My Substitute Teaching History, Part 3: Did my public “thought experiment” step on too many toes once it was searchable online?


One of the most puzzling incidents in my life occurred when I was substitute teaching, with the central event in October 2005, but some prologue and epilogue months before and after.  After my William and Mary Expulsion (posting Jan. 10, 2014), this is perhaps the second most provocative sequence, depending on unlikely coincidence and confluence to happen, and calling into question my judgment in how I handle my public Internet broadcast, albeit unexpectedly.

The problem occurred at West Potomac High School, east of Route 1 in Fairfax County, about two miles south of the Alexandria city line.  I’ll mention the school and dates, but not give the names of people.

I had subbed there many times during the 2004-2005 school year, finding it one of the most interesting places to work.  The school had a separate “academy” building, although chemistry and physics were housed there.  It also had a separate building for media, including a complete video editing studio and full sized state and auditorium for drama.   The main building was two stories with an odd system for numbering rooms, making it a bit of a maze.  The entire campus was large and bit complicated.  There were several parking lots, but at the time subs were encouraged to park in a particular row pretty much directly in front of the main building.

I often had often subbed for a particular teacher with honors and AP chemistry classes.  These generally turned out to be among the best students I encountered in all of my sub assignments, including a few students with perfect SOL’s and near max SAT’s.  The teacher even followed an unusual practice in making up tests: multiple choice questions where the student had to state a reason for the choice(s).  Some classes involved Internet research, the opaque projector set up to show Google search results for scientific terms (like “electronegativity”).  A few interesting films were shown, including “Outbreak” (1995) in which a rural town is hit by a bizarre and deadly monkey virus (a precursor to “Contagion”), and “Copenhagen” (2002, based on the play by Michael Frayn), about a meeting between Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, and the ethical question as to whether their knowledge would fall into the wrong hands (Hitler) if they published or released what should be science for all mankind.  That point already starts to build to the issue that would develop for me.

Many of the assignments were three or four days.  In May 2005, one particular student, raised in the United States or at least the West since infancy but apparently born in Pakistan, told me that he had been introduced to Osama bin Laden when he was a boy at a social gathering in Karachi.  He was a little bit of a minor prankster, taking a couple of photos of me on the cell phone as class let out, but nothing came of it.  But I did tell the school about the bin Laden comment but never heard about it.  (Curiously, in July 2005 I would receive an email from someone claiming he had met bin Laden at an aviation school in upstate New York in 1984.  That one I shared with the FBI and they were indeed very interested in that email.)  You can see the threads of weirdness building up in this narrative, as if they were subatomic particles.

On June 6-8 had the chemistry class, and on June 9 (Friday) I had a history class.  On Thursday June 8, I had checked my car during lunch.  That afternoon a security guard expressed vague concerns about my car.  At the end of the day, I noticed a Washington Blade open on the back seat, accidentally open to the personals and nude pictures, probably blown open by the breeze driving there that morning.

At the time, I was living with my mother, having returned in 2003, in the Drogheda house in Arlington.  I did keep my few “dirty books” and magazines in the trunk.  I didn’t want to leave them in the house, even if I put them away.  I feared that it could be against the law to possess “pornography” on a public school campus, even if locked in the trunk of a car.  (I had at one time kept stuff in a storage locker but had emptied it the previous summer, I guess a mistake.)  I’m really not sure how Virginia law reads on this one; maybe there would have to be intent to distribute.  Oh, I’ll add something else here.  At another high school, Westfield (at the opposite end of the county) a special education teacher had been arrested the day I was there when someone else reported that he had a weapon in his car, though in a locked trunk in a car itself locked in the parking lot.  Back in 1982, when living in Dallas, I had served as foreman on a jury for a very similar case!!  I remembered this and thought I could get into trouble,  So I discarded all the “porn” from the trunk (although fortunately I missed some of it and still have it) at a 7-11 that evening, because I had an assignment there June 9.

Then another coincidence happens.  On June 9, a female student reported inappropriate conduct from another teacher.  Police would be called.  This would soon get into the newspapers.  I’ve give the link to a local news account of the incident, which names the teacher, but I won’t repeat the name here for it to be picked up by search engines.  In fact, back in early May 2004, I had subbed for that teacher as the very first assignment I would ever have at the school.

In the fall, on October 5-6 I had a bad experience that led me to stop subbing in Arlington (Feb. 20, 2014).  Had this episode not happened, I would have had another assignment in Arlington Oct. 13.  But as it would happen, I was free all week.  Monday Oct. 10 was Columbus Day, a holiday in Fairfax County.  So I found a four-day English class at West Potomac Oct. 11-14.

The first day, I found it was team taught, which meant there were to be two teachers in the classroom.  I didn’t have to do anything at all.  I saw there and read the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell in a hardcover literature anthology text.  The teacher laid out an essay assignment (this was Ninth grade) where the students had to develop the way the story built on the idea of “brains over brawn”.  Culturally, that sounds like a desirable lesson.

Thursday (Oct. 13), the students would watch the 1927 Warner Brothers film. The next assignment would be to compare the film and story as to how they were different, especially as to this theme.  We’ve all been to movies where we thought the movie didn’t follow the book.  This one really does.

But the critical event happened Wednesday Oct. 12.  The students took a standardized Scanclon AP-eligibility placement test.  I remember one ninth grade student who seemed very mature said that thest was “annoying”.  The other teacher was an intern, finishing her degree at George Washington.  She was preparing lessons on Chaucer while the test went on. Canterbury Tales can be controversial enough, right?  (The Pardoner’s Tale.)

I saw the Washington Times editorial “Suffocating the First Amendment” in a free school copy while the kids took the test.  At break, I showed it to the intern teacher, who thought the argument to be interesting.  I thought that she got the point that the implications of the editorial were very relevant in high school:  campaign finance reform (a US government or civics topic) could affect free speech (an “English” and technology topic, too) and the right of ordinary people to self-distribute it.  (I covered this here on Feb 13, 2014.)  I thought she would get the point of my being a self-publisher, so I wrote out a handwritten sheet listing the major items on my own doaskdotell website:  the controversial essays page, the COPA page, the “privilege of being listened to” (as indeed developed throughout the DADT III book), and two sample videos from my Hamline University speech (go here ).  I did NOT include the page for my screenplays (here and the subsequent posting.)

During the free period (the “planning” period), I went to the library and asked the librarian to find the corresponding Washington Post article (present link in the Feb. 13 post) and print it out for me.

The rest of the day went uneventfully.   I always checked the assignments online that evening and next morning, and it was still there.  And even the entire day Thursday, where the students watched the movie, went normally.  The only thing weird was that there was a third teacher (a woman) in each class.

I drove home, and actually was writing a review of the movie “A Most Dangerous Game” for my doaskdotell site.  At 3:41 PM, my cell phone rang.  I picked it up, and the caller announced herself as an assistant principal from West Potomac.  I walked into the laundry room to do the 100 second call.  She said that I had given a reference to an “inappropriate web site” to the intern teacher and that “she was offended by it.”  I said I didn’t see what could have been offensive in what I had give her.  She said that the Friday assignment was cancelled.  As it turned out, I quickly got another one at Mt. Vernon High School (nearby).

I would call the school and ask for a meeting to find out what happened.  The school called back the following Tuesday, another assistant principal, who told me she had sent an email to the offended intern teacher and I would hear something in time.

But I never did.  In fact, I wasn’t banned.  In the next few weeks, I did see two assignments for the school, in off-topic subjects like shop and physical education.

So what could the problem have been?  Obviously, it occurred to me that they could have found the screenplay “The Sub” and been upset over the implications of it.  But there might be many other explanations.   That summer, I had moved a lot of material over to from the old (see Jan. 31 posting) but not fixed all the links, which could lead someone to a gambling site.  On the controversial issues page, there were one or two essays that people with some mindsets would have found offensive, at least out of intellectual context.  For example, I had a piece “Editorial: Mathematics, Merit and FICO: Are some people ‘better’ than other people?”

In the meantime, I had considered the possibility of a full-time job teaching adult education math in the spring.  I had been told that for adult education a teacher’s license was not required, or that a provisional one could be granted if the teacher enrolled in the next locally taught program (probably at night starting in January, running three months to get to the 180 clock hours).  I even got an email encouraging me to apply on Wednesday, December 5.

I had to go into the City for a special film, so I didn’t get around to checking the jobs next day.  On the Metro, I checked once, and the first job that came up was for West Potomac High School, Chemistry, two days.

I went in, and the clerk gave me paperwork for only one day.  But an early snow was expected that night, so I thought that was appropriate.  The first period was free, but the regular teacher had not shown up, so I went to the chemistry class anyway.  I overheard some kids say, “that’s the gays in the military guy.”  I knew I had a reputation.  But I had never mentioned my books or websites in the classroom to the kids.  I had indeed discussed them with other teachers at Falls Church High School and Hayfield, where there had been great interest in the idea that I had litigation in front of the Supreme Court (COPA).

But about five minutes into the period, the principal, a short woman in a blue jacket that read “administrator” showed up, and asked me to follow her to a conference room.

She started out by saying, “We know you can do this job.  But the last time you were here, we had a big problem.”  Then she added, “You weren’t even supposed to get this job.”  But it seemed cool for the day.  She looked at the assignment and stressed what should be done in the classroom. “We don’t need all this personal stuff,” she said.   I felt that if I didn’t question what had happened, I would be able to return to the school as if nothing had happened.  But perhaps the principal had out-maneuvered me, throwing passes to the sidelines to stop the clock.

The day indeed passed without incident.  The students watched “Copenhagen” again.  I was a good day.

The next morning, schools were indeed closed for four inches of snow.  The assignment was still listed online.  I went ahead and cancelled it, so they could not.  We will never know what would have happened had school been in session that Friday, and the snow was a little early for the DC area.

But over the weekend, I became concerned. I looked at “The Sub” online and the screenplay hit me in the face.  That was me, admitting, albeit in fiction, that I could surrender to temptation offered by a hypothetical unusually mature minor if the circumstances were unique enough.


Here I’ll give a direct link to an earlier account of this matter, that I posted in July 2007, at this url.   I’ve discussed the idea of self-libel and libel in fiction and the Bindrim v. Mitchell decision in California (link  ). This issue had been litigated in only a few states.  In New York, a similar plaintiff had lost. It had never been tried in Virginia as far as I knew. But  I began to see a dark side of this. If my story could be viewed as libel, then the next logical question could be my “purpose” in putting it up.  If I had not been paid for it, and if putting it up for free violated industry norms for  Hollywood (the “Third Party Rule”) then possibly legally it could be construed as having been intended to “entice” someone to making an advance.  So I resigned the following Monday.  Well, not completely.  I took myself off all the lists, but I still kept getting the emails as if I were an employee of FCPS.  I also stopped the application process for the adult education math position. Chilling effects had taken over.  The legal term for this issue is “implicit content”.

On December 19, I finally got around to realizing I should look at my own server logs with Verio to see if this theory was true.

I’m going to jump ahead a moment.   I would eventually notice that my pay records showed that I was not paid for Oct. 13 (Thursday) when actually my check did include the money for it.  It also showed Oct. 13 cancelled as well as Oct. 14.  In early 2007, I would learn that the principal had tried to send a “do not send” at the end of the day Wednesday Oct. 12, 2005, the same day I had shown the intern teacher the name of my website.


The logs show activity against my website from the FCPS IP address on Thursday. We’ll get to that in a moment.  There were not requests at all for files related to “The Sub” on Oct. 12, but there are many for Oct. 13.  But there is one on Oct. 11, not from FCPS, that appears to be an unusual security scan.

The implication is that the school was aware of the screenplay, through some sort of grapevine.  Someone had found it.  It’s possible that the confusion over the other teacher’s arrest could have added to rumor and false coincidence.


Let’s go over what’s on the logs: – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:37 +0000] “GET /index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 26357 “-” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:37 +0000] “GET /photo/jourfun.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 155914 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:37 +0000] “GET /photo/dadtstrs.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 22273 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:38 +0000] “GET /photo/jdoask.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 239323 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:38 +0000] “GET /photo/dadtstrsb.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 145439 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:16:38 +0000] “GET /_vti_bin/fpcount.exe/?Page=index.htm| – – [13/Oct/2005:15:17:23 +0000] “GET /photo HTTP/1.0” 301 849 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:17:24 +0000] “GET /photo/index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 630963 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:19:16 +0000] “GET /photo/Hamline1.mpg HTTP/1.0” 200 1367310 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:19:49 +0000] “GET /photo/Hamline2.mpg HTTP/1.0” 200 1366808 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:21:26 +0000] “GET /scrplys HTTP/1.0” 301 855 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:21:27 +0000] “GET /scrplys/index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 15182 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:24:09 +0000] “GET /_vti_bin/fpcount.exe/?Page=index.htm|Image=2|Digits=8 HTTP/1.0” 200 2336 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:24:26 +0000] “GET /personal/index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 6408 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:24:29 +0000] “GET /personal/johnwboushka.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 7484 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:25:01 +0000] “GET /personal/aboutme.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 2668 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:25:03 +0000] “GET /photo/boushka.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 32572 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:15:27:06 +0000] “GET /scrplys/thesubmaster.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 13265 “,RNWG:2004-46,RNWG:en&q=bill+boushka+sex+offender” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

Note the times: 15:00 GMT is 11 AM EDT.  So the first bunch of accesses happened between 11:16 and 11:27.  They at first went directly to the site and did look at my Hamline University speech video clips.  Then they looked at some material obviously related to showing that this was a site with “personal information”. They navigate directly to the screenplays directory (which I had not given them).  At the end, they suddenly search on Google for “Bill Boushka sex offender” without any intervening quotes.  They pick up the treatment document, and my full name shows up only in the copyright line.  It’s worthy of note that “Bill Boushka” is my nickname and legally a pseudonym for “John W. Boushka”, but Bindrim, if it held in Virginia, could apply.

In the afternoon, there were some more accesses, starting at 2:12 PM EDT: – – [13/Oct/2005:18:12:07 +0000] “GET /index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 26349 “-” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:18:12:08 +0000] “GET /_vti_bin/fpcount.exe/?Page=index.htm|Image=2|Digits=8 HTTP/1.0” 200 2320 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:18:12:28 +0000] “GET /copa.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 41495 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

Here she is looking at the COPA document about my visit to the Supreme Court. That is one of the links that I had recommended on the sheet of paper. – – [13/Oct/2005:18:12:57 +0000] “GET /scrplys/proto1.pdf HTTP/1.0” 200 25778 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:18:13:13 +0000] “GET /scrplys/thesub.pdf HTTP/1.0” 200 44675 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

Proto1 is the Conflict of interest story

Proto3.pdf is a short dealing with my William and Mary expulsion but shows a brief incident at the end with a substitute teacher (and some minor student misconduct; but with some discussion of Google searching of personal sites that is instructive. It is likely that the principal already knew what this was from the other English teacher in June.

Thesub.pdf is the text of “The Sub” itself.

Again, none of this had been pointed out on the handwritten sheet.

Then – – [13/Oct/2005:18:19:37 +0000] “GET /personal/retirement.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 7337 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [13/Oct/2005:18:23:32 +0000] “GET /personal/blogging.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 18542 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

That is my blogging proposal, which suggests that persons with direct reports, or that permanent teachers who grade students (not substitutes) should not express themselves in a public space without some supervision.

They finished looking at this material at 2:23 PM.  I would not get a phone call telling me about this until 3:41 PM.  At around 3:07 PM, the system had still verified that my assignment was on for Thursday, despite the apparent attempt to cancel me the day before, as shown even by personnel records.

On Tuesday, October 25, someone at FCPS looked at a lot of this material again.  The site had been down for some time on Oct. 24 because of Hurricane Wilma in Florida, so it is possible that access had been attempted then.  These accesses may represent a lawyer at FCPS who wants to evaluate my activity with the idea of possible First Amendment (for public employees) litigation in mind. – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:52 +0000] “GET /index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 26349 “-” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:53 +0000] “GET /_vti_bin/fpcount.exe/?Page=index.htm|Image=2|Digits=8 HTTP/1.0” 200 2277 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:53 +0000] “GET /photo/jourfun.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 155910 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:54 +0000] “GET /photo/jdoask.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 239319 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:54 +0000] “GET /photo/dadtstrs.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 22269 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:31:54 +0000] “GET /photo/dadtstrsb.jpg HTTP/1.0” 200 145435 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:32:12 +0000] “GET /movwish.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 15797 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:33:01 +0000] “GET /whatkind.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 3433 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:33:10 +0000] “GET /scrplys HTTP/1.0” 301 851 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:33:11 +0000] “GET /scrplys/index.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 15445 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:33:17 +0000] “GET /scrplys/thesubmaster.htm HTTP/1.0” 200 13100 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)” – – [25/Oct/2005:13:33:48 +0000] “GET /scrplys/thesub.pdf HTTP/1.0” 200 47834 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

These appear to be accesses from someone at FCPS who is trying to figure out the overall context of my online presence, and there seems to be some realization that the principal had taken the “sex offender” material out of context. – – [25/Oct/2005:13:39:32 +0000] “GET /scrplys/proto3.pdf HTTP/1.0” 200 54050 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

The attorney is looking at the William and Mary screenplay.

Proto1.pdf is a short screenplay called “conflict of interest”; it does not involve schools, but the title would attract attention. The screenplay does deal with “Google hacking” concerns. – – [25/Oct/2005:13:40:02 +0000] “GET /scrplys/proto1.pdf HTTP/1.0” 200 25869 “” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”

Remember, all of this happened before my Dec. 8 meeting with the principal.

It seemed as though the only way the school could think of to deal with the dilemma that I had created was to say that my bringing up the fact that I had the website at all could be interpreted as meaning that I had put it up in order to provoke an incident.  This is obviously circular reasoning that could never stand up in court.  But it may have been enough to get me to quit.  The applicable Virginia statute is here.  (A good legal question is, if the computer is in Virginia and the proposed activity is in another state, is the Virginia statute violated? Probably so, even if the other state has a lower AOC.)

The bottom line is, I’m pretty sure that the school knew about all of this in June, when it had its “other problem.”  There’s one more chapter to my substitute teaching career to come forth yet.

All of this took place before Facebook was widely available outside campuses.  Myspace had become popular, but social media had not yet become what it is today.

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014, 10 PM EST

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