I fear for the youth of today. Seriously fear for them. Not because of global warming or cyberterrorism or a zombie apocalypse, but because of their parents.
I’ve been quite outspoken on my distress that helicopter parenting has elevated (heh heh) to a point that would have seemed ridiculous a generation ago, and I keep hoping I’ll be proven overly cynical, the girl who cried wolf, or completely wrong. After all, I am personally invested in this serious problem as a citizen, an educator, and … well, someone who sees an awful of parents whose kids control them the way a puppeteer directs a marionette.
But I think I’m right about this one, much to my chagrin.
There are news stories that crop up all the time, giving credence to my theory that far too many underage inmates are running an increasing number of asylums.
Consider this, from Time Magazine:
A Pennsylvania woman faces six felony charges for doing just that. Catherine Venusto, 45, hacked into the Northwestern Lehigh School District computer system and altered the grades of her two children, ABC News reports. Venusto had worked at the district as an administrative office secretary from 2008 through April, 2011. A year before she quit, Venusto, of New Tripoli, Penn., had been accused of changing her daughter’s failing grade to a medical exception. And in February, 2012, she was accused of changing her son’s 98 to a 99.
I have worked in enough school districts to know that, if a medical exception is warranted, it is given. In fact, it’s not exactly difficult…
… to get a medical exception when it might not necessarily be warranted, but that’s a different conversation.
So was Venusto trying to boost up her daughter’s ego by removing an F from her report card, or was she doing this for herself? (I mean, what parent wants to see black and white evidence that his or her kid failed at something as mundane as school?)
Of even greater concern to me, though, is the change from a 98 to a 99. I’m putting on my teacher hat for a minute here, and the reason for such a minute change seems to me one motivated by a change in class rank. In other words, if Venusto’s son was a fraction of a point behind the class valedictorian, changing his 98 to a 99 could quite possibly tip the scales. I can’t think of any other reason to change an already-A+ grade to a barely higher A+ (well, other than getting her kid to “have” a certain GPA for athletic eligibility, college scholarship opportunities, or that sort of thing)
Which brings me back to the distressing idea that Venusto might have done this not for her kiddos but for herself. After all, another not-so-nice thing about many parents is that you get into the brag game. It’s very hard to listen to others reeling off their kids’ accomplishments and not try to find something to contribute. I don’t know a parent in the world, myself included, that doesn’t rise to this one at least occasionally.
And, really, what sort of message does that send to your kids? I’m only proud of you because of what you’ve done, not for who you are? (And I’m going to apologize to my kids at the earliest opportunity for sinking to this from time to time)
Anyway, authorities took this little trick of Venusto’s very seriously.
Venusto was arraigned this week on three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six of those charges are third degree felonies. State police said she admitted to changing the grades, but thought her actions were merely unethical— not illegal. According to District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Debbie Garlicki, Venusto could face up to 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine if convicted.
I am so glad that Catherine Venusto is being held accountable for her actions. Perhaps it might send a valuable message to her children that I suspect they could really use.
After all, anyone that thinks it’s okay to engage in unethical behavior as long as it doesn’t cross the line into illegal, particularly where her kids are concerned, has probably passed on her own morals and values to her children.
And that frightens the heck out of me.
It has also gotten me curious about how many parents would do what Venusto did if they had the opportunity.
I would never change grades that my children earned, partly because I’m a teacher myself but even more so because the earlier kids learn to take responsibility for their own actions, the better.
My daughter got a D in Calculus the first semester of her senior year … you know, the period that colleges are looking closely at when considering acceptance? She knew better than to try to blame the teacher, claim the class was “too hard”, or tell me that half the class was failing as well. Why? Because she’d tried that when she was struggling with Chemistry, and I asked her if she had taken copious notes, studied the book extensively, and gone to the teacher for extra help on a regular basis. She admitted that she had not, and I told her that, when and if those things had happened, I would have sympathy, but until then, she had to live with the consequences.
So how about you? Would you break the law to change grades for your children’s benefit?
And, in your opinion, did Venusto’s shenanigans cross the line from “unethical” to “illegal”?