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Unsuspecting teachers end up on the Net

Reading, writing and recording may be the new three R's of education in some classrooms this fall.

With schools set to reopen, teachers better be ready for their close-ups, as cell phones and other video recording devices are increasingly being used surreptitiously by students to capture their teachers in action.

Lose your temper, stumble, stutter, drop an inappropriate word or commit any other manner of misstep and the online world may become hot for teachers with the help of aspiring Spielbergs who record the action and post it to YouTube, MySpace or any of hundreds of other video-sharing sites.

"Teachers really have to be wary of everything they say and do in the classroom unless they want to be the next YouTube star," said Paul Monroe, who helps run Teach-nology.com, a Web portal used by thousands of teachers worldwide.

"They should never say anything in a classroom that they would not say in front of thousands of people, including those who are signing their checks," he said.

Angry teacher, stupid teacher, stoned teacher, profane teacher -- they're all out there making educators into reluctant stars of the small screen.

Sometimes, students intentionally push their teachers to the edge in the hopes of capturing them in meltdown. And while most public schools have policies that ban recording devices in classrooms, the digital action shows no sign of letting up.

Though there are no national or state standards, education officials recommend that all school districts establish policies on the possession and use of recording hardware in school and make the rules clear to students, faculty and parents.

"This is the time -- now, at the beginning of the school year -- to be making the students, parents, everyone that is in the school, aware of what the policies are," said Shana Kemp of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

"It is a growing issue because of the rapid spread of technology. It's a different day and age now and tech is a growing concern, even as it provides benefits to students and the schools as well," she said.

Christie Stokhamer, a 17-year-old senior at Ocean Township High School in New Jersey, said students are well-aware of cell phone policies, which at her school require phones to be turned off and left in lockers. Whether they obey the rules is another story.

"Most kids keep their phones with them, but keep them on silent or vibrate so they don't go off in class. Students don't like to be without their phones, even in class, because they could miss an important call," Stokhamer said. Enforcement of the policy, she said, depends on individual teachers.

While many classroom events have been chronicled over the years on Internet video sites, two stand out. Both have attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers.

One shows an unnamed college professor who continues talking even as he approaches a student who has just answered his cell phone. He calmly grabs the kid's phone and slams it to the floor, all the while continuing his lecture.

The other took place at Brick Township High School in New Jersey in 2005 and may be the most well-known in-class recording. It shows electronics teacher Stuart Mandel as he attempts to subdue a raucous class of teenage boys as the National Anthem is played over the school P.A.

"I don't want to hear a sound! Not a sound! Morning exercises will come on, you will stand, you will stand quietly, you will pay attention! Any questions?" he shouts. When one of the youths, identified on the video as Jay, refuses to stand, the teacher jostles his chair to force him up.

"Are you serious?" the boy asks.

"I am damn well serious," the teacher shouts back.

Mandel, who was not disciplined, no longer teaches at the school and declined to discuss the episode. The student who recorded the incident was suspended.

Kathy Coulibaly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Education Association, said it's up to teachers to maintain an appropriate education environment and to enforce policies on cell phones.

"High school students can be disruptive even without recording devices. ... Teachers should continue to do as our members do and that is be the professionals that they are. If something happens, there are always witnesses, so it doesn't matter if it's recorded or not," she said.

Lisa Soronen, a senior staff attorney for the National School Boards Association, said the larger sites, like YouTube and MySpace, are sensitive to the problem and will sometimes remove content at the request of schools.

MySpace has a telephone hotline for school administrators, and YouTube routinely removes content that violates its terms of use, which ban videos that show "people getting hurt, attacked or humiliated."

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