Windsor’s MySpace mess
August 22, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some parts of this story contain graphic language and may not be suitable for younger readers.
Ty Nordic and lot of other people in Windsor are sticking to their versions of what happened during an Internet safety assembly Tuesday afternoon at Windsor High School.
John Gay has his own version of what he said on the first day of school at pair of Windsor High School assemblies.
The two versions don’t match.
Nordic, a Windsor parent, understands the need to inform kids about the dangers of sexual predators on the Internet.
Gay, a police officer for the Cheyenne Police Department in Wyoming for the last eight years, travels to schools and has talked to 4,000 to 5,000 people, mostly kids, sending a message to kids that the Internet is a dangerous place in today’s world.
But when Nordic’s 16-year-old daughter, Shaylah, was targeted by Gay during the assembly, Nordic was left with plenty of unanswered questions for the police officer whom Nordic said used perverted language during the assembly and singled out specific students.
“He told the student body that he took her information from MySpace and showed it to a predator that was in prison and asked him what he would do with it,” Nordic said.
Nordic went on to say that Gay said the predator would masturbate to her picture and then “tear her apart.”
In a telephone interview Thursday afternoon, Gay denied ever saying that about Shaylah.
“A complete lie. Certainly somebody misconstrued anything that I might have said. In my career in having investigated child crimes and child abuse, I have talked to predators who have had similar type pictures in their possessions, not pictures of this particularl young lady or any other particular folks that I found at Windsor High School,” Gay said. “During my interviews with these individuals, I always ask them, ‘Why do you have these pictures?’ Time after time the answer is, ‘They arouse me and I masturbate while I’m looking at these pictures.’ I absolutely did say that to the student body.”
Gay said he’d lose his job if he showed a predator in prison another girl’s photo.
“That would be disgusting,” Gay said.
Gay apologized for causing Shaylah any grief, but he said he would never apologize for the way he presents his material because of the seriousness of the crimes. Gay said he doesn’t think he was picking on Shaylah.
“I do not feel like I was picking on her or humiliating her. I think I was just presenting information that every single person in that school at Windsor, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Beijing, China, have access to,” Gay said.
Gay called the Nordics on Thursday. Shaylah said that Gay is not telling the truth, and that it’s turning into Gay against the school. Ty, a coach in the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, said several kids that he coaches are telling him the same stories, and it’s not Gay’s version.
“It’s just ridiculous because everything the students are saying he’s just saying the complete opposite,” Shaylah said. “Now, I look like the bad person.”
Gay volunteered for free at the request of Windsor High School principal Rick Porter to speak to the student body at two assemblies about the dangers of predators surfing social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Gay shared how he could pull pictures off of five or six Windsor High School students, one of them a male, who had their own MySpace and Facebook pages. Shaylah was one of the students Gay singled out to the point where Shaylah left the auditorium in tears and crumpled into a ball crying in the rest room.
Shaylah said Gay started ripping on her during the assembly when he pulled up her MySpace page.
“He started telling me that old guys were jacking off to my pictures, and that I was pretty much asking to be raped,” Shaylah said. “He used that kind of language.”
Nordic said Shaylah came home from school Thursday and a 48-year-old man got onto her MySpace account and told her he’s been reading about what’s going on and would she need someone to talk to. Shaylah has since deleted her MySpace page.
Porter said he was aware going into the assembly that Gay would be naming Windsor students who were on MySpace and Facebook. Gay said the school district did not provide him with any names or photos, and that he just found the students’ names who used MySpace. Porter observed Gay giving the presentation to students twice before when Porter was the principal at Cheyenne (Wyo.) High School before coming to Windsor two years ago. Porter said the presentations weren’t as direct to students the other times he observed him.
“I have some apologies to make. I don’t want to apologize for the message that I’m trying to send because I am trying to educate kids in some of the dangers of the world that they work with every day,” said Porter, who said he’ll address what happened at the two assemblies with students and staff. “Some of the ways that (Gay) approached it offended, embarrassed and are hurting some of our kids.”
Shaylah said when she went to school Wednesday, she felt like people were looking at her differently.
“My whole life I’ve really prided myself on being a Christian girl and having this pure image,” said Shaylah, a sophomore at the high school. “I don’t go to parties or do anything like that. He just completely ruined that reputation that I worked for. He basically called me a slut, and now I have people looking at me. Teachers look at me different.”
Shaylah said Gay showed the other students her phone number, read her blogs and comments out loud.
Windsor High School senior Rachel Weakland said she felt that Shaylah was being picked on.
“He kept on picking at her and picking at her and picking at her and everyone said, ‘That’s harassment,’ ” Weakland said.
Ty Nordic is extremely upset that his daughter was one of the students targeted.
“Officer Gay chose it as an opportunity to take Shaylah’s pictures and her MySpace and use it as an example of what not to do, but then just really publicly humiliated her and mocked her. Kids are going up to her in school and saying, ‘Hey, you’ve been raped yet?’ ” said Nordic, who coaches wrestling at the high school and football and track at Windsor Middle School. “She left the auditorium in tears and busted out crying.”
Nordic also said Gay showed kids how easy it was to hack into private sites by going on a specific Web site, although Gay said it was just informing the students that anyone can get into a private site.
“You could imagine her sitting there and hearing that,” Nordic said. “He asked everybody there, ‘Is Shaylah Nordic here?’ So she raised her hand and then he went on to post the pictures and talk about it. He said she was likely to be raped and murdered because how easy it was to access this stuff, and how easy it was to get information.”
Nordic said Gay gave the example of a girl in another state who had been targeted on MySpace, and the girl was taken to an empty warehouse, was raped and shot dead.
“He said this is the perfect opportunity for somebody to do the same thing to this girl,” Nordic said. “So then he saw her leave the auditorium in tears, and mockingly he said, ‘I’ll just call her and see if she’ll come back because I have access to all her information so I have her phone number right here.’ So, he called her from the stage after she left the auditorium in tears to come back to the auditorium. He was just super harsh and very inappropriate.”
Nordic had no problem with the topic of the assembly, and that he doesn’t want to see Porter lose his job over this.
“I totally support the intent of the assembly. We talk to our kids about dangers of the Internet, especially posting pictures and stuff like that on there,” Nordic said. “I told Mr. Porter that I know he wants to keep kids safe, but this was not OK. I don’t know what to do. I’m just kind of at a loss.”
BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE?
Windsor High School parent Gillian Christensen said someone needs to be held accountable.
“Where is the accountability? If nobody is held accountable, how do we know it’s not going to happen again?” she said. “This is really severe. The level of intimidation and harassment that I’m hearing about was extreme.”
In response to the incident at the high school last spring following a month of investigations into students sending and receiving inappropriate cell phone messages as well as the investigation of a high school teacher being placed on paid administrative leave, Porter decided to hold an all-school assembly on Internet safety. One assembly was held for the freshmen and juniors, and the other assembly was held for the sophomores and seniors. Porter was at an administrative assembly with one half of the student body, while the Internet assemblies were going on.
“The intent of the assembly was to help students, and understand the appropriate and the inappropriate use of the Internet,” Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District superintendent Karen Trusler said. “Mr. Porter will be following up with students, and we’re here to give support to those students who need some help right now. I know that Mr. Porter has apologized to some students and families, and we’re working through it. We want to support our students and staff, and we want to do what’s right for everyone.”