Teen Suicide Demonstrates The Failure of Digital Citizenship Curriculum

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In a heart breaking story coming out of the Chicago area, a student, Corey Walgreen, committed suicide after his high school confronted him about a video he had taken of himself and his girlfriend having consensual sex off-campus.  Walgreen had never before been in trouble at school and according to the allegations in a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by his parents, its alleged that the school scared him into suicide while “warning” (or threatening) him about the seriousness of the matter.

Neither Walgreen nor his girlfriend were identifiable in the video. It was the audio that appeared to demonstrate the two teens were having consensual sex. The recording was not sent to anyone. Walgreen played the audio for a few of his friends and after his friends talked about it, Walgreen’s girlfriend complained to the school.

The school along with the police questioned Walgreen without his parents present for about 20 minutes.  The video/audio was hidden on a mobile phone in a calculator app. After the “conversation”, Walgreen was sent to the student-services office to wait for his mother to pick him up. He left before his mother arrived and walked directly to a building and jumped off and committed suicide.

Will the Walgreen family’s lawsuit be successful?  In general, it is difficult to win this type of matter. However, after the recent successful prosecution of teen who encouraged her friend to commit suicide via text, a jury may be inclined to hold the defendants liable in some manner for Walgreen’s death.

In my experience, many K-12 public and private schools are not properly teaching our kids about the digital issues they confront. The Digital Citizenship movement has been a failure because the curriculum is either created by large technology companies so the content glosses over digital privacy/security, or by non-profits or consultants who receive funding from large technology companies or connected non-profit foundations to “hide” the connection. Many so called “Digital Citizenship Experts” have no real “expertise” in this area and are providing false and misleading information to students and their families to increase their bottom line.

Our child pornography laws are way behind the times because the legal system does not understand how to deal with teen sexting. Its not just legal issues but also political and societal reasons for this mess. Even though some states are trying to figure out respond to these growing issues the response has been inadequate.

The facts of this case demonstrate that teens and parents need to understand not just the legal ramifications regarding their digital/mobile activities but how to respond when asked by schools and law enforcement about them. Through my Digital Armour services, I teach students and their families how to avoid these situations and properly respond when a challenging digital matter arises. My firm understands how to protect your family’s personal information from schools better than anyone else because we have been on the front line of this issue longer than anyone else.

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