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Back To School; Back To Bullying

bullying

While many children look forward to going back to school this week, a significant number of kids dread what is to them, an ordeal.  They are the ones who fear being bullied.  According to stopbullying.gov :

What is Bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Where and When Bullying Happens

Bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or the bus. It can also happen travelling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or, more frequently now, on the Internet.

Frequency of Bullying (There are two sources of federally collected data on youth bullying:)

  • The 2012–2013 School Crime Supplement(National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 22% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.
  • The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that, nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

 What Can Be Done About Bullying?

While there are no federal laws pertaining to bullying, state and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children.  Each state has laws on the books about bullying: Look here for your state’s regulations: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/

If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, and can eliminate drugs and or alcohol as the cause, look into whether they are being bullied.  Many children who are bullied are ashamed and feel insecure.  As a parent or guardian, you have the ability to help change this daily hell for these kids who are singled out for this type aggressive behavior.  No child should ever have to fear going to school or anywhere else for that matter.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

From The Mouths Of Babes; Interviewing Child Witnesses.

child interview

(This article is from an investigator’s perspective. Trial attorneys bear a different obligation to prepare the child for testifying in court.)

From time to time we’ve had to interview children.  For this article, we are referring to minors under 16 years of age as witnesses in civil or criminal matters.  The most important thing to do when questioning children is to establish trust.  Most children are painfully shy when talking to strangers – moreso in situations that are fraught with tension such as giving testimony.  Put the child at ease by showing an interest in her by asking open-ended questions about her everyday life.  Due to their agile brains, children can multitask quite well so to divert her attention somewhat from the intensity of what she may have witnessed, distract her during the questioning by providing a fun and engaging activity.

We go into each interview with a child thinking this will be the only shot we will get to question her.    You really don’t want to interview a child multiple times.  If a child is re-interviewed often and then has to live testify, the final product in court may come out sounding rehearsed.

Given the unsettling event that the child has witnessed, each recall may induce stress trauma so we prefer to have a parent or guardian present during interviews.

As to the actual questioning itself, make the questions are open-ended and simple to avoid being leading.   If you call a child as a witness and she misstates or fails to state a significant fact, the best tactic is to avoid confronting her with prior statements or intricate evidence. Asking the same question in a slightly different way may be all you need do to obtain the accurate response. Generally, you should confront a child with a prior inconsistent statement only if she is recanting her entire account of an event.  When confronting a child with inconsistencies, do so in a delicate and respectful way.

Also consider the role of “syndrome evidence.” There is a large body of medical literature addressing  the various syndromes that can affect child witness recall (e.g., child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, repressed memory syndrome, etc.).

Finally, be aware of your own preconceptions. Many people expect sexually abused children to cry and exhibit negative emotion when testifying about alleged abuse, and many adults tend to disbelieve child witnesses who do not emote in this way.  But research indicates that children commonly do not cry or express negative emotions when describing sexual abuse and there are a number logical of reasons for their unanimated testimony in general. For instance, children are often interviewed multiple times regarding the incident or they may simply not have perceived the event as negative. What’s more, the emotion expressed by testifying children could be a reaction to being interviewed by you – a perfect stranger –  and have little to do with the alleged incident itself.

Remember to give yourself plenty of time for the interview as children can take a while to get out their story but they will tell it and tell it truthfully.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Operation Mickey Mouse? Facial Recognition & Disneyland

There is an internet story of a software engineer who, while visiting Disneyland,  went on a ride and was then offered – by a theme park employee –  a photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it.  The engineer emphatically stated that he had not entered any of his personal or credit card information on any of the theme park’s registers.  So, he determined, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology to access and activate his personal facial and credit card information. He had never signed an agreement allowing the Mouse & Co. to do so, and believed that this use was illegal. He also stated that he believed Disney was sharing information related to facial recognition technology with the military.

As it turn out, he may not be wrong or very far off from the truth.

To understand how his claim of passive facial recognition might work let’s first define facial recognition technology: Facial recognition software (FRS) can pick someone’s face out of a crowd, extract the face from the rest of the scene and compare it to a database of stored images. In order for this software to work, it has to know how to differentiate between a basic face and the rest of the background. Facial recognition software is based on the ability to recognize a face and then measure the various features of the face.

Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. FRS defines these landmarks as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software are:

•Distance between the eyes

•Width of the nose

•Depth of the eye sockets

•The shape of the cheekbones

•The length of the jaw line

These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database.

Next, let’s review how facial recognition occurs.  (In the past, FRS use was limited to 2D facial images, and subject to many environmental factors, such as lighting or blurring, that restricted its use to primary law enforcement agencies for comparative analysis v. existing pictures of the subjects of interest. We are now well past that stage and into comparing live 3D images to networked databases worldwide.)

3D Facial Recognition   Facial recognition software uses a 3D model, which provides more accuracy than its 2D predecessor. Capturing a real-time 3D image of a person’s facial surface, 3D facial recognition uses distinctive features of the face — as outlined above — to identify the subject. These areas are all unique and don’t change over time.

Using depth and an axis of measurement that is not affected by lighting, 3D facial recognition can even be used in darkness and has the ability to recognize a subject at different view angles with the potential to recognize up to 90 degrees (a face in profile).

Using the 3D software, the system goes through a series of steps to verify the identity of an individual.

Detection

Acquiring an image can be accomplished by digitally scanning an existing photograph (2D) or by using a video image to acquire a live picture of a subject (3D).

Alignment

Once it detects a face, the system determines the head’s position, size and pose. As stated earlier, the subject has the potential to be recognized up to 90 degrees.

Measurement

The system then measures the curves of the face on a sub-millimeter (or microwave) scale and creates a template.

The system translates the template into a unique code. This coding gives each template a set of numbers to represent the features on a subject’s face.

Matching

If the image is 3D and the database contains 3D images, then matching will take place without any changes being made to the image. However, there is a challenge currently facing databases that are still in 2D images. 3D provides a live, moving variable subject being compared to a flat, stable image. New technology is addressing this challenge. When a 3D image is taken, different points (usually three) are identified. For example, the outside of the eye, the inside of the eye and the tip of the nose will be pulled out and measured. Once those measurements are in place, an algorithm (a step-by-step procedure) will be applied to the image to convert it to a 2D image. After conversion, the software will then compare the image with the 2D images in the database to find a potential match.

Verification or Identification

In verification, an image is matched to only one image in the database (1:1). For example, an image taken of a subject may be matched to an image in the Department of Motor Vehicles database to verify the subject is who he says he is. If identification is the goal, then the image is compared to all images in the database resulting in a score for each potential match (1:N). In this instance, you may take an image and compare it to a database of mug shots to identify who the subject is.

Facial Recognition Systems Uses

Law enforcement:  Aside from the obvious background identification and history of arrested suspects, l.e. uses the system to capture random faces in crowds to match to their terrorist databases. .

Government agencies: Some government agencies have also been using the systems for

– security

– monitor voter fraud

– eliminate “buddy punching” (The practice of a coworker signing for a friend or displaying that friend’s id for UPC processing. )

– tracking foreign visitors and frequent flyers  (The Department of Homeland Security has implemented a program called US-VISIT, United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, aimed at foreign travelers gaining entry to the United States. When a foreign traveler receives his visa, he will submit fingerprints and have his photograph taken. The fingerprints and photograph are checked against a database of known criminals and suspected terrorists.  Likewise,  the TSA is runs its Registered Traveler program through FRS.

Other potential applications currently in use include ATM and check-cashing security and access to your own lap/desk top via the monitor’s FR program.

To get back to our irate software engineer, he is correct in identifying Disneyland’s use of facial recognition software and sharing it with the United States Department of Defense.  This collusion is referred to as Operation Mickey Mouse (not joking) and has been in effect for decades. Who would suspect the family friendly theme park of being a de facto arm of the government?

Now the vast majority of us will never really notice how much facial recognition has creeped into our lives — but if there is a foul-up, you can expect it to be a big deal.  ALL government FR dbases will have to be updated if a modification (e.g., surgically enhanced faces) occurs.

Our operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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