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MSNBC: Broviak Blasts GMS South Administrators for 'Rummaging' Daughter's Facebook Page

City of Geneva Public Works Assistant Director Pam Broviak says Geneva Middle School South Principal Terry Bleau and other administrators traumatized her 13-year-old daughter by demanding access to her Facebook page, according to a story posted on MSNBC.

A story posted Friday morning (May 18, 2012) on MSNBC and USEC Network International Magazine says the city of Geneva's assistant public works director is at odds with Geneva Middle School South administrators for forcing her 13-year-old daughter to log into her Facebook page and show them personal information.

Pam Broviak, who also is the Public Works Department's civil engineer, says Geneva Middle School South Principal Terry Bleau and other administrators were anything but civil when they demanded that Broviak's daughter reveal personal information on the 13-year-old's Facebook page—according to the article written by Bob Sullivan and posted shortly before 6 a.m.

Sullivan is "a consumer reporter at msnbc and author of three books on consumer affairs. His blog can be found at http://redtape.msnbc.com/ and his books at http://bobsullivan.net/.

According to Sullivan's story, the principal of Geneva Middle School South forced the 13-year-old to log in to her Facebook account and show pages, including those containing personal information. The story did not say why administrators asked for that access.

The story said Broviak's daughter "ended up crying through most of the day," and Broviak said that other parents are "scared to talk about" the practice.

Bleau was recently named , and was nominated in part because of his ability to connect with students on a personal level.

According to the article, Broviak says the administrator's actions were a violation of privacy that traumatized her daughter.

"Schools should not violate kids' privacy," Broviak said this morning on her Twitter page, which links to the story.

Broviak wrote about the incident in detail on her "Public Works Group Blog" posted on April 24. 

"Normally I don't like sharing the nitty gritty details of my family's life, particularly on my blog. But I'm doing so because it brings to light an issue government agencies need to be made aware of and only by sharing can we convince legislators there is a real problem," she said.

Broviak said the actions taken by the administrators "have been appalling."

According to the blog post, "It started because a teacher heard another student spreading rumors about my daughter—all of it unrelated to school and nothing against the law."

She said a school official called her daughter to demand to know if rumors were true. There are penalties for spreading rumors, but the seriousness of the punishment depends in part on whether the rumor is true, Broviak said.

The post says the GMS South vice principal "called me to demand I come to the school immediately to read through her (Broviak's daughter's) private messages."

Broviak was out of town and so called Bleau the following day, according to the blog post.

"I told him not to pry into the private lives of my children. And he said he cannot do that—it is his obligation to look out for the morals and ethics of the children at his school. And if he feels they are not leading a moral life (obviously according to his standards), he is going to launch an investigation."

Broviak said she considered pursuing legal action but now she and her daughter are just "trying to get through the last part of seventh and hope to make it through eighth with no more problems."

Broviak said in the blog post that, at that time in April, officials were "still regularly taking kids into the counselor's office and telling them they cannot leave until they open up their Facebook accounts to their scrutiny."

"That is just wrong," Broviak said.

Jennifer May 18, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Good for the administration to take a stand against cyberbullying. I'm if something happened as a result of this parents would be criticizing the principal for not doing more. You can't be right as an educator anymore because of parents like this who make excuses for their children!
Allison May 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM
john, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about. why would any parent back school administators on such a clear violation of privacy without even contacting the parents beforehand? its traumatizing to a child and not even the schools responsibility to get to the bottom of a supposed situation that has absolutely nothing to do with school related issues. in any case, who are you to judge someone just by their appearance? how can we preach to our children "not to judge a book by it's cover" when so many supposedly mature adults always do.
Llochmann May 19, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Yes, and now this in the national spotlight--a link to a blog touted as a resource for Public Works Professionals, whose author, a CITY OF GENEVA EMPLOYEE, writes about a school administration matter that has nothing to do with the purpose or audience of her blog. Moreover, she posts on a Friday during business hours that she regrets she can't post even more comments than she already has because she's currently away at a conference. Who's paying for that? Ms. Broviak's matter is important to a lot of people on many, many levels. I'm not disputing that or her concerns as a parent. I have questions too, for our schools. But I raise them on my own time, and through an *appropriate* venue.
L May 19, 2012 at 01:55 AM
The only thing that is obvious is that you are making an awful lot of assumptions. Why are you searching for this girl? Do you have nothing better to do than stalk the Facebook page of a 13 year old girl? And since when is being in a bikini top something of a 'sexual nature'? If it was a boy without a shirt would you say the same thing? I'm going to (follow suit and) assume not.
L May 19, 2012 at 02:01 AM
There was not cyberbullying, she was the victim of an in-school verbal rumor. She was not the bully, she was the victim. Geneva has a horrible track record of taking a stand against bullying. When I was a student at the high school a student committed suicide due to bullying. Days later his friends were suspended for telling the kid who relentlessly bullied him "See what you did?". I was in the lunch room one day next to a dean. He and I both saw a (very talented) football player cover a chubby freshman in ketchup saying "Eat it, fat ass!". I turned to the dean and was appalled. I asked if he was going to do anything and he pretended as if he didn't see it. A dean!! So, this is a case of the school improperly handling a situation and in turn becoming the bully. If you find a way to twist this story and defend the administration then there is something seriously wrong with you.
Jennifer Cortez May 19, 2012 at 02:31 AM
My son was bullied at the high school for the majority of his sophomore year (October-April). Administration did very little, even after my son composed a very heartfelt e-mail to Mr. Rogers about how the situation made him feel. Threats were made to my son and his girlfriend on several social media sites and texts and this other boy was NEVER asked to open up his social sites to show the school. Perhaps because my son isn't one of their golden athletes?? We had meeting, after meeting, after meeting with the school administrations and we were constantly told their "hands were tied" and since the threats were made via social media NOT on school time, there wasn't anything they could do! The only reason that the bullying ever stopped was because the parents finally moved him to an "alternative" school. Had he stayed at GHS, who knows what would have happened. Yes, Geneva has a horrible track record of taking a stance against any kind of bullying, and if this girl was the victim (which it seems since the rumors were against her), then their "great" record continues.
L May 19, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Speaking of their 'golden athletes', I was one of those. I figured out pretty early on that I could do no wrong, so I started ditching school. When I would get called to the dean's office he would wag his finger and then say "Are you still planning on winning State this year?" I said "Yes" and I was let off without even a phone call home or a detention. I know firsthand how horrible this administration is. The reason I am even commenting on this and following this story so closely is because this is something that still bothers me-- even after graduating years ago. My mom's neighbor, a mother of a current Geneva student, called me to ask me how her daughter should deal with bullies and the administration. Some girls cornered her in the bathroom calling her horrible names and threatening her, so she shoved her way through them to escape. She was suspended for being 'violent'. These things are still going on today, and I really hope that this story finally starts some real change in Geneva.
Kendra May 19, 2012 at 03:26 AM
This is the reason the Patch is so ridiculous. One side of a story is put forth, everyone jumps in throwing out all kinds of rumors and innuendos, condemning the school or the kid. Who knows the whole story? Rick, you're too good for this.
Terry Flanagan May 19, 2012 at 04:06 AM
It would be nice to have definitive answers about exactly what authorities school administrators have and what rights students have. This has always been a gray area for me. I've heard a lot of different things from different people.If only half of those stories are true we have a serious problem. It's one thing for a school to say that it will not tolerate bullying and quite another for it to actually codify what that means in terms of the rights and responsibilities for students, teachers, administrators, and parents. No one should be surprised by any action that a school administrator or teacher takes. It should all be documented clearly and specifically. The Geneva Middle School South handbook reads "To maintain order and security in the school, school authorities are authorized to conduct reasonable searches of school property and equipment, as well as of students and their personal effects. “School authorities” includes, but is not limited to, principal, assistant principals and school liaison police officers. For complete policy see Board Policy #5132." The meaning of reasonable is almost always debatable and personal effects could use some clarification too. When attempting to find out more about this policy I found there was no policy number #5132 listed in the on-line resource at http://www.neola.com/genevacusd-il/. The school needs to do a better job of clarifying and justifying policy.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 04:52 AM
As all of us parents are aware, we have a difficult job made only more so due to the Internet and everything that comes with it. The best thing we can do is what we are doing here and discuss it to better understand it and help our kids. Unfortunately as for my daughter's choice of her photo, she is a young teen who probably is not always using good judgement from an adult's perspective. We try to do our best to advise all of our kids, but it is a tough balance between giving them enough independence to learn and locking them down totally. I wanted to also mention that I did respond to you on my personal blog about my time today - I did take vacation/personal days this week to attend a conference on my own time and at my own cost. It's something I occasionally do because professional development is very important to me. And I am sorry that my posting made it seem like I was working - all of this issue has absolutely nothing at all to do with my job or position in Geneva and nothing I do or say reflects my employer's position or thoughts in any way. The blog is also not affiliated in any way with my employer which is stated in the disclaimer on the site. Thanks so much for taking the time to post about all this and sharing your ideas.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:00 AM
John, that is a personal blog my husband and I started about 5 years ago to post information and ideas that might help those of us working in government. Most of the time we talk about public works specifically. But we also tend to focus heavily on new technology so thought it was important that people in government, including schools, be made aware of these issues with Facebook. Handled incorrectly or without proper understanding they have the potential to cause legal problems.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Rick, as you point out, it was very difficult to have to finally get to this point. I would have much preferred an open discussion with all of us truly working together as you suggest instead of meeting and talking with them just to have my concerns dismissed. And it would have been so great if the school had taken some leadership and sponsored some education and a workshop for both them and parents. Maybe we could have all learned a lot and come up with a policy we all understood and believed was right. They could have also had a workshop for the kids. This is how another educator in another district told me her school would have handled it. In the end, I believe we have the best chance to make the most progress and do the best for our kids by everyone working together and being honest. But they really didn't seem open to that at all.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Jennifer - any type of bullying is disturbing. If any of my kids bullied someone they would be in more trouble from my husband and I than from the school. In our case, it had nothing at all to do with cyber bullying. And before I even discussed anything with the principal, I made sure to find out if my daughter had done anything wrong at school. He said she did not, so in our case, this was done as a result of my daughter doing nothing at all wrong.
Kerry May 19, 2012 at 05:21 AM
You are a strange bird, L.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Justin - your first point is right on target. And it's one of the reasons we do post on the blog about issues like this. As professionals we need to be aware of these issues and how they affect our work for the very reasons you share. Also I want to make it clear that while the blog focuses on helping professionals, it is a personal blog my husband and I set up about 5 years ago to offer ideas and information and resources for anyone working in government. It is common for us to share our own experiences on there if we think they will help others at work, but this was the first time we included an experience involving one of our children. As for schools/churches raising kids, I am aware of the issue. Our belief is that parents should be given that choice. I hope that helps to better explain our post.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Terry - I think you are on track with your suggestion. When this happened I too tried to look through all the manuals - the ones we receive and the one that regulates how the school and its staff operates. I could find nothing that would have allowed them to do what they did. And nothing in their mission or objectives or purpose agreed with the principal's mission to ensure the kids in his school are leading a moral life as he put it - it's all about educating them. Then an attorney told me today school officials are also bound by the constitution. He said what they did was a clear violation of the 4th amendment. Maybe it would be helpful for the admin staff at their school to work with their school attorney to come up with a policy that meets all the laws. It's kind of what I tried suggesting to them, but they just dismissed me and any of my suggestions.
Pam Broviak May 19, 2012 at 05:45 AM
Rick, I also want to make it clear, because there was a question about this, that I did take vacation/personal days this week to attend a conference on my own time and at my own cost. It's something I occasionally do because professional development is very important to me. I am sorry that my posting on my own blog made it seem like I was working - all of this issue has absolutely nothing at all to do with my job or position and nothing I do or say reflects my employer's position or thoughts in any way. The blog is also not affiliated in any way with my employer which is stated in the disclaimer on the site. Thanks for letting me share on your site.
Justin Eggar May 19, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Pam, I appreciate the response. It is important for us to be aware of these issues - and as a small business owner I do like to be aware of what's occurring out there. I was aware that your blog was not associated with your work, but for me it was a little awkward to read a a personal story on a well done professional looking site. If that's done regularly though and your readership embraces it then I don't have a leg to stand on there outside of my own personal preference. Parents should always be the moral leadership in their children's life. Circling back around on that though, with half the parents not engaged in their children's lives, and the other half potentially engaged, you have to admit it leaves our educators in an awkward position. One might call it lose-lose. Regardless of that, I don't think it's a good idea for employers / educators to force employees to give them access to their social media... It opens up way too many potential issues and just shouldn't be done.
Ray Echer May 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM
The whole idea of privacy is a false truth on these social networking sites. With this age in time, there is no-one stopping the Average Joe from gaining access to anyone's account information. I think the real issue is 50% administration, and 50% the generation of students. The administration has always been a bit off in Geneva, usually picking favorites and such. I went to GMSS and didn't see much discrimination, or "invasion of privacy" at all. I felt pretty good about Mr. Bleau and Mr, Law, they gave a sense of security and passion to make the students feel comfortable. Of course, that's when the idea of being comfortable was lost; once I hit High School, I started to feel very uneasy about who was enforcing rules around here. I noticed that guy who played football would never get in serious trouble for something that someone who doesn't play a sport would. It also applied to anyone in another sport. I also have had MULTIPLE experiences where my SIDE OF THE CITY was poked fun at! We're not poor because we live on the east side of Geneva, we just live in houses that are 10 years older. That's what really knocked me out of my socks, the fact that a teacher (no names here) who doesn't live in Geneva, doesn't know the personal lives of students, can call and area of a city that is supposed to be united, could say that. There's also a bit of sexism that happens, but only very minor (teachers favoring girls). Continued ----
Ray Echer May 19, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Now, I'm not the perfect student, and had my time with one of the deans. The account did take place on Facebook, but was a more serious offense. Now, although I am certain my account wasn't rummaged through, the idea that it was, only bothered me to a small degree. If you take advantage of the fact that you don't HAVE to put all details about yourself in there, you will feel even more secure. Now, I seem to have gotten of subject, but the idea that the administration isn't dealing with issues correctly is true. We did lose a student due to bullying in the recent years, and I felt as if it could have been avoided if the school stepped in and said something. Now that REALLY makes me angry, why wouldn't one teacher speak out? It didn't take place in one day, one specific place at one specific time, it happened various time, but no one did anything to the students who thought they were being funny by bullying someone else. The deans most likely didn't think much of it, because I'll bet that the student doing the bullying played football, etc. It's not the matter of being an overall bad administrator, it's the idea that they pick specific students to be their "pets" that get better treatment because of certain things. It's unfair and it needs to be changed, for the sake of everyone in the city.
Andrea Ahlsen May 19, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Ah, here we go with bullying again. A prevalent cycle that transfers generations. We have an epidemic in this country. Preferential treatment is considered bullying. Not only do we have bullies at schools yet when bullying was called "sticks and stones" when I was a kid, those are now bullies that grow up and run corporations, government and our schools. The working adults need help too. As for social media usage during the day at work, if it relates to work I have no issue with it so I will debate on that one. I'm glad that the parent here stepped out. As for your child's password, I have a recommendation. Change the password the next time the administrator starts to question the "sexuality" of the child to a variation of "noneofyourbusiness". It is none of anyone's business and we do have lives outside of school, work, etc. The world just needs to get on with it and get over it. Social media is here to stay, like it or not. By the way, this is coming from a former teacher within the Fox Valley area. :-)
Jillian May 19, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Allison- there is a law in Illinois, passed this year, that gives schools permission to suspend or expel students engaged in gross misconduct over cell phones or the internet. As the parent stated in the article, the principal was told there was a rumor going around about her daughter, and he was trying to get to the bottom of it. whether what he did was right or wrong, it was in his legal right to do so.
Elaine Lane May 19, 2012 at 03:32 PM
You think North administration has a spotless reputation??? Gimme a break.
Elaine Lane May 19, 2012 at 04:21 PM
11:12 am on Saturday, May 19, 2012 She was traumatized?? That's a pretty strong word. Seems like "trauma" would be a good reason to leave school for the rest of the day, but apparently she stayed. I assume her mother or father would want to rush her to a doctor or counselor for this "trauma." I've seen kids cry all day, too, when they get caught in a lie or embarrassed because they were doing something they shouldn't be doing...........j Perhaps Mrs. Broviak's time would be better well spent THANKING the school administration for alerting her to a potential problem or troublesome path on which her daughter may be embarking. My understanding is that this incident occurred quite some time ago, so I find it very interesting that this all came out on the heels of Mr. Bleau's well-deserved award for Kane County Administrator of the Year.
J May 20, 2012 at 02:25 AM
My biggest concern is the lack of care that this young girls last name, school, and age are now out there for the world to see and to judge. As soon as I started to read the article I knew exactly who she was and anyone who has a child at GMSS will just have to ask their kid who it is. I fully understand wanting to bring notice to the issue, but maybe a different approach for her privacy would have been better.
Rick Anderson May 20, 2012 at 02:58 AM
This story is a huge train wreck. What was the editor's intent to identify Pam Broviak as a city administrator? Being a city administrator has nothing to do with this story. The school administration acted on gut feel and impulse rather than considering all the consequences and after-effect. Where are the metrics and process guidelines laid out for an adminstrator to follow so the facts will prevail and it doesn't get blown out of proportion. Hoepfully, the editor, parents, and school adminstration can learn from this.
Stacy May 20, 2012 at 03:24 AM
In all honesty we can debate over and over if putting this information out there was the right thing to do, but every parent that I've talked to about this agrees that the school has NO place asking a student (and not just asking, coercing a student) to give out their email or Facebook passwords without their parents consent and presence. Administrators here have stepped WAY over the line by diving into a personal issue brought to their attention by way of rumors. The school can discipline bullies and people who make poor decisions, but in all reality, unless there is a law being broken (and in this case there was not), there should have been parents present. In the case of a legal matter, the police and parents should be present. Schools are WAY crossing the line in all of the wrong cases.
Pam Broviak May 20, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Rick, I appreciate you questioning the inclusion of my work into this - I was also surprised to see that mentioned here. What I do to support my family has absolutely nothing to do with this matter, and my concern over my child's education has nothing to do with my work. The original story did not mention my work at all.
Tony Pronenko May 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
There is a lot I agree with in this story as well as the follow-up that was done. I must say though that I have instructed both of my children that attend GMSS, "should ANYONE at the school attempt to force you to give up ANYTHING personal or anything you don't feel comfortable with just flat out refuse and tell them to call your father." I guess that is a last ditch effort to insure that if the school does not notify me on their own, they will be forced to should they wish to take any "assumptions" further.
S May 21, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Time to get facts straight is more like it! A 13 year old having sex IS ILLEGAL! Even if it is with another minor - 720 ILCS 5/11-1.50 calls it Criminal Sexual Abuse. The school is a mandatory reporter and did the right thing to investigate what was going on. It seems strange that this happened last fall and is only blogged about when Mr. Bleau received the administrator of the year award. My GMSS students have told me that this case is the only one they know of where a student was asked to open their Facebook page - not a regular occurrence as alleged in this article. I'm glad Mr. Bleau cares enough to make tough, unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of the students.

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