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After-school Jobs, Bullying, & You:
A Cruel & Deadly Story

Dairy Queen Manager Charged w/ Manslaughter in Bullied Teen’s Suicide

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In Missouri, the criminal courts are being used to send a message about bullying. An unfortunate case of bullying led to suicide, and the case surrounding that incident could change the way bullying is addressed in schools, workplaces, and criminal courts across the country.

Kenny Suttner was 17 when he died as a result of suicide in December 2016.  After an inquiry into his death, over 20 witnesses reported incidents of Kenny being bullied at school and while he worked at a local Dairy Queen.  The bullying incidents at work included Kenny being forced to lie on his stomach to clean under machines – a practice that wasn’t required of other employees at the location.

The school was found partly to blame, but it was Harley Branham who was Kenny’s manager at the Dairy Queen that ended up charged with involuntary manslaughter for her involvement in Kenny’s suicide.  She was the one who required him to clean the store differently from his coworkers.  Eventually, the charges were lowered and Ms. Branham pled guilty to third-degree assault.  As punishment, she was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and 30 days of house arrest.

Additional findings placed some of the responsibility for Kenny’s death with the school district for failing to act on Kenny being bullied at school.   The school district and Dairy Queen both reached agreements with Kenny’s family after the family sued.  The agreements are private (which is pretty standard, but could have involved agreements to change policies about bullying and expensive cash payments to Kenny’s family).

Some states – including Nevada – have laws making bullying a crime.  In this case, before they lowered the charges the prosecutors skipped those laws and went straight to charging Kenny’s manager at Dairy Queen with involuntary manslaughter – that means she didn’t mean to kill anyone, but she should have known her actions could result in someone’s injury or death.  Eventually, she faced ‘lesser’ charges of third-degree assault, meaning she attempted to harm someone (but not kill them).

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Questions:

1) Why do you think the manager should have faced or not faced involuntary manslaughter charges?

2) Why do you think the manager should have faced the charges she eventually pled guilty to of third-degree assault?

3) In Nevada, NRS 200.900 makes using a phone or computer to bully someone a crime.  A person under the age of 18 (a minor) can be prosecuted (charged and found guilty) as if they have committed a misdemeanor if they get caught.  That means they might face consequences of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail (in this case – since they’re minors – it would be juvenile detention which is a prison-like setting for people under the age of 18).  How do you feel about this kind of behavior (which is commonly called cyber-bullying) being treated as an adult crime among people under the age of 18 in your state?


Be sure to provide full explanations for your answers. For more details, you can read the article this piece was sourced from here:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/dairy-queen-manager-charged-manslaughter-bullied-teens-suicide/story?id=45498992
https://www.columbiatribune.com/news/20190712/woman-in-howard-county-teen-suicide-case-pleads-guilty-to-misdemeanor
https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/local/mother-school-district-reach-settlement-in-kenneth-suttner-wrongful-death-case/article_1e9ab2ee-be15-11e9-92d4-4f553aced299.html

Driverless Cars, Accidents, & You:
Who Gets Sued?!

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(Pictured: You see kids, when two self-driving vehicles fall in love they make robot-babies…. and those robot-babies grow up to become our FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. But hey, Tesla cars are cool!)

When someone breaks a law, they generally get in trouble – that’s just the way the world work. Systems of law have been managing the conduct of nations and their citizens as long as civilizations have been in place.  With the technology renaissance of the 21st century, a new form of life has been participating in society, and just like humans some of them have begun to break laws.  We are talking about – of course – robots.

In 2015, a self-driving car created by Google was operating in the area around the company’s headquarters.  The driverless vehicle had been on a road near ‘the company campus’ when it ended up getting pulled over – for going 10 miles an hour below the speed limit!  Basically, it had been violating traffic laws by holding up traffic without a good reason.

News outlets report that the officer after discovering that there was no one driving the car, contacted the operators responsible for programming the vehicle. The article also reports that several cars in the Google self-driving fleet have been in accidents, although none of them have been reported to be the self-driving car’s fault.  The incident comes on the heels of many people questioning the safety of self-driving vehicles.

For many years now, electric car manufacturer Tesla has touted its self-driving initiative and how much safer it is than actually driving.  Tesla’s critics are still skeptical of the company’s self-driving vehicles’ capacity to be safe at all, pointing to a National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) investigation of a 2018 fatal accident that involved a self-driving Tesla.  In that incident, the car’s driver life being lost (instead of steering the car, the ‘driver’ had handed control over to the vehicle’s self-driving computer when the accident took place). The NTSB  report found that the Tesla vehicle had actually acted in a way meant to try the driver, however the vehicle still ended up crashing.   Many skeptics of self-driving vehicles point to that crash in particular as a reason that driverless cars and trucks should not be allowed on the roadways.

Instances like the fatal Tesla crash and the slow self-driving  Google car provide examples of a significant issue that goes beyond just general safety – one that will become more relevant as technology continues to evolve:

So, when a robot or AI commits a crime that puts humans or other lives in danger, who is responsible in a legal sense?

Technology has and will continue to develop at a rate that the law can’t keep up with. If there are robots used to make work easier in a factory for example, who is responsible if a ‘thinking’ machine harms a human worker in a workplace accident –  the programmer, the actual ‘code’ of the machine, the company, or someone (or something) else entirely?  As companies, manufacturers, and even governments are beginning to make the push for automated processes like self-driving vehicles that include the use of Robots, AI, and other ‘driverless’ technologies, we will all begin to be faced with these questions.

Questions:

1: Who should be held civilly and/or criminally accountable when a robot is involved in  crime?  Explain your choice(s)

2: What laws should be put in place to ensure that the right entities (people / companies / robots) are held accountable for Artificial Intelligence related problems, and how will they help prevent or address those problems?

3: What are some things that a robot could do to break a law? 

4: Should a person who built a robot that commits a crime, be charged to the same level as contributing to the crime or aiding in it? Explain why you think they should or should not.

Be sure to explain the thinking behind your answers, and for more details, you can read the articles this piece was sourced from here: 

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/13/google-self-driving-car-pulled-over-driving-too-slowly

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradtempleton/2020/02/13/ntsb-releases-report-on-2018-fatal-silicon-valley-tesla-autopilot-crash/#395bd32842a8

Contributed By: Joseph Motta




My favorite part of the fieldtrip to the courthouse is when I got to play the part of Ron. I got to go on the witness chair and speaking. I helped Potter to be not guilty. Thank you for the great opportunity.


- Johnathan M  [Harmon Elementary - Grade 4]
Project Real
2020-12-16T21:47:04+00:00
My favorite part of the fieldtrip to the courthouse is when I got to play the part of Ron. I got to go on the witness chair and speaking. I helped Potter to be not guilty. Thank you for the great opportunity. - Johnathan M  [Harmon Elementary - Grade 4]

Thank you for letting us watch the civil case!  It was cool because it was a real case and not one played out. I had a lot of fun watching the other kids act out a session.  Thank you for your time.

- Kaylie [Hewetson Elementary - Grade 5]

Project Real
2020-12-11T20:39:35+00:00
Thank you for letting us watch the civil case!  It was cool because it was a real case and not one played out. I had a lot of fun watching the other kids act out a session.  Thank you for your time. - Kaylie [Hewetson Elementary - Grade 5]

Thank you for letting us experience court for the first time.  It was the best experience ever, thank you for everything. You really made me think about being a judge. Thank you


-Mina L [ Twitchell Elementary - Grade 5]

Project Real
2020-12-16T22:04:09+00:00
Thank you for letting us experience court for the first time.  It was the best experience ever, thank you for everything. You really made me think about being a judge. Thank you -Mina L [ Twitchell Elementary - Grade 5]
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