Some Elizabeth Forward students land in court from inappropriate iPad use
Problems are spilling into the legal system from iPads given to Elizabeth Forward youngsters.
At EF's middle school Wednesday, Magisterial District Judge Beth S. Mills said she's handled as “nontraffic” rather than criminal 10-15 cases of “naked pictures, inappropriate texts and bullying” in her Forward Township courtroom.
At Wednesday's EF school board meeting, that panel's public safety chairman Jamie Evans said Superintendent Bart Rocco needs to talk to local police departments about the possibility that predators can make contact with youngsters through those iPads.
“We are trying to take steps to prevent these kinds of occurrences,” said Evans, himself a police officer in Elizabeth Township.
“What we're looking at also is educating parents about safeguards when (their children) are home,” school director Francis Posa said.
Mills was at the middle school for another in a series of assemblies on a variety of topics, first for sixth graders and then for older youngsters.
“If any of you are doing any (naked pictures, inappropriate texts and bullying), you need to stop,” said Forward officer and district school resource officer Travis Stoffer.
“If you send a nasty text or email, it will cost you $450,” Mills said. It can mean 40 hours of community service and “that is independent of what the school may do.”
Stoffer said youngsters should not fear the police car.
“One of the biggest mistakes you make is not to tell us (of any situation),” the EF school resource officer said.
“Because of the iPads, we thought this would be pretty appropriate,” Mills said of Wednesday's exploration of “good cyber citizenship, cyber safety and sexting” featuring an education and outreach specialist from Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office.
“The Internet can be a wonderful resource (but) you need to use it wisely,” Kane said in one of two recordings specialist Philip L. Little played.
Mills had an example of something unwise: “If you send a naked picture out of yourself or someone else, it is out there forever.”
Kane said predators troll the Internet. “They groom and they're looking for victims,” she warned.
The other video featured Alicia Kozakiewicz, now 25. In 2002 at age 13 she was lured from her home in Pittsburgh's Crafton Heights section and held for four days as a sex slave in a Virginia home.
Kozakiewicz thought she was corresponding online with another teenager named Christine but, Mills said, “There really wasn't a Christine, but a 38-year-old man.”
“We talked about everything under the sun,” Kozakiewicz said. That man came from Virginia on New Year's Day in 2002 and abducted her.
“I walked out the door,” Kozakiewicz said. “I was planning to come back. I had no coat, no money, to meet a total stranger.”
She went on, “I'm thinking, I should go back, this is really stupid,” but she got in the man's car anyway.
“He was squeezing my hand so tight, I thought he was breaking it,” she went on.
She would lose a lot in that Virginia house.
“I'm still trying to find all the pieces and glue them back together,” Kozakiewicz said on the video youngsters would see in Elizabeth Forward 12 years after her ordeal.
“Thankfully, through the help of the FBI, we got her back,” Little said.
Little asked the sixth graders to raise their hands if they had 100 online “friends” on social media, then 200, 300 and so forth up to 1,000.
“Do you know every single person?” he asked. “Do you know all 1,000 people?”
His point: The definition of “friend” has changed.
“I urge you to have some kind of agreement with your parents (about sharing passwords),” Little said. “It is better to keep you safe than to have another incident like Alicia's.”
Middle school assistant principal Nancy Stanish relayed a student's tale of sharing iPad passwords.
“Someone else had his password, went into his account and changed the password so he couldn't get into his account,” Stanish said.
Another point Little made: If you're under 13, you are too young to be on social media sites such as Facebook.
“So you're pretending to be someone you aren't,” the specialist said. “I could say I'm Lebron James and make you believe that,” referring to the Miami Heat basketball star.
He cautioned about putting too much online, even for instance a photo in a uniform.
“Your wearing (of) that article of clothing geographically locates where you are,” Little said.
The half-hour middle school sessions were summed up by Little when he said, “I'm not here to scare you. I'm here to make you think.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.