Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dilemma: an obscene gay e-mail

Good news about my car which my daughter put into the ditch on Sunday!  Many pounds of frozen mud and ice were melted from the front end and it was discovered that there was no damage.  This means a $50 repair bill instead of $500.  Woo-hoo!!

Late last night, I received the following e-mail to my school account:

Subject:  period 4 math questions
Hello Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ .....  please fuck me in the ass and cum in it. Breeding is fun.
Of Age ;)
Two pictures were attached of a full-frontal, naked fat guy, probably someone older than a teenager.  Clearly, the sender knew me fairly well;  my teaching schedule and my frequently-mispelled last name were correct.  I would also speculate that the sender is probably questioning his own sexuality.

Cyberbullying of teachers, especially on a gay theme, is not unusual.  Teachers have been victimized the world over with their pictures photoshopped and widely distributed and fake profiles set up on various gay sites.

I've had my face photoshopped countless times and a fake classroom website set up which pretended to be in my name, but these were done by students who were supportive and in fact, infatuated with me. And the photoshoppers proudly showed me the modified pictures of me;  all in good fun! 

But this was my first obscene e-mail!   I was (and am) amused by it, just imagining how much fun the giggling, goofy boy(s) got out of sending it.  In my subject area, I teach mainly goofy boys.
But then my feelings became more conflicted as I considered the bigger picture. 
  1. I don't like the idea of naked imagines on my my school e-mail account.  If I had SENT such pictures from my school e-mail, I would face severe consequences from my employer and from the provincial body regulating teachers.
  2. I was concerned and annoyed that students would be so lacking in judgement as to send such an inappropriate e-mail to a professional in his work environment.  Did they really think that I wouldn't report it?  

  3. Recently, a student from my school tea-bagged a drunk student from a rival school at a party. Other students posted the picture of the drunk young man with balls hanging in his face.  Eventually, school authorities and the police found out and the consequences were severe!
  4. I wondered how "out" I really am at school.  Did the student who sent this really think that I am still in the closet?  I wouldn't want them to think that was afraid to report this for fear of outing myself.

    I came out to many close colleagues three years ago and from what I've heard since, I think every teacher in my school now knows as well as colleagues from other schools in our division.  
  5. I've never openly discussed my gayness with students but frankly, it should be obvious to all but the most clueless among them just from my voice alone.  I'm also very "gay-supportive" in my comments in class!  As well, many, many students saw me when I attended our Pride events last June. 
  6. I wouldn't want these obscene, gay e-mails to become a regular occurrence.
  7.  My last thought:  if they are sending such e-mails to someone in a position of relative power, they might also be sending similar ones to some little gay kids who who don't have the resources or confidence to combat cyberbullying.   Ignoring it just sends out the message that this behaviour is acceptable.
What to do, what to do?

To start, I forwarded the e-mail to our teachers' union president for advice;  a fantastic, dynamic younger man who is highly supportive of me and my gayness.

I'll hear from him in a few hours but I'm sure he will tell me to report it to my principal.   My principal is a .... how to put this tactfully.... a useless tit ....  a wet dishrag..... so I don't expect too much effective action. But at this stage, it would be extremely unwise for me to go over his head and report this to the Superintendent.

I would like our division network administrators to be informed so they could examine the e-mail more closely, although I doubt they can track its sender.  I assume that the police would have more resources to deal with this but one e-mail does not constitute cyberbullying, I think.



  1. If I didn't know you so well I'd be a lot more concerned with this news. But I know what a capable, respected and experienced teacher you are and an intelligent and confident man. You know what you're doing, you know your students and you know kids this age. That said, I'll still be a bit worried for you and fairly pissed that someone sent you this tasteless and homophobic/hateful email. Maybe in a future post, you could tell us some more about what students do to their teachers. I most I remember doing was complaining about them but I also (starting in the 6th grade) would give them coffee cups with their names on them. I'd pick out special cups and them take them to a ceramics shop and have their name glazed on them. (yes I was one of those students which served as fuel for my bullies).

    ps. I take it by the tile of this post you have received other obscene emails but this was the first gay one? :/

    1. Sean, my first reaction was amusement which then turned to annoyance as I considered all the implications. Now, I'm fairly sure that the sender was a student in one of my classes which is something I'm not happy about. But I'm not overly worried about it.

      I will write a future blog about this issue and any future developments.

      I've never received an obscene e-mail nor a crank call. But it used to be fairly common for teachers to receive them. (the phone calls, I mean)

      My father was a school administrator who always had his full name listed in the phone book. We received crank calls every now and then throughout my growing-up years. He was scornful of (in his words) "chickenshit administrators who have unlisted numbers."

      When I first married but before I became a teacher, we got crank calls from my wife's students, many of whom were delinquents and criminals because she taught in a half-way house type of facility. I wasn't comfortable with that and delisted our number.

      PS: Gosh, I think that is incredibly sweet of you, giving teachers cups with their names on them! I hope they appreciated you! I'll bet you're still that same sweet person. It saddens me, retroactively, to hear about the bullies.

  2. You've thought it out quite well, I think. Cyber-bullying of this type (and I believe that's what this is) is best reported at the onset rather than waiting. I hope it doesn't continue...

    1. Yes, my union president agreed completely. He said that I should NEVER respond to the e-mail directly but immediately report it to the school administration.

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, anne marie. It's been reported and the principal gave quite a satisfactory response. An investigation is underway with the help of our computer technicians. :-)

  4. I would be mortified. I am not out at work to the students, but cannot imagine.

    1. I might very well be the most relaxed person I know. To me, it's all water off a duck's back. I actually laughed out loud when I first read the message.... just imagining the delight of the silly boys as they wrote it. But it is unacceptable behaviour and yes, I'm now annoyed with the students who sent it.

      But this situation poses no risk to me at all, both professionally, personally or how I'm regarded in the school. Just to toot my own horn, I have the advantage of being an extremely popular, "cool" teacher who is highly respected by my colleagues and administration.

      I also work for an employer for which being a gay teacher is not just tolerated but celebrated..... and I mean this seriously. So I know that my principal and employer will do everything possible to get to the bottom of this.

      As to being "out" to my students, because my son is in grade 12 at my school, I am only "semi-out." All my gay students know for sure that I'm gay (I've run into some of them at Pride events) .... but I'm fairly sure that the straight ones may not know or might only suspect.

      Next September after my son graduates, I will be the most "out" teacher ever! No holding back!

    2. I think this is one of the reasons why your son is so attached to you. You don't "flaunt" your gayness, so it doesn't affect him. A son wouldn't want his dad flaunting his hetero sex life at school either! It just reinforces my thoughts that you rank among the top of the bell curve of dads!
      Peace <3

  5. Technical analysis:
    Keep the original message in the mailbox it came into (presumably your Inbox).
    DO NOT forward it. If someone (the network sysadmins) need to see it, you MUST either drag the email to the email you start to the admins as an attachment, OR you must open the email, find the FULL INTERNET HEADERS and copy those with the entire message into the one to the admins (if you don't know how to do this, just get the network guys to come do it for you).
    If it was sent from within your school's network, it might be trackable to a particular computer, but if students do not log in with a specific account name, it probbaly can't be tracked to an individual.
    If it was sent from outside your network, and this does not rise to the level of a crime, don't expect anyone to track it very far. We can't get subpoenas for IP addresses from ISPs unless the communication is a crime, ie, kiddy porn, threatening, etc.

    If you want more details, email me directly (DON'T send the email!). I do this for a living.
    Peace <3

  6. Thanks for all the technical advice:

    1. Yes, it is still in my Inbox where it will remain. I did forward a copy to my principal and union president.
    2. I'll chat with the network administrator if needed and allow them full access to my school e-mail account.
    3. It is extremely unlikely that it was sent from within the school. All students log in with a specific account name and know that all of their keystrokes can potentially be tracked. It was a gmail account.

    4. No, I don't expect (or even want) anyone to track it if it was sent externally.

    1. I saw your other replies. If it was gmail, forget it. Google is near impossible to track. They track you, you can't track them! HAHAHAHA

      I doubt you'll get many more.

      Another thing: we have "content control" and "image control" filters on our email network. Don't say "fuck" or "shit" or send a nude pic, our administrators will know it before the recipient!

      Peace <3

    2. Yes, , it was Gmail and was sent in the evening so it couldn't have been sent from within the school.

      I sure every school had filters on content which can be viewed online..... makes it difficult when you're trying to teach reproduction and "penis" keeps getting blocked. lol

      I don't care if they track the sender or not.

      One option wiuld be for them to block all incoming e-mails from hotmail or Gmail.

  7. Goodness! Up until now I wasn't even aware students could send emails to teachers, which of course means a teacher could get nasty emails like this. Who knew? I am naif.
    So I have not advice, other than don't let the bully keep you cowed/alone.

    1. In my school division, there's a great push on for the "paperless classroom" where students e-mail their assignments rather than as hard copies. But even without that, a student could easily figure out his teachers address because they're all the same format:

      But this issue of nasty e-mails sent to teachers is just emerging and eventually, I hope, some restrictions will be put in place to prevent this from happening.

  8. It was bound to happen eventually. Looks like you are handling it well. As for " my voice alone", I remember you made a similar comment to me years ago. I don't think there is anything inherently "gay" in your voice.

    1. My voice is a bit gay-sounding; I have no doubt that it is.


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