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Snow Boundaries: The Fairfax Schools YouTube Story

Here's today's column on the case of the Fairfax County high school senior who called a top schools administrator at home to complain about school staying open on a snowy afternoon--and got a startling mouthful from the administrator's wife, which the kid then posted for all the world to hear on YouTube. For more on the issues raised in today's column, check out my magazine piece on toxic parents.

The kid knows no boundaries. But neither does the adult. The high school senior is so lost in a hyper-public, YouTube world that he thinks nothing of forwarding a private phone call to the entire planet. The wife of the Fairfax County schools administrator the kid called at home is understandably miffed about the invasion into her private sphere, yet she returns fire with a shockingly disproportionate blast of rage.

Every once in a while, a story confronts us with just how deeply divided we are -- and how little we realize it. In Washington Post reporter Michael Alison Chandler's tale of how Lake Braddock Secondary School senior Devraj Kori called the chief operating officer of the Fairfax system to ask why schools weren't shut during last week's light snowfall, there are no good guys. There is only a confrontation with the gulfs that separate digital kids from analog parents and new concepts of community from old notions of responsibility.

No one in a story like this sees himself as having done wrong. When Kori called administrator Dean Tistadt's home number to voice his opinion that school ought to be closed, he thought he was standing up for himself and his fellow students, just as adults often encourage kids to do. The idea that he crossed a line by calling an adult's home is an alien concept to people who chronicle their every social encounter on Facebook or MySpace. "We are the cellphone generation," Kori said. "We are used to being reached at all times."

Or as a reader on washingtonpost.com put it, "Who has a home phone anymore?"

Nor would someone who thinks like that pause before posting on YouTube the intemperate response he received to his adolescent plea for a snow day.

Similarly, when Candy Tistadt returned Kori's call and left a message referring to the students her husband serves as "snotty-nosed little brats" and urged Kori to "Get over it, kid, and go to school!" she could not have imagined that her righteous tirade would be enshrined on the Web and on Page One of The Washington Post.

"It used to be you could have an inappropriate or rude conversation with someone, and it would stay private," says Ron McClain, director of the Parkmont School in the District and the parent of teenagers in the Montgomery County schools. "There's a much fuzzier line between public and private now. This is a case where the technology has outpaced our ability to cope with its effects. As parents, we're way behind."

At home and at work, McClain says, he sees "boundaries dissolving. I send my kid a text message, and I expect an answer at the end of the day, but I hear right back, while he's in English class. I didn't mean for that to happen, but for kids, that's how they converse. They don't leave their friends like we did to go home to your family and your homework. Their conversations just keep going, all through the night."

In the Fairfax case, the kid was clearly out there. Blame technological change all you want, but even today, most teens wouldn't dare call a school administrator at home. Heck, most teens I know consider phone conversations as enticing as a bowl of anthrax. When it comes to speaking to anyone in authority, if they can't type it, they'd rather not say it. Kori was out to press some buttons.

So this is as much a matter of etiquette as digital revolution. Some readers think Kori will get his in a few years, when he's on the job market. Employers will Google him and toss his r¿sum¿ in the trash, one online commenter said. "Technology bytes both ways, kid."

That may be an overly optimistic reading. "That kind of chutzpah may reward him in a culture where people value that kind of cheeky behavior," McClain says.

Heaven help us. Or maybe teachers can still help. Julie Good, who runs a program at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville that trains students interested in being teachers, agrees that boundaries have shifted but says that teachers who move in step with young people will usually be rewarded with civil and appropriate behavior.

"I give my kids my cellphone, my office phone, my home phone, my three e-mails and my Facebook," she says. "This is a 24-7 job, and I've never had a problem with kids abusing it." As for the YouTube posting in the Fairfax case, "Hey, it's called freedom of speech," Good says, reminding me that "at this age, impulse control hasn't kicked in fully."

Teachers these days must come to terms with seeing their performance scored on RateMyTeachers.com and having their in-class comments recorded on cellphone videos and posted on the Web.

"There is no privacy," Good says. "I had that lesson seared into me very early. I was teaching elementary school in the '60s and said something in class about the Vietnam War, and I had a parent call me out. Nothing has changed, except that you can disseminate it via YouTube."

If Tistadt "had just said, 'Thank you for your call; I'll share this with my husband,' that would have been the end of it," Good says. "We all have a breaking point, but you can't break anymore without the rest of the world knowing about it."

The tools may be new, but the basics stay the same: Teens will use lousy judgment, and adults will have a choice: Let kids make mistakes even as you set and enforce clear boundaries, or leave them to wander like lost souls and then pay the consequences when a Devraj Kori grows up to become a Candy Tistadt.

By Marc Fisher |  January 24, 2008; 6:47 AM ET
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Comments

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Dean Tistadt's wife can say anything she wants to anybody who calls her and invades her privacy. As the student, and the teacher (Julie Good), proclaim : "It's called Freedom of Speech". Fine. She was exercising hers. Deal with it.

Freedom of Speech works both ways too. If you can't take it, don't be dishing it out.

On a side note: this kid needs a couple parents to take him aside and tell him to get a grip on reality. If he tries something like this with Mom or Dad's boss, the family income may be drastically reduced.

Posted by: SoMD | January 24, 2008 7:21 AM

I couldn't agree more, nobody comes out of this debacle looking like they have good judgement, except perhaps Mr. Tistadt who certainly made the correct decision to keep the schools open during such a light snowfall.

Posted by: NoVa | January 24, 2008 8:38 AM

If my husband responded to a work message left for me the way Mrs. Tistadt responded to the work message left for her husband, I'd kill him. She was way out of line, particularly given that her husband is a public official with a publicly listed telephone number. Why was the number listed if he didn't want his constituents to be able to call it?

The kid did what we always tell kids to do: he stood up to the system when it made a decision that he felt (and given how high school kids operate, that the other students at his high school felt) was a bad, dangerous decisions. I'm proud of him. I hope he continues to question public officials the same way when he's a grown up. We need more adults like him.

Posted by: Kate | January 24, 2008 8:47 AM

I think the real story is why this brat thought he was owed a snow day. I suppose all those school days that were called off when it didn't actually snow made him think he was entitled to one.
I hate to admit it, but this doofus goes to my school.

Posted by: mart | January 24, 2008 8:56 AM

Although Mrs. Tistdat was answering her own telephone, the message was for her husband - why respond herself? Did the student call repeatedly to their house? No. Did he get upset when some irate adult referred to him as a "snot nosed brat?" yeah. If Mrs. Tistdat had kept her cool, told her husband to take care of it, and not lashed out, the student would have no soundbite to share with the world on YouTube. Don't give kids the fuel, because they will ignite a bigger fire than you think! Adults need to step up to the plate and look at their behavior first before they automatically blame every kid (or other adult/parent, etc) out there. I don't see how it's using lousy judgement to call a public official's house and leave a message, when clearly he was able to obtain that number easily.

Posted by: kd | January 24, 2008 9:15 AM

Whether or not the kid should have called the house, what era is this woman living in? Since about 1983, leaving an irate message has been stupid because the recording of you being a jerk could bite you in the rear end.

Posted by: MB | January 24, 2008 9:23 AM

Kori should not have called the house. Ms. Tistdat should have taken a deep breath, collected herself, and politely informed Kori of this fact rather than ranting on his voicemail as she did. It is important for adults to conduct themselves in a civilized manner when children cannot bring themselves to, both because we are obliged to and because kids aren't going to learn how to do it if we don't show them how. Given that, I'd assign the greater fault to Ms. Tistdat.

Regarding kids who want snow days: When you were in school, you always hoped for a snow day. Admit it. Kori's problem was that he crossed a line, not that he was a "brat" who thought he was owed a snow day.

Posted by: Lindemann | January 24, 2008 9:30 AM

I find it interesting that people assume that this boy, his behavior shows him to be one, was polite. The only thing we know is that he stepped over the line and was embarrassed for it. Ms. Tistdat shouldn't have left a message. She should have talked to him and his parents directly.

However, he will remember this. If not in college or at a job, but when his child questions him about a decision he's made.

Posted by: DW | January 24, 2008 9:35 AM

Ms. Tistdat should copy the YouTube posting plus a few of the news articles and forward them to college admissions offices. University presidents just LOVE getting called at home. I am sure they would all want to have this kid in their school!

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | January 24, 2008 9:40 AM

Marc,

Your post leaves a lot of questions unexplored, but to focus on just one issue, how is what this kid did any different than what other journalists (including at the Post) do every day?

Why is it wrong for a kid to call a public official's house but not for a Washington Post reporter to call the same house? Exactly how did Michael Chandler try to contact Ms. Tisdadt? Have you Marc every called a person's non-work number seeking a comment?

It seems incredibly hypocritical for you to criticize the student's actions when you and others in your profession utilize the same methods on a daily basis, and to act as if a reporter's desire to have a juicy story is somehow more important than a kid's inquiry into the safety of himself and his peers

Posted by: AlvinT | January 24, 2008 9:43 AM

Has anyone heard the message that Kori left? How do we know he left a respectful message inquiring about the safety of the students.

Posted by: dmk | January 24, 2008 9:49 AM

As people have said we have no idea how many times Kori called or left other messages prior to the incident

The real adult thing to do would be to simply ignore it

Instead Mrs. Tistdat showed a great deal of immaturity by 1. responding at all and 2. especially in the manor which she did

Posted by: couple points | January 24, 2008 9:59 AM

I couldn't agree more with Alvin T. And why aren't we applauding Kori for actually knowing who the COO of the school system is? How many high school students even know the name of their superintendent? Kori was absolutely within his boundaries in calling Tistadt; by definition, students should be inquisitive and never stop asking "why?"

As for Ms. Tistadt, I can't find fault with her calling Kori, because I don't know if that's how their marriage works. To respond with that degree of outrage was reprehensible coming from an adult, no matter what Kori said. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Additionally, it is inconceivable that someone married to a public official would say those things without realizing the possible implications. Time's Person of the Year a year ago was "You" for a reason: anything and everything is now fair game to be posted online for the world to see. Simply astounding.

Posted by: Ellicott City | January 24, 2008 10:00 AM

The kid took a concern to a public official at a phone number obviously listed to anyone to find. The public official's wife interferes, allows her spittle-spewing rage to be recorded and comes out looking like a raving lunatic. As the mother of two high schoolers, my sympathy is for the kid. Mrs. Tisdadt was not a little over the line, she's in need of anger management counseling. Yikes. Good for Kori for exposing her vindictive and embarassing tirade.

Posted by: Jayne | January 24, 2008 10:01 AM

I could not agree with Ms. Tistadt more. If I were the one responding to this smug, obnoxious little weenie I would have said a lot worse.

How dare he call a private residence to whine that he was expected to go to school in THREE INCHES OF SNOW, (which krybaby kori evidently considers the blizzard of '08.)

If little davey is that distraught over having to go out in snow so high that (gasp!) it might actually cover most of his shoe, the place to complain about it is the school or its administrative offices. Not someone's private home.

I've read several articles about this incident today. And only one or two mention that - because this hoplessly immature crybaby's wiwoo sensibiwities were so offended that he put the response on youtube - the Tistadt's have now received numbers of obscene calls and physical threats.

Did little davey think about that? Did he consider the consequences of his childish revenge? Or isn't a near 4.0 GPA high enough for him to have figured it out?

Lucky for krybaby kori that they don't give GPA credit for maturity. He'd be lucky to get into the local nursery school.

Posted by: Ken Berwitz | January 24, 2008 10:04 AM

Here is what Mrs. Tistadt should have said in her phone message: "We received your phone call. I will be sharing your message with my husband and with the principal and vice principal at Lake Braddock and they will respond to this call appropriately."

That would have left the kid nothing to post to the Internet and might well have earned him a good verbal spanking or even, perhaps, detention. (Do they still have detention?)

And what Marc left out of his piece, but has been reported elsewhere, is that other kids reponded to Kori's online posting by repeatedly calling the Tistadt's house--even at 4 a.m.

This little jerk knew exactly what he was doing my posting the wife's admittedly intemperate message online. Nothing can convince me otherwise.

Posted by: Jack | January 24, 2008 10:04 AM

This whole thing is ridiculous - but there is a part of me that hopes Mr. T unlists his # and makes himself unavailable outside of work (which I would assume would cover real emergencies) and another part of me that hopes Mr. Kori goes on to a professional job, is asked to work late, called in on weekends and holidays, and called at home by his boss ...and has an epiphany about this whole situation and realizes that no one likes to be called at home about work stuff.

Posted by: MD | January 24, 2008 10:07 AM

The best hackers usually end up getting jobs in computer security firms. If you pretentious folks who are calling for his head think that this will keep him out of college and out of a job, I must question your overall sanity.
I hope he is one day your boss, and then fires you for being full of yourself.

Posted by: snowman | January 24, 2008 10:10 AM

Have we forgotten that kids are inherently kind of stupid, and that it's in their nature to do stupid things? That's why we have to be adults. Kori is in the wrong, but I question whether the people calling for this episode to haunt him for the rest of his natural-born life were ever teenagers themselves.

Posted by: Lindemann | January 24, 2008 10:23 AM

When I was admitted to NYU Law School, I attended an admitted-students reception there. John Sexton, the dean at the time, said that his number was published and he encouraged students to call him whenever they had questions or concerns, or just wanted to talk. He was a well-respected and well-liked administrator and understood his role as helping and working with students, not just lording over them his status as an untouchable administrator and their status as "snotty-nosed brats."

I continue to be appalled at commenters' attitudes toward what happened here - especially the double standard they seem to advocate. How can anyone defend the wife's rude and over-the-top behavior - especially when they condemn the student's behavior (which seems to amount to calling a PUBLISHED number, not saying anything obscene, etc.)? I commented before that I find this double standard indefensible - zero tolerance for students, 100% tolerance for the bad behavior of adults/administrators.

If you think these whippersnappers ;) have no respect for authority....or whatever it is you hostile posters (who apparently have some vendetta against suburban schoolkids, given your hostile words) have been saying......well, no wonder.

Posted by: PQ | January 24, 2008 10:27 AM

Kori is an embarrassment to Fairfax County's once-proud educational system.

Posted by: JohnDewey | January 24, 2008 10:29 AM

It's irrelevant that the phone number was published. The kid called the personal home with a non-emergency question. Call the office and cell numbers. Send an e-mail. Don't invade the privacy of the family.

It's a matter of manners. The kid made the mistake of calling in the first place then posting on You Tube in the second.

Is it his 1st Amendment right? Sure, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do. And, he should apologize publically (and on You Tube) for the grief his stupidity has caused the family.

Don't reward the kid for being a pompass donkey. He needs to understand that actions have consequences.

As should the wife apologize for her inappropriate response. She had every right to be incensed, but really should have just forwarded the message to her husband/the school principal instead.

Posted by: Post43 | January 24, 2008 10:38 AM

Why is Ron McClain who Marc quotes as the Director of the Parkmont School in the District sending his kids to school in Montgomery county........Maybe if some of these adminstrators had to send their own kids to District schools, they would have a vested interest in helping the school instead of pulling down a paycheck. Michelle Rhee should be commended for putting her money where her month is and sending her own kids to District schools. And don't feed me a bunch of crap about the cost of housing in D.C., it ain't cheap in MoCo either.

Posted by: DC Resident | January 24, 2008 10:48 AM

Candy Tistadt works at Eagle View Elementary School and we should all question whether she should be near children at all. She clearly lacks good judgement and patience and should probably attend some anger management classes.

I wonder how many kids at her school have received her "snotty little brats" wrath?

Posted by: takebackourschools | January 24, 2008 10:52 AM

Why do people keep implying that the administrator was "asking for it" by having a public phone number? How long has he been in service with the school system and NOT been bothered by a -yes- bratty student over an issue as irrelevant as a snow day?

Also, Freedom of Speech was declared in reference to the right to protest oppressive government, not to bring a stupid quibble to a public employee's private home.

Posted by: CDell | January 24, 2008 11:03 AM

Something has gone wrong in our society when adults fail to realize that they are adults and kids are still kids. I'm reading rants about invasions of privacy and parents needing to teach this kid a lesson . . . well, that's the point! This is a perfect teaching opportunity.

What a great time to talk to kids about privacy and the line between work, school and home. What a perfect time to discuss how to handle frustration and perceived invasions of your privacy. Now is the time to start a dialog about how to stand up for oneself without calling other people names. "Snotty-nosed brats", are you kidding me? Now is also the time to teach kids about what to do when you make a mistake.

It's as if we have forgotten that kids will make mistakes and be inappropriate, it's how they learn, it's what gives us a chance to teach them how to behave more responsibly in a communal society! It is our job as adults to lead by example and ensure that kids do learn for these situations. I've been working with kids for 16 years and have found that simple statements about how their actions can be interpreted as rude or thoughtless go much farther than ranting at them and calling them names. Hopefully we all learn from this situation.

Posted by: jar | January 24, 2008 11:11 AM

The wife would have done better to leave a polite admonishment on the kid's voicemail about his very inappropriate call. But I can't say I wouldn't have been annoyed too. Her mistake was in not censoring herself.

But I can't believe anyone is defending him for "sticking up to authority." Please. He was being a little punk. Who does he think he is? Does he really think that the administrator should be available to take calls from students who feel they are entitled to their own personal explanation about the lack of a snow day?

Apparently so, because kids today are taught that they are the center of the universe. If I have a complaint about some policy at work am I entitled to call the boss of my boss at home to complain?

Posted by: Kath | January 24, 2008 11:13 AM

It's Candy Tistadt that seems like the "snotty-nosed brat" here.

Posted by: PQ | January 24, 2008 11:13 AM

"Why is Ron McClain who Marc quotes as the Director of the Parkmont School in the District sending his kids to school in Montgomery county........Maybe if some of these adminstrators had to send their own kids to District schools, they would have a vested interest in helping the school instead of pulling down a paycheck."

Point taken, but I'm pretty sure Parkmont is a private school ... if it's the one I'm thinking about on 16th Street not far from the amphitheater.

Posted by: mccxxiii | January 24, 2008 11:18 AM

Where are this child's parents? If I were his mother I would be mortified, would ground the little SOB, and his cell phone would end up in the garbage disposal. This little kid's overweening sense of entitlement does not permit him to haul off and obtain an audience with a school official at their residence simply because he wants to go home early from school.
I think the media should stop paying attention to this little brat and making him a hero in his high school.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 11:29 AM

Those of you who are blaming the wife are crazy and are probably responsible for the downfall of civil society in this country.

Several points:
A) You should be allowed to have a publicly listed phone number and be a school official without being harrassed at home by a student "standing up for himself."

B) If a student wants to "stand up for himself", he can send an email.

C) The wife made a mistake in judgment by the kind of message she left for the student. However, it was just her irritation getting the better of her. We've all lost our temper from time to time and said something we later regretted. This was not premeditated rudeness.

D) The kid was DEAD wrong to post her message on the internet.

E) If this were a private school, I assure you that the student would have been suspended or even expelled for his series of actions.

F) Once again, this proves that the litigious parents who sue public schools all the time are responsible for the increase in rudeness and irresponsibility masquerading as "freedom". Like I said, in private schools and probably public schools in a normal world, this kid would have been severely punished.

Posted by: Ryan | January 24, 2008 11:35 AM

Both sides behaved badly. Kori crossed the line, however, by the Facebook entry. That was indeed a willful, malicious act, and he had to have known what the potential effects would be.

Posted by: Toonces | January 24, 2008 11:40 AM

Why hasn't this kid been suspended yet?

Posted by: Huh? | January 24, 2008 11:42 AM

Candy's tirade has been played on the morning talk shows where I heard it this morning (so retro). But I don't know anybody's wife who takes calls for her husband. That was Candy's first mistake. Her second was leaving an angry message at all. Her third was calling the children of people who pay her husband's salary "spoiled brats." I don't know what planet the woman is from, but it's clear she's never worked outside her home, especially with a name like "Candy." Who would actually call themselves "Candy" these days? Clearly, Candy never has to worry about getting a job because nobody but her ladies' clubs would hire her -- and they porobably think she's a pompous, self-centered beyatch too.

Posted by: mclovin | January 24, 2008 11:44 AM

Did the kid try calling the COO's Office phone, like one would assume you might do during BUSINESS hours? Could he be any more self-centered? Did he think about the fact that everyone was safely IN school and that , in fact, the COO had made the RIGHT decison?

Posted by: jmsbh | January 24, 2008 12:20 PM

To think in the age of George Allen's "Macaca" moment that this is somehow beyond the pale is absurd. Not to mention the 1950s standards of etiquette being bandied about on here like every adult still refers to each other by their surname. To make it seem like a generational gap when "adults" do this just as often is hypocritical.

From what we can tell he didn't leave a confrontational message. She did- one that was completely over the top given the situation. Can you say rage issues? Since when are we not allowed to question the leadership? And these parents saying the amount of snow didn't warrant it - oh please. They come from the very same "all about me" generation and now they're going to trot out statements akin to "when I was their age I walked up hill both ways in the snow". Let's dial down the rhetoric on both sides. The internet is here, it's not going away get used to it, or get a thick enough skin to expect your own YouTube moment.

Posted by: Polianna | January 24, 2008 12:30 PM

jsmbh, if you read the original Post article, you'll find the following sentence:

{Kori] said that he tried unsuccessfully to contact Dean Tistadt at work and that he thought he had a basic right to petition a public official for more information about a decision that affected him and his classmates.

Posted by: AlvinT | January 24, 2008 12:31 PM

After reading a few other posts on this topic it appears we do have a generation gap that includes basic rights and principles. The younger generation (my middle school son included) seem to feel that with the advent of cell phones and 24-7 contact with their friends, they have the right to extend that contact throughout their sphere of influence.

I have also seen posts stating similar comments: A listed phone number is not private.

Let's carry that privacy issue a little further then. Are the people of that opinion also willing to say that walking down a public street is not private? Driving in your car is not private? Because, if so, they will have no argument against red-light traffic cameras or the basic surveillance cameras that are being added all over DC. After all, you are outside in public, so you don't have a right to privacy when you are doing so. Right?

Kinda hurts when you apply their logic throughout are way of life.

Posted by: SoMD | January 24, 2008 12:40 PM

white kids...

Posted by: Mike | January 24, 2008 12:47 PM

Polianna, your arguments are absurd because you're creating a straw man argument (do you know what that is?).

I am actually relatively young (under 30) and I find the kid's behavior unacceptable. You simply don't call people at home about work-related things (unless, of course, this is an explicitly acceptable thing to do). To have a school child call a school official about this is just ridiculous.

Posted by: Ryan | January 24, 2008 1:03 PM

The kid is a brat. He should be suspended. I hope this affects his college admission. My mother was a teacher, and in 8 years I only recall two phone calls from students, neither of which were homework-related.

Posted by: SoVa | January 24, 2008 1:04 PM

Only white kids would make that phonecall in the first place -- and only white women would respond like that. You all need to explore other options...

Posted by: Milton | January 24, 2008 1:10 PM

Mike rocks.

You all will do as you like. My middle school son will get a cell phone with strict instructions that he can only call his friends 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. M-F and 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sat and Sun, and that grown-ups like teachers and other professionals are only contacted via any medium after receiving parental approval. Infractions will be dealth with, but I like the idea expressed above of the garbage disposal.

Posted by: Tracey | January 24, 2008 1:11 PM

OMG!!! It's snowing in St. Mary's County.

I think I will call Senator Hoyer and ask him to declare martial law. LOL

Posted by: SoMD | January 24, 2008 1:16 PM

This kid is a pantywaist for not being able to deal with snow, and the wife should've just ignored his idiotic message.

Posted by: Sparky | January 24, 2008 1:26 PM

Ryan

he probably would not have been suspended from any reasonable private school(and he wasn't from his public school). sure maybe people at one of the more stuck up schools would have their feathers ruffled by this, but in some schools, students are actually encouraged to interact with their teachers and admins, address each other on a first name basis, and generally dont have a stick stuck up the backside.

Posted by: snowman | January 24, 2008 1:26 PM

Here's the way I see it:

WRONG: The administrator's wife's message. Inappropriate between adults, and especially inappropriate in response to a student (because she is an adult and should know better). I just don't understand how people can bemoan the loss of a "civil society," then make excuses why people can be uncivil. Try courtesy -- you can be polite AND firm, and it's not that hard.

MARGINALLY WRONG: A student calling an administrator to eke out a snow day. I understand, and remember, the feeling, but come on, this is not Maine. There is no safety issue here. This would be better handled in a school newspaper editorial. Poor judgment on Kori's part.

MARGINALLY WRONG: The student posting the voice mail on YouTube. This is a close call. Personally, I think the student did it with bad intent -- to embarrass and humiliate the caller. It all gets back to civility. On the other hand, if the administrator's wife does not want people listening to her rants, then she should not rant into a recording microphone. This is common sense -- once a message leaves your possession, it leaves your control. This is also not a "new technology" issue. Sure this is a voice mail on YouTube, but we've seen this over and over with misdirected e-mails, purloined letters, and intercepted diaries. Bottom line -- if you have private thoughts you want to keep private, don't make them public.

NOT WRONG: A student calling an administrator on a publicly-listed number. I'm sorry, but by definition, a PUBLIC number means the PUBLIC can call you, which is probably to be expected for a PUBLIC official. If the administrator does not want these calls, then simply unlist the number. This is a no-brainer.

Posted by: BK | January 24, 2008 1:32 PM

There is a right to free speech, but that does not mean that right applies to yelling fire in a crowded movie theater. There is also a right to privacy. How many millions put themselves on the do not call register to stop the invasion of their privacy. Usually, more than one person lives at the other end of that phone. The student had no right to invade the privacy of that home. Boneheaded and stupid? Yes. Malicious? Not until he took it further. Then it crossed the line. The wife? Boneheaded and stupid? Yes, both in the content of her rant, but moreso that she even acknowleged the student's rudeness and invasion of her family's privacy.

Posted by: Ace | January 24, 2008 1:46 PM

Here is where I stand:

* The initial call seemed to be unreasonable. Unless 3" of snow is truly a reason to cancel school (it wasn't where I grew up, which was in Pittsburgh, PA), the call seems to be a student complaining about not getting a day off. That is regardless of the politeness of the call.

* The return call was entirely unreasonable.

* The online posting, if for the intent of having people call Mrs. Tistadt, would clearly be illegal. On the other hand, the simple posting seems legal. (Can others with legal backgrounds clarify this?)

* (Often, outrageous behavior goes unpunished because it occurs in private. I find Mrs. Tistadt's response to be outrageous. She should be held to account for her statement, and not hide behind false privacy issues to defend her statement. The test is: Would the statement be reasonable if made in a public arena?)

* I am accepting the points of view of others that have posted, but ...

* I am dismayed by Marc Fisher's lack of objectivity. I find Mr. Fisher's presentation to be biased in favor of Mrs. Tistadt. I would be alright with this, except that ...

* Mr. Fisher is functioning as a reporter, and has higher standards to meet than do folks who send in responses (such as this one).

* I would be more forgiving if Mr. Fisher 'fessed up to his bias up front. (Although, I take that as his responsibility, plain and simple, not just in regards to the issue being discussed.)

Posted by: tfb | January 24, 2008 1:48 PM

The wife deserves to have her rage filled message made public; she deserves embarassment over this. She clearly has a disdain for "snot nosed brats" while she and her husband BOTH make their living off them. She should probably have an unlisted number.

Posted by: Suzy2 | January 24, 2008 1:54 PM

Oh, and another thing that I think people have some misconceptions about. If you're on the Board of Education you don't deal with kids. Period. Maybe the SGA of a high school now and again, but it's not like Tistadt is slogging it in the trenches alongside the teachers.

Also, it doesn't matter what 3" of snow does to Pittsburgh, Denver, or Ottawa. This is Fairfax. The DC area does not have the same snow removal budget as, say, Omaha. Because it doesn't snow here that much. Hence, ice on the roads becomes a bit more of an emergency since it is generally a surprise. Kind of like if an earthquake rocked...Bangor, Maine. People seem to forget this for some reason...

And another thing. Board members can take leave. Or, with the money they make, buy the biggest, toughest urban assault vehicle they can find for times when the roads are less than perfect. The average teacher's income, on the other hand, limits them to something more along the lines of a 1998 Honda Civic. Nor do they have the luxury of calling out if the roads are bad; if the kids gotta go, so do they.

Finally, kids are legally required to go to school. The poor kids too, by the way, who don't have the option to drive or be driven. And the option to take a bus isn't always there either. A lot of kids walk. Cancelling school on days when there's ice and/or snow is a safety decision, not a treat for the kids.

Posted by: whorton1 | January 24, 2008 2:06 PM

Since when is the First Amendment the only the only place that speaks to what, where and when people can say/communicate. Many of you, like I, surely have been in many situations in jobs where we have agreed to restrictions on what we can say/disclose.

Many states restrict the recording of phone conversations (unless one, or both parties agree, depending on the state).

Although I, and a large percentage of the people I work with, at a very large company, work from home and on the road. I do not expect to invade their families' privacy by calling their home phones, nor do I expect them to call mine, unless some additional personal relationship exists.

I grew up around here - Attended PG Schools and we had our share of snow days. I believe now the trend is to close schools more readily and in a more organized fashion. I remember days in the 60s and 70s when we would get to school only to be sent home because the decision was made after kids were on the way in...I have not seen that recently.

Analysis:

Kid should not have called the home of the COO - period. What is next - showing up at his house to discuss his decisions if he does not return the call? [Parenting question is valid]

Wife should have let it slide - unless the home phone had been inundated by such calls - not in evidence here.

Kid posted the call to embarass/shame - plain and simple. Nothing to do with transparencey of the process.

I'm sorry - I have worked in local government, and citizens have certain rights to know some things and to be properly notified and state their position when their interests are at stake, but ther are limits - and why schools are closed on certain days not on others is too complex (and time constrained) an issue to have a reasonable and timely discourse/disclosure.

Posted by: TC | January 24, 2008 2:14 PM

If you read the transcript of the message left by Mrs. Tistadt, it seems obvious that the message left by the student stated that he first called the work number and got no answer, so then he called the home number and in his message made the insinuation that Dean Tistadt was at home taking his own snowday while the kids had to stay in school.

Mrs. Tistadt's only mistake was in not fully considering the ability of the student to strike back at her.

The student was a presumptuous little rat who did not in the least get what he deserved. He assumed that with his 3.97 GPA he was smart enough to question the decisions of the school officials. "Snotty little brat" was the polite way of describing him.

Posted by: wpender | January 24, 2008 2:53 PM

I encourage everyone involved in this incident to watch PBS Frontline's show Growing Up Online that aired earlier this week. You can view it online at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline How appropriate that it aired during a week that many adults learned the impact of YouTube. Educators and PTAs across the area should sponsor discussion on this topic. This show examines the impact of the Internet on adolescence through the eyes of teens and their parents. It's worth the hour to watch it online.

Posted by: AT Fairfax | January 24, 2008 3:17 PM

1. A typical school administrator has many people who want her/his ear: students, parents, voters with/without kids, the school board, teachers and paraprofessionals, prinicapls, contractors, the media, city council, unions, professionals from other districts and associations, salespeople, lawyers and on and on it goes. And in the midst of this they need to be aware of many educational, legal and safety requirements when making decisions. Sometimes we need to kick up a fuss over something, but sometimes we need to let people do their jobs. I'm amazed at how many people think the world revolves around them.

2. "Also, it doesn't matter what 3" of snow does to Pittsburgh, Denver, or Ottawa. This is Fairfax. The DC area does not have the same snow removal budget as, say, Omaha. Because it doesn't snow here that much. Hence, ice on the roads becomes a bit more of an emergency since it is generally a surprise. Kind of like if an earthquake rocked...Bangor, Maine. People seem to forget this for some reason..."

NOT TRUE! First off, Bangor doesn't get earthquakes multiple times a year. And secondly, there's more snow removal money/equipment up North, but the streets aren't clean as a whistle. Sometimes the main roads are ok but not the side streets, or it's snowing so heavily that trucks can't keep up. What do we do? We drive! S-l-o-w-l-y! Just this week I found old news footage of the 1977 blizzard that hit Cleveland. There were lots of cars, busses and pedestrians out until everything was getting shut down midday. Schools were open at the start of the blizzard too. I still remember crying from the cold while standing at the school bus stop!

Posted by: Tracy | January 24, 2008 3:35 PM

Nobody behaved well here. The student should have had the good manners and common sense not to bother Tistadt at his home. If he had a message for the guy, an office number was the proper place to leave it. That said, adults can suffer from bad manners too and evidently that's what happened here. The proper thing to do would be to simply direct the kid to call the official at the office, not to respond to impolite behavior with even more rudeness. Mrs. Tinstadt should have known better and is now paying an awful price for it. I kind of feel sorry for her. More than the kid. We all have bad days I suppose - we just don't expect them to be broadcast in the national media.

Anyhow, I just wonder when parents stopped teaching their kids to respect boundries and to have some maturity about handling problems. When I was that kid's age I would have never dared to pull a stunt like that. I was taught to respect people's privacy and to take a complaint up through official channels - i.e writing a letter or calling an office.

Anyhow, unless he left a threatening or hostile message, his lack of manners in calling the home did not excuse the response he got either. Self restraint is another virtue too that is lost these days.

Posted by: D Alex. | January 24, 2008 3:57 PM

As I understand it, the student called the office first. Therefore, it is logical to take for granted that, if HE was in school, it was during business hours and apparently a week day.

As a police officer, I have been told that I have a lower expectation of privacy than the general public. Public officials are just that: public officials. Like it or not (and I don't), being a public servant means you have to submit to being somewhat more accessible than Average Joe that works down at the plant. But that goes with the territory. Grow up and get over it.

I also know that one phone call usually does not constitute harassment. Of course, you have to factor in other things such as time of day or night, tone of voice of the caller, etc. But one phone call just don't get it in most cases.

The wife sounds like an arrogant yuppie. She has a husband who has a good, very socially acceptable job that commands a lot of respect and, by God, how dare you question anything he does and, even worse, how dare a mere kid call my house and question my husband's decisions?

As for playing the tape publicly, the wife should have had enough sense not to leave any kind of message. Think about it: a voice mail is not a living human with a faulty memory that might give you some "plausible deniability". No, buddy, it's your loud mouth and your own words. So the wife definitely needs to grow up a little (a lot!) and accept the fact that she literally let her mouth overload her hindmost orifice.

If the kid had left a threatening or obscene message, do you suppose she would hesitate to play it in public?

Posted by: s10drivr | January 24, 2008 4:18 PM

The person at fault here is the 17 year old. Kids these days have an "ID" mentality. The ID stands for "I deserve". I am so sick of kids being treated as if they are the most important thing to have ever walked the face of the earth. The kid started this by playing the tape and creating a web page - now he wants it to end...poor thing - learn to deal w/the consequences. The kid called THEIR house - she has the right to return a call to their house - the kid did not call the school but THEIR HOME!! He is 17 not 12- he is the one who needs to get a grip and grow up. Good luck to him in the world of business - I would never call my boss at home to question him on his decisions regarding the office - if I did - i would be looking for a new job tomorrow.

Posted by: Linda Braly | January 24, 2008 4:43 PM

Mclovin - YOU want to talk about someones name?? That is the basis of your argument - perhaps you had too many snow days!

Posted by: lb | January 24, 2008 4:57 PM

I don't have sympathy for the wife, since she shot herself in the foot. She never even talked with the student live. She heard a message left on their home machine for her husband. If she had answered, she could have simply told him her husband could only be reached at work and not to call their home. Instead, she took umbrage at a message that had already been left, and she took it upon herself to dial the 10 digits and give him a piece of her mind (so to speak).

She still had a chance to get out of this.

I've heard a lot of different voice mail systems, and every one of them gives you one last chance to delete or re-record your message; the messages are not permanent until you make them so. Even after she got all of that initial rage off her chest, she still would have had one last chance to delete her rant about "snotty-nosed brats" from existence. She probably even had a chance to play it back and decide whether or not she went too far. Nope. She saved the message; she knew what had been recorded, and she wanted him to hear it exactly as she delivered it.

She just didn't bank on the ENTIRE WORLD hearing it, too.

Posted by: TBSS | January 24, 2008 5:04 PM

Posted by: Tracey | January 24, 2008 5:49 PM

Whether Mr. Kori was out of line to call the Tistadt home is only one of the issues here. I don't understand why Mrs. Tistadt felt that she had the right to respond to a business call that was directed to her husband - shouldn't it have been up to her husband to determine whether the call was inappropriate and, if so, how to deal with it? It's clear that because the caller was a youth and not an adult, she felt that she could vent her anger at him without consequences. She even went to the trouble of calling Mr. Kori back to do so. Well, she certainly got hung on her own petard - and deservedly so.

Posted by: PepperSauce Girl | January 24, 2008 6:36 PM

Last night I expressed my frustration at the conduct of the two FCPS employees/Tistadts involved, here and on other news sites. But now, I realize that there IS something MORE, something POSITIVE, we can take an do from this situation to MOVE FORWARD.

I used to work in customer service, and I hate to say this, but the tone of voice, name-calling and everything else you heard in Mrs. Tistadt's voicemail brought back memories. It's something which GROWN ADULTS DO ALL THE TIME. The only difference here was that Mrs. Tistadt legally consented to it being recorded when she left it as a voicemail rather than a live call, and Mr. Kori, as an individual and not a business trying to keep a customer, put it online for the world to hear.

You see it all the time. Someone at a call center says your refund will be delayed. An airline employee tells you your flight was overbooked. These are all legitimate reasons to be upset. And we, as customers to many companies in this capitalist society, have every right to complain. But before you go into an angry tirade like Mrs. Tistadt did, think back to how her voicemail sounds to a neutral third person--which, unless you are David Kori personally reading this--is exactly what we all were when we heard it. Recorded or not, is this how we want to act as grown adults?

No company I can think of puts customer service calls on YouTube. My point is: a LOT more of us are guilty of this type of behavior, and we're guilty of it in situations where we CAN get our point across even more effectively if we kept our heads on our shoulders. It's hard for the person on the other end of the line to discuss your options when you're screaming over her.

Regardless of what we think of Kori's actions, if we really think Mrs. Tistadt's voicemail as being outrageous, let's look at ourselves, what kinds of examples we want to set for our kids, and move forward. In all the "Mr. Kori shouldn't have called a home number"/"Mrs. Tistadt shouldn't have called him back" back-and-forth, this is one thing we can do to rise up.

Posted by: Spretinjc | January 24, 2008 7:51 PM

Hahah!! i been thinking if someone would ever do this

Posted by: Aki | January 24, 2008 11:19 PM

I have to wonder how many of the people posting their indignation over David Kori recording and posting Candy's rant have even bothered to read the articles. She recorded the message on someone else's's system. He did not record the message. That is a little more than implied consent to record. IF she had any expectation of privacy leaving a message for a kid she is even more of an idiot. Kids today live their lives on line. Keeping in mind their were two parties to this and one was a kid and the other a supposed adult, the adult has a lot more to answer for. A reasonable response asking him to direct his call to the office number would have taught the kid something about boundaries and left nothing to post. Shame on her for treating the kids she and her husband make their living off of that way.

Posted by: JoyLeaf | January 25, 2008 1:19 AM

Since when does free speech cover a high school student on school property during school hours? Kori knew he was wrong, and he was trying to make some waves. Bad choice, brat.

Posted by: edhorwitz | January 26, 2008 9:07 PM

Every day we ask children to act more like adults. When children graduate and turn 18 years old, they become semi-adults, they can legally enter into contracts. They can go off to war, die for their country but cannot drink an alcoholic beverage. How is it that we say children are adults at age 10 when going into a restaurant? How is it that we say children are adults at age 13 when they go to a movie? Yet a senior in high school, who may be 17 or even 18, cannot call a public servant?

I think the young man learned a lesson. Not every call to a person is going to get a sugary-sweet response from the other end. I don't think either party is "in the wrong." I think this woman defended her husband in an aggressive manner to the point of it being funny. The husband may want to say this, but he can't simply because he IS the public servant.

Know what is going on in schools, be involved!
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Posted by: Travis | January 30, 2008 10:08 AM

I'd expect this kind of biased drivel from your average blogger, but I'm surprised a journalist working for a legitimate newspaper would write something of this quality. Perhaps you should look for a job at the times.

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