Friday, January 25, 2008

Teen's phone call snowballs into social network phenom

Do what you wish with this.

File it under great.

File it under way to go.

File it under gotcha.

File it under we aren't babies.

File it under new era.

File it under civility.

File it under fucking harpy.

File it under respect.

The "file it under" list is practically endless.
Snow days, kids and school officials have always been a delicate mix.

But a phone call to a local public school administrator's home last week about a snow day - or lack of one - has taken on a life of its own. Through the ubiquity of Facebook and YouTube, the call has become a rallying cry for students' First Amendment rights, and it shows that the generation gap has become a technological chasm.

It started with Thursday's snowfall, estimated at about three inches near Lake Braddock Secondary School in suburban Burke, Va. On his lunch break, Lake Braddock senior Devraj "Dave" Kori, 17, used a listed home phone number to call Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer for the Fairfax County system, to ask why he had not closed the schools. Kori left his name and phone number and got a message later in the day from Tistadt's wife.

"How dare you call us at home! If you have a problem with going to school, you do not call somebody's house and complain about it," Candy Tistadt's minute-long message began. At one point, she uttered the phrase "snotty-nosed little brats," and near the end, she said, "Get over it, kid, and go to school!"

Not so long ago, that might have been the end of it - a few choice words by an agitated administrator (or spouse). But with the frenetic pace of students' online networking, it's harder for grown-ups to have the last word. Kori's call and Tistadt's response sparked an online debate among area students about harassment and whether the response was warranted.

Kori took Tistadt's message, left on his cell phone, and posted an audio link on a Facebook page he had created after he got home from school called "Let them know what you think about schools not being canceled." The Web page listed Dean Tistadt's work and home numbers.

The Tistadts received dozens more calls that day and night, Dean Tistadt said. Most were hang-ups, but at one point, they were coming every five minutes - one at 4 a.m., he said. At the same time, his wife's response was spreading through cyberspace.

Within a day, hundreds of people had listened to her message, which also was posted on YouTube. A friend of Kori's sent it to a local TV news station, and it was aired on the nightly news program. As of Tuesday, more than 9,000 people had clicked on the YouTube link. Hundreds of comments had been posted on the Facebook and YouTube pages, largely about what constitutes proper and polite requests for public information from students.

Kori, a member of the Lake Braddock debate team who said his grade-point average is 3.977, said his message was not intended to harass. He said he tried unsuccessfully to contact Dean Tistadt at work and he thought he had a basic right to petition a public official for more information about a decision that affected him and his classmates. He said he was exercising freedom of speech in posting a Facebook page. The differing interpretations of his actions probably stem from "a generation gap," he said.

"People in my generation view privacy differently. We are the cell phone generation. We are used to being reached at all times," he said.

Kori explained his perspective in an e-mail Wednesday to Fairfax County schools spokesman Paul Regnier. Regnier said, also in an e-mail, that Kori's decision to place the phone call to the Tistadts' home was more likely the result of a "civility gap."

"It's really an issue of kids learning what is acceptable and not acceptable. Any call to a public servant's house is harassment," Regnier said.

Candy Tistadt did not return phone messages, but Dean Tistadt credited Kori for having the "courage of his convictions to stand up and be identified." He also credited him for causing the high volume of crank calls, not to mention considerable grief and embarrassment for his wife.

The moral has to be: Don't fuck with the kids. They just may have more power and connections than you. They certainly have more damn connections than you.

Had she just talked to him calmly and treated him with civility, respect this would not be an international story.

Dean Tistadt is kewl. He would have handled the situation.

Courtesy link to National News.



Anonymous Ina said...

Good Job! :)

7/09/2008 02:25:00 AM  

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