Some stories are so bizarre that you have to wonder if they’re true, but this one (via Ewan’s Delicious bookmarks) about a policeman in Cheyenne, Wyoming who was brought in to “teach” kids about MySpace is beyond the pale:

“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 humiliate her and mocked her,” 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. He told the student body that he took her information from MySpace and showed it to a predator in prison and asked him what he would do with it.”

Nordic said Gay used inappropriate language when describing to the students what the predator would do to Shaylah.

It gets worse.

Anyone with any experience with social Web tools can tell you that INVITING LAW ENFORCEMENT TO AN ASSEMBLY TO SCARE THE BEJEEZUS OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL KIDS FOR POSTING STUFF TO MYSPACE IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST WAY TO “TEACH” THEM ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKS.

First of all, it’s too late by that point. Second of all, it’s LAZY. Schools do this because they don’t want to do the hard work of understanding what 75% or more of their kids are actually doing online.

Here is a suggestion: Go to your principal or superintendent right now and ask her/him this: Would you really rather have your students learn about safety online from some “authority” figure who drops in and attempts to make them fearful, or from people who they know and trust and see every day in their classrooms who over the course of time in appropriate and balanced ways can educate them instead?

Of course, this requires that the teachers in the room have the ability to educate their kids about the dangers AND the potentials of social networks. More often than not, unfortunately, that’s not the case. And I have to say that I’ve been surprised of late in my travels (4,000 miles worth just last week) at the almost palpable fear that a lot of teachers still exhibit when we start talking about putting content online or sharing documents or being transparent. In a lot of ways, it feels like we’re no closer to making social networking a K-12 curricular imperative than we were when I first started doing this four years ago.

Oy.

But then again, scaring them is so, so much easier…

“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.

Nice.