted adult
    Teach your child to TELL. (teach describing techniques)
    Do this for their awareness, in an age appropriate way so that they can grow up, happy, healthy, safe, aware and confident in their ability to live in our world.
    Melinda Reynolds Tripp
    author of What Should You Do? Helping Children Protect Themselves in the Twenty First Century. Tate Publishing/ Amazon

  30. Meagan September 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    One of my biggest gripes with the made up stories is the way it made this intelligent young woman dismiss a very legitimate worry about “sexting.” Yes, she’s 100% right that laws should adjust to some level of common sense, but until they do, it doesn’t help the teenage boyfriend and girlfriend exchanging nude photos. I’m glad she realizes they’re a bad idea for other reasons, but I hope she (and her friends) take the poorly thought out legal issues seriously, especially if “taking them seriously” means starting a revolution to change them.

    Otherwise, good on her for seeing through the crap! I don’t know if Hope is her real name or a pseudonym, but it’s appropriate.

  31. backroadsem September 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Loved this!

    As for the sexting, I do think many teens will try to defend that, what can you do.

  32. Claudia September 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Smart girl for seeing through the scare stories – when plenty of adults can’t! They really are unhelpful, especially in a world where people can Google and tell what’s b/s pretty quickly.

  33. Lollipoplover September 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Hope, you sound like a bright young woman. Keep reading everything and using your logic- you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders.

    That said, please unplug your smartphone when an adult is speaking to you. Of course you should research it later, but give your undivided attention to the speaker in front of you.

    Your speaker sounds like whatever free government(FBI) or local law enforcement employee your school district could get to check off the box that they are teaching internet safety. Said “expert” will typically use whatever story they get the most dramatic response from. They use the most grisly, sensational story (rape, death, chearleaders). Good for you to question the relevance.

    I only wish they taught internet courtesy in schools. Don’t make threats, don’t say anything to someone you wouldn’t say in person, don’t overshare private information. The world (virtual and real) would be so much more pleasant.

  34. Irene Lewis September 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I have to say I don’t think teenagers should post on facebook if they are going to be home alone for a night, or weekend. The real danger is not someone taking them. The real danger is having their “friends” see it and then having a bunch of teenagers at your door ready to have a party. When I was a teenager I know of a few parties that got out of hand, and that was just by word of mouth.
    As far as the suicide, I think it is a bigger problem then adults want to talk about. It makes it much easier for the public to ‘deal’ with if they blame it on bulling. If we just stop kids from bulling, then suicide with end. But it is a much bigger problem then that, and usally there is much more going on.

  35. Jules September 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Hope, your name is your virtue…hope is exactly what you give me for the future generation. I think you should consider running for office when you are an adult!

  36. Captain America September 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Frankly, I’m surprised that the various state child welfare bureaus haven’t yet figured out all the overkill and paranoia that the whole system generates. . . and haven’t yet moved toward a point of common sense equilibrium with all this nonsense.

    I would hate to be a child in these times, with all these smothering “professionals” nattering on and on. But of course, I’m the guy who at 10 years old, used to jump on a bike and take long trips exploring various neighborhoods in the suburbs.

    What is needed is for Richard Louv to come out with a “No Child Smothered To Death” book.

  37. Buffy September 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I’m still trying to figure out, as someone mentioned above, how a dead 8 year old was able to report a guy looking for his puppy and duct taped locks. A cop telling this story shows absolutely no respect for his audience whatsoever.

  38. Warren September 18, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Wow, what made you feel you needed to give Hope a lesson in manners? Sorry, but that just struck me as wrong. I personally think she was bang on. She was told information that she felt was wrong, and she checked it out. I do not see anything wrong with checking the credibility of the adult speaking to you. She thought for herself, and acted on it.
    Checking the facts then, is a better idea, instead of waiting till later, when memory has to be relied on.

  39. CrazyCatLady September 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Schools do get money to pay a certain amount of these presentations. They may get grants, it may be money raised by the PTA (who may also dictate what the presentation is about. )

    The frustrating thing is, that these parents and administrators do not look up how to use the money for the best effect. They tend to do “feel good” presentations that make the adults feel good, but have very few lasting effects, and many times have the opposite effects (as Hope so nicely points out.)

    The other thing about the effective programs is that they generally take time and effort. Which is not something that schools want to do on an ongoing basis. It is much easier to have a one time thing for a couple of hours than to have a teacher supervise a group of kids regularly who can actually be effective peer mentors to reduce bullying issues through out the school.

  40. CrazyCatLady September 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Warren, and, since we recently had two national conventions putting forth people for President, who had fact checkers checking the speeches as they spoke, I can see where Hope gets the idea that it is fine to do it on the spot. Which makes for a great reporter. Like Warren, I am all for calling a pile of cow stuff crap instead of pie. Maybe the guy would have a better presentation next time if the kids called him on his so called facts.

  41. Neener September 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Hope: You rock. Never stop questioning, ever.

    Could only have been better if you’d raised your hand on the spot and asked, “Sir, can you elaborate on how they knew all the details of the dead 8-year-old’s story if she’s dead?”

  42. Lollipoplover September 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    @Warren- She WAS bang on. My thought is that speakers wouldn’t have to resort to such sensational, Snopes-type stories if they didn’t have to compete with a generation that is glued to handheld devices.

  43. Jemma September 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Perhaps the presenter felt “he won’t his presentation be dictated by fact checkers”.

  44. Kimberly September 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I have the opposite problem with Jackets. I have to tell my kids that the jackets are for inside (due to AC), and they can not take them to recess or PE until it gets cold. They don’t need them outside when it is 80+, they leave them outside, and they stink to high heaven when they come in. When it gets really cold – we stay in if the kids don’t have proper gear. I teach at a 100% Title I school, there is no reason for the parents to pay for heavy jackets that might be needed 5 days out of the year. Most of the winter – hoodies/light jackets are enough protection.

  45. Warren September 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm #


    Sorry but that is not a valid arguement. They have always resorted to these methods. They have lied, over exaggerated, sensationalized, embelished and scared kids in these assemblies since the first indoor gym.

    If Hope had been playing a game on facebook, yeah turn it off. She was being independant, and investigative. Two perfectly good reasons to get the device up and running.

    Maybe if the presenter hadn’t been so full of crap, she would not have pulled it out.

  46. Lollipoplover September 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Yes, scare tactics have always been around. And kids today are bombarded with exaggerated claims. But do they need to fact check everything instantly? Would you want Hope to fact check a sensational billboard claim while driving on the highway? After all, she is being independent and investigative…

  47. Donna September 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    The sad thing is that the sensationalism of the first 2 stories muted what is otherwise decent information.

    I wouldn’t be happy if my teen posted on facebook that she was home alone for the weekend. I don’t expect a strange man to find her via facebook and rape her. That is completely ridiculous. I do worry about her facebook friends – and their friends, and their friends and so on down the line – seeing the message and coming over. I don’t care if my teen invites some friends over for a party while I am gone. Advertising it to the entire school is just asking for trouble – more of a drunken mess nature than rape, but the later does become more likely when you have the former.

    Bullying is a problem on the internet. Bullying victims do commit suicide and many childhood suicide victims (?) were bullied. Chances are those kids have many other issues in their lives as well , but something is always just one straw too many in those situations. You never know what that straw will be. I don’t think talking about suicide in relation to bullying is out of left field. Can bullying alone cause someone to commit suicide? Probably not unless extraordinarily vicious. Can bullying push kids who were already having difficulty in coping with life over the edge? Absolutely.

    And the sexting thing was dead-on. The law might be arcane but I wouldn’t recommend ignoring it and getting yourself arrested as a way to challenge it. Civil disobedience in the form of violating minor laws is one thing; civil disobedience in the form of violating major laws that involve lengthy prison sentences and sex offender registry for life is probably not the way to go.

  48. linvo September 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Wow, I would’ve probably died of frustration and annoyance if I would’ve had to listen to that!

    I got somewhat annoyed here this week with the stories in the news of parents demanding that something be done about the in app purchases in some iPad games. While I do agree that they are quite immoral, the way the parents carried on about them being ‘kiddie crack’ because their 9yo spent $500 on their credit card buying fake money from the iTunes store made me cringe. They are 9! If you can’t teach them something as simple as ‘don’t buy anything from the iTunes store’ you shouldn’t let them use your iPad! But ocourse they should’ve made sure that their credit card details were protected in the first place. While I am all for corporate responsibility, these parents were a classic example of making others responsible for the lack of instruction and education they have their kids.

  49. linvo September 18, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Sorry about the typos! Trying out my new keyboard…

  50. Andy September 18, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    @Lollipoplover I definitely hope that Hope will not fact check billboard claim while driving on the highway. However, that is entirely different situation – you can kill other people while driving on the highway and it is impossible to kill other people while sitting in boring assembly.

    It is true that checking phone during and assembly is not the best polite possible behavior, but there is no harm in it and I would probably do that too.

    If the first facts I here turns out true, I will trust more the rest of his talk. If the first facts I here turns out false, I will be careful not to trust and I will not make an effort to remember the rest of his talk and . He is lying and manipulating, so I would just remember false information into my memory.

    In that situation, it is more time effective to make a draft of the next essay homework in your head.

  51. joanne September 18, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    @linvo It wasn’t that kids were buying things from the App store, it was they were making in-game purchases not realizing that they were spending real time money. Apparently, there was a window of about 15 minutes where if the parent downloaded a new game for the kid, for example, for the next 15 minutes their card would still be open so if the kid got on and bought things through the store in the app, the parents got charged real cash for them.

  52. Carol Everett Adams September 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    @Linda said this, too, about jackets – sorry if someone else did; I didn’t read through every comment:

    I don’t make my kids wear their jackets. I provide a jacket, and I even bring it along in the car if we’re going out and I think that we might find the air cold enough to warrant a jacket. But I’ve long thought that unless they’re actually infants, children can probably be trusted to make up their own minds about whether or not they’re cold. If they choose not to wear a jacket when I suggest one, and then they ARE cold, that’s called “a natural consequence,” and, eventually, one would hope they’ll accept my suggestion in the future.

    I wouldn’t find this remarkable enough to comment on… except for the stares and remarks I get about it! You’d think I’m the worst mother in the whole world! For letting kids make up their own minds about something so simple!

    Has anyone ever actually frozen to death from going to the grocery store without a jacket?

  53. Melissa September 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Very intelligent young lady! And ridiculous administrators. Urban legends passed off as fact serve no purpose.

    The whole jacket issue is annoying. Cold is subjective. Just because I am cold does not mean everyone else is. I have (gasp) let my children choose when they are cold since they were old enough to understand what it means. I tell them what the weather is and have them bring it just in case they want it. But I am not inside their body. Who am I to decide whether they are cold or hot?

  54. C.J. September 18, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    It is unfourtunate that stories were made up to try to teach internet safety. Internet safety is something that should be taught to children, no different than teaching them not to get in a car with a stranger. There are better ways to educate children. There are plenty of true examples of why the internet should be used responsibly such as kids posting about having a party on fb and thousands show up, once you put something on the internet it is usually there for good etc. I don’t think there is anything wrong with educating children of danger so they can protect themselves but at least use real facts. Kids aren’t stupid. They also know when they are cold.

  55. Donna September 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Hasn’t medical science proved that you get a “cold” from a virus and not from being outside without a jacket on sufficiently yet?

    Unless it is really cold – hypothermic cold – the worst thing you get by not wearing a jacket in the cold is uncomfortable. Why do we care if someone is uncomfortable because s/he doesn’t want to wear a jacket? Kinda sounds like a personal problem to me, not something that requires my intervention.

  56. JJ September 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Gosh, I agree with the comments about the jacket mandates. Ridiculous! My kids had a teacher that enforced jackets in 55 degree weather never thinking about the fact that kids unlike herself RUN AROUND constantly at recess. And that should be the goal–running around! My daughter would get horribly overheated. Seriously, a six year old can’t decide if she wants to wear a jacket or not?

  57. Silver Fang September 19, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    Dear Hope: A lot of those stories they told you at the assembly sound like urban legends, which are really just modern versions of fairy tales, which were originally told to scare children into staying out of the woods in Medieval Europe. Today’s cautionary tales are used to scare children off the Net, the modern equivalent of the big, dark woods, so to speak.

    As for the jacket thing, it’s just insulting that someone would be condescending enough to think that someone who is just about into high school isn’t able to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a jacket. From memory, high school isn’t quite as micromanaging and controlling as junior high is.

    I wish you all the best for the future.

  58. HopeEliz September 19, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Hey it’s Hope, which is my real name. Perhaps it was impolite of me to have my iPod out mid-assembly. However, I’d argue that it’s impolite to waste my time.Underestimating my ability to discern fact from nonsense is disrespecting me, and so because I am a teenager, I have the whole objectionable “eye for an eye” mentality. I just wanted to even the disrespect playing ground. My boyfriend is disgusted by Apple products and so he would argue that it’s impolite to have it out anywhere. I’d never use it while driving because– well, that’s just stupid. I also don’t have the capability to do so, I was connected to school WiFi and not 3G.

    As far as high school being less micromanaging– they did send home a form requiring a signature for end of the day dismissal that we’re allowed to go home and don’t need a parent (or trusted adult to sign us out). Fortunately, my mom checked the it’s-the-end-of-the-day-let-her-leave box, so either the aforementioned boyfriend or the school bus picks me up.

    Thanks for all the compliments and well-wishers. Of course I’m not saying the school didn’t have good points– they did, bullying isn’t okay, sexting isn’t okay, over-sharing online isn’t okay. It’s just when things become over-exaggerated then logical people shut down and don’t listen–as I did, and a once decent point is now moot.

  59. Taradlion September 19, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    As someone that is always warm (and the child of a mom that was always cold), my favorite quote ever: “You have to wear a jacket when you mother is cold.” I also had a grandmother who thought I would get pneumonia when I went out with a wet head….

    As for posting stuff on the Internet, I say, “would you want your grandma to see it?”. I never post pictures of me or my own kids with a wet head.

    Good for Hope for understanding that their are reasons to not post things on the Internet, or send via camera phone that have nothing to do with fear of pedofiles.

  60. Heather September 19, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Agreed that Hope should write an editorial about this. I assume her high school has a newspaper. Start there and then send it your most local newspaper and keep going from there.

  61. linvo September 19, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    @Joanne. I know and those apps were clearly set up to trick users. But that is the nature of online commerce. My 7yo who just got my old smart phone passed onto her could’ve spotted that it was a purchase! And one of the mothers said she had taken the iPad away from her 9yo and she had stolen it back to continue the game and make the same mistakes.

    Apart from sadly not using the experience to teach their kids how to spot a scam, there are settings on iPads and related to prevent the unauthorised use of your credit card, including closing the 15 min window.

  62. Gina September 19, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    I am a toddler teacher and I do not force or even encourage my students to wear jackets. If they want them, they have to let me know…It’s part of learning to communicate one’s needs. I might ask a shivering child if s/he wants a jacket, but even then, if s/he says “no”, that’s the end of it. We are supposed to be teaching personal responsibility and trusting one’s own instincts and body signals. I did the same with my own 5 kids (15-28 now) and nobody died!
    Now, what do these school officials think will happen to kids who don’t wear jackets in the cold? Nobody still thinks cold weather makes people sick, right?

  63. Andy Harris September 19, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    Reminds me of when I was in junior high and the police sent a spokesman to tell us horror stories about drugs. You know the ones: A hippie on LSD burned out his eyes by staring into the sun; a hippie couple, so stoned on weed, put their baby into the oven thinking it was a turkey, etc. The fact that we were told such absurd and transparent lies had us all believing that, if an authority figure’s lips are moving, he’s probably lying.

    Nice to see that the adults in charge haven’t changed all that much. Feh!

  64. Andy September 19, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    @Donna Of course you get cold from viruses. So, if there are no viruses around, cold will not harm you.

    On the other hand, if there are viruses around (and in most practical situations they are) and your immune system is just battling them, the cold may weaken it temporarily and you will get sick.

    The “it is a virus not a cold” is sort of true, but one of those “too much simplified” things.

  65. gap.runner September 19, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    @Andy Harris, I remember those stories designed to scare kids from taking drugs. There was also one about a woman who smoked too much pot who gave birth to a hairy monster who died a few days later. We also had a former drug addict come to our school who was supposedly in her early 20s but looked like she was 50.

    Then there were the movies about “venereal diseases,” which is what STDs were called back in the ’70s. There was one which featured a girl who had long-term syphilils. She was supposed to be 16 but looked older than our parents. Those movies gave peopole the impression that if they had sex even once they would suffer a horrible long-term death from VDs.

    It didn’t take us long to figure out that the sex and drug movies/presentations were a big lie.

    As the old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

  66. suzyq September 19, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Let’s hear it for HOPE, all right! As long as kids like Hope are out there, there is hope that we can let a little reason come into things here.

    Just one question, tho….does the term “bloke” really get used in the States as teen slang? Truly curious about that…

  67. Bess September 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Dear Hope,

    My daughter is 4 months old. I swear, if she’s anything like you when she starts HS, I don’t know if it will be possible for me to be more proud of her. ROCK ON, HOPE!

  68. Warren September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Thank you for being a voice of common sense. You do realize that your voice, your ideals carry more weight and credibility, than that of Lenore. No offense to Lenore, who knows I am huge supporter.
    But now there is a voice coming from the very group, that society has been saying is too young to look out for themselves. You are living, breathing proof that young people do not need to be scared into submission. That they can think, act and deicide for themselves.
    Not only to I commend you, for thinking for yourself, but also acting on it. My 13 yr old, and 21 yr old daughters both think you are AWESOME!!!!!

    A side note, disregard the comments about using your device during the assembly. The truly impolite actions were those of the school and speakers that insulted your intelligence, with their lies and stories. Good luck with school, and keep up the great work.

  69. Donna September 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    @Andy –

    Sorry but a little chilly during recess at school isn’t going to suppress your immune system. Human beings have survived many millenia getting a little chilly. Well before suppress your immune system cold or length of exposure hits, a sane person with the ability to do so will put on a jacket or go inside, even if under the age of 18. Unless, of course, she is being so harassed about not wearing a jacket that she simply refuses to do so even when freezing, at which point “helpful” demands have simply exacerbated the problem.

  70. HopeEliz September 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    @suzyq, I’ve never heard any other US teen use the word bloke–but it’s a great word, and they should use it.

  71. BL September 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    “I’ve never heard any other US teen use the word bloke”

    It probably just means Hope’s read some British fiction, or seen some British TV on PBS or something.

  72. Maegan September 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    Fantastic! Having a teenager who is this eloquent, confident, and intelligent is really all I could ever ask for.

    I completely agree with this statement:

    “With rare exceptions, humans are simply not wired to allow themselves to freeze to death when there’s a jacket within arm’s reach. If she’s cold, she’ll put it on.”

    Part of my mom’s Christmas gift last year went straight into the trash. It was her own guide on how children should dress for each temperature range. I wasn’t even pregnant at that point, but even now that I am, it still would go into the trash. If teachers were calling me about my child of any age not wearing her coat, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my cool.

    I really can’t understand why so many free range parents say things like “Oh, but the Internet is a different story. Totally unsafe.” No, it’s the same as anything else. You still have to have common sense and understand what to do in rare situations. Stalking kids online is the same as going through their bedrooms. I’m sure it’s tempting, but I wouldn’t want to jeopardize their trust or undermine their own self-reliance. This comment has it exactly right: “Having a FB page makes them no more or less a target than being in a school play, or playing baseball, or having their face in the paper because they won paperboy of the month.”

  73. Maegan September 19, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    “There was a popular book called Go Ask Alice that was supposed to be the diary of a girl who took a lot of LSD. It was supposed to scare us away from drugs.”

    Hahaha! From the pro-drug song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane? Awesome irony.

  74. hineata September 19, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    @Hope – what a wonderful letter! And keep up the using ‘bloke’ – it so eloquently fits the male of the species….though personally I’m not so keen on sheilas!

    @Donna, if you do get down here you really must have a chat to my husband. He is convinced that, as well as being a product of the weather, colds are caused by different types of food we eat. Evidently, foods are either hot or cold, and will cause different reactions in the body. No doubt based on something that made some kind of sense back in China over the centuries, but freaking irritating in this age of microscopes…..Never mind the need to cover a baby’s belly button so that demons will not enter the child through said button, my favourite piece of parenting advice from Mum-in-law.

    He might just listen to a lawyer :-)….And at least he lets the kids go places by themselves, I guess….just buttoned-up to the nines!

  75. Donna September 20, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    @hineata – I had a client in A. Samoa tell me that her child was in the hospital because she had voodoo. An exorcism was apparently performed before taking her to the hospital. Since her mental health was an issue in the case, we got the medical records. Turns out she was delirious from being so dehydrated during a stomach flu (which was also caused by some bad spirit according to her parents).

  76. Andy September 20, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    @Donna “Sorry but a little chilly during recess at school isn’t going to suppress your immune system. Human beings have survived many millenia getting a little chilly.”

    I was not telling that mandatory jackets are good policy. I wrote that “it is virus not a cold” is overly simplified and for all practical purposes untrue.

    When you start with science proved xy and then continue with something misleading, then I object.

  77. Warren September 20, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Correct me if I am wrong. Would a virus, such as the one responsible for the common cold, not prefer a warm climate controlled enviroment, say like a classroom? Outside in colder, dryer weather, is not a virus’ prefered climate.

  78. Denise September 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Hey guys,
    I am a mother of two and am debating the ups and downs of free range parenting. I found this cool app that helps you keep track of your most important priorities. Check out, http://dontforgetmeapp.com/ to take the worry out of daily tasks like leaving your child in your car for a quick pharmacy run or making sure your dog is fed.


  79. Days of Broken Arrows September 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I’m surprised the lecture didn’t mention these kids could be snatched off the street for purposes of human trafficking — a modern day scare that’s the equivalent of the alleged satanic day care rituals of the 1980s.

    This is really all about money. The people that give the lectures have to drum up fear so people will pay to have them come into the schools to speak. The media has to keep us all scared so we’ll tune in. If everyone felt fine, all these people would be out of jobs.

  80. Tsu Dho Nimh September 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Good grief, those scare lecturers are STILL in business? We were treated to the evils of tobacco and booze in high school, that being in the good old days before sex, drugs and rock and roll became available.

    Yes, it’s a moneymaker for the lecturer, a feel-good activity for the sponsors, and a total waste of time for the target audience.

    And Hope, you have a lovely writing style. Good grammar and an adequate level of snark.

  81. Library Diva September 21, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    Whoa, BS assemblies…are you me? Am I posting here subconsciously under another name? Because I had those exact same experiences. I still have my copy of Go Ask Alice (that Snopes has proven to be a hoax, but yeah, it did make drugs and the counterculture sound freaking awesome, right up until the point where she died). When I first met people smoking pot, I was shocked and scared for them. Then I came to realize that it seemed to have little ill efffect on them.

    I actually tend to think that it’s slightly better than alcohol — it has fewer long-term side effects, is harder to overdose on, and is much less likely to lead to aggressive behavior.

    I, too, was very impressed by Hope’s writing style and points of view, and urge her to submit this to her school and local newspapers. Hope, you’re absolutely right. Good for you for seeing through this ridiculousness. And bad on the school for wasting students’ precious time on this crap. I don’t blame Hope for getting out her iPod one bit. A speaker has to work to command and retain the respect of the audience. It’s not something just to be handed out. And one quick way to lose the audience’s respect is to show no respect for their intelligence.

  82. Jynet September 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    My teen age daughter uses the word bloke even though she is from Canada. (She also uses many other ‘British’ words, and a bunch of ‘American’ words, and occationally German and French and Spanish words…)

    But specifically “lucky bloke” is more likely to be used than just refering to a male as a bloke, especially in the context of dating or sex. I’m cruder… I tend to use “lucky sod”, just as British, but not as polite, lol.

  83. KKK September 24, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    I am in middle school and I recently had to go through an assembly about cyberbullying and why you should be completely sure who you’re sending to. They also said that while you take a shower, your friend can send other people things you don’t want them to send. Oh, so every person is an Internet threat to you and could be and older man tempting you to ruin your future?! And friends wouldn’t hack your email. Today’s society is trying to take over kids in every possible way, including friend selection. No wonder bullying in schools exist and kids lack the strength to stand up to bullies- otherwise this wouldn’t be happening.

  84. blablabirdie October 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    While I agree that this assembly is insane, the sad thing is that the laws on sex offenders and texting nude photos of yourself as a minor in NJ is 100% true – and the school can be held legally accountable for not reporting these ‘sex crimes’ to police if they find out about them. This is obviously a law that hasn’t caught up to the times, but it still means that any kids caught by school officials exchanging nude photos can be put on the sex offender list for life – and charged with distributing child pornography. I know someone who almost ended up being charged, but ‘thankfully’ there were no faces in the photos so there were no charges filed, but that was the only reason.

    Most school officials do NOT want to go after kids for these kinds of infractions, but the punishment for their noncompliance is equally as harsh.

    So please, this is another reason to be super careful with your texts!


  1. UPDATE! A Brilliant Girl and a Stupid Safety Assembly - SAHM Solution | SAHM Solution - November 17, 2012

    […] Dear Free-Range Kids: I live in Edison, New Jersey. It’s a town with a large population, but for See all stories on this topic » Cancel […]