Lights! Camera! Cyber-Perv Prevention!



Nick Lachey, newly minted anti-cyber-perv spokesman
So went the big media event at UMSL's Touhill Performing Arts Center this morning. Contemporary Productions owner and trumpeter extraordinaire Steve Schankman held court at center-stage, announcing his new nonprofit endeavor: INOBTR.

If you aren't literate in the lingo of kids who use computers, the translation is "I Know Better." It's an Internet safety campaign directed at teens and children, which Schankman launched along with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (who'd just kicked off trout season in another part of the state), U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Joe Laramie, Missouri's director of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force. The idea is to teach kids how to keep themselves out of cyber-predators' reach.

Schankman has spent the past year pressing the flesh of school and law-enforcement officials in Missouri and D.C. to get the project going, and he's dumped $100,000 of his own money into the work. Before long you'll see billboards, bus stops and MetroLink stations plastered with posters featuring INOBTR's spokeskid, teenage heartthrob Nick Lachey.

Schankman said he started the project because he has long been involved with kids through concerts and organizations like the Saint Louis Zoo.

But in an interview following the press conference, he concedes the real driving force behind INOBTR: his son, 33-year-old Jason Schankman, who was convicted last year of making and receiving child pornography and sentenced to sixteen years in a federal prison.

"He's the reason we're here today," Schankman says. "This was his idea, Nick Lachey was his idea. [Jason] originally wanted to call it

"He didn't get in trouble for meeting up with girls, he got in trouble for talking with girls on the Internet," Schankman goes on. "And he wanted to do this. We've been working on it since before he went away. And when he gets out, he's going to go around to schools talking about this, and he can afford to."

Schankman, ever the promoter, then recalled a recent conversation with Hanaway: "She said to me, 'You know, I didn't know if you were going to go through with this or not' -- because we started working on it before they put Jason away -- and I said, 'Are you kidding me? This needs to be done, and I'm a man who can do it.'"

-Kristen Hinman