TACOMA -- A macaroni necklace is often an innocent memento of a child's earliest artistic accomplishments. But for Amy Cooperman's second grade class, macaroni necklaces are the sinister beginnings to one of the worst child labour violations this country has seen in years. Cooperman, 33, a second grade teacher at Hilltop Elementary allegedly used her second grade class as free labor to support her personal jewelry business on the popular online marketplace, Etsy. Cooperman, whose avatar is "The Penne Princess" was arrested this morning after authorities raided her Washington home, where they found large quantities of pasta-laden jewelry, in addition to glittered pencil cases and finger paintings.
Cooperman activated her Etsy store six months ago, which has lead authorities to question how she was able to keep this scam under wraps for so long. But according to the school music teacher, Garry Smith, Cooperman was a master of manipulation:
"She really knew how to get in the kids's heads. From what I heard she convinced them that she planted cameras in their homes, and then threatened to murder their parents if they told about the operation. She'd never let me or any other teachers in her class, because she said she was trying out a new and innovative type of 'intensive learning.' I was always suspicious of the black construction paper she covered the windows with, but she claimed to have turned her classroom into the Milky Way for an ongoing 'Outer Space Simulation.' She was doing this all right under our noses. I could've stopped it, but I wasn't strong enough..."
Over six months, Cooperman managed to make an impressive $38,363, selling roughly 3,200 necklaces at $12 each. In the 48 hours since Etsy deactivated her business, 22 new macaroni jewelry shops and 31 food-related jewelry and art stores have opened on the site, some of which include: "Faces of 80s Pop Stars in Dried Kidney Beans," "Bukowski Poems Written in Lentils," and "Tammy's Famous Twizzler Bracelets." According to Mark Douglass, a programmer at Etsy, these new shops mark the official beginning of a cheap, new fashion trend that has exposed a niche market:
"Here at Etsy, we strive to give housewives, women in their 30s who are bored at their day jobs, cat ladies and young grandmothers, the online simulation of walking into shops in New Hope, Boulder or Truckee," says Douglass. "But now we can offer the Saturday Flea Market, everyday!"
However, despite the new opportunities for profit, the only thing these second graders learned this year was how to spell pappardelle.
"We were supposed to be learning the multiplication tables this month," said student Abby Robinson, age 7. "But we didn't do anything except make necklaces. One time Miss Cooperman screamed at me for bringing boxes of lasagna to class. It was all my mom had in the cupboard."
Despite collective suspicion amongst faculty members, the case was finally cracked open by suspicious parent, Boris Barkan, who grew weary after his son [Raymond] refused to join the family on Baked Ziti night:
"As soon as I put the tray of Ziti on the table he just freaked! One minute he was sitting quietly playing Pokemon on his Nintendo at the table, and the next he was up in his room dry-heaving on the floor. It was like a switch went off, I knew something was wrong."
It took several Baked Ziti nights and a few overturned bowls of spagetti for Barkan to make the "pasta connection," but it wasn't long before he had a hunch as to what was going on:
"I noticed that the pasta in my cabinet kept going missing, even though there were no food drives happening at the school. He [Raymond] would never bring home any homework or study sheets, never spoke of spelling quizzes. Every time I asked him how things were going in Miss Cooperman's class he'd just kinda nod and say, 'it's fine.' But when I caught him yelling at the wall his room saying, 'Where is the camera, Miss Cooperman?' I had to contact the principal."
While Principal Ken Hunter has denied to speak with the media, he has agreed to cooperate with any ongoing investigations. As for Amy Cooperman and her second grade class, Boris Barkan actually sees a silver lining in this situation:
"If America is going to ever be on top again, we're going to have to teach our children skills and get 'em working," says Barkan, as he watches his son Raymond dig for worms in the dirt. "You see, what is this? You're playing in the dirt, dig a friggin' hole, ya know? Plant a tree, plant some vegetables. Miss Cooperman really made me see how useless this whole educational system is. I think you're gonna see a whole lot more cases like this on Etsy, and rightfully so!"