Parents Call for Tighter Internet Controls After Incident at Elementary School

Wednesday, October 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A simple class project on animals became a lesson on the pornography industry.
A Union third grader stumbled on a nude picture over the Internet, and now some parents want tighter controls on Internet access at schools.

At elementary schools, the computer is as common as a bicycle rack and is probably more likely to be used by children. At Union Public School's Peters Elementary, children even in first grade can use the Internet under supervision. But recently, a third grader doing some research accidentally stumbled onto a nude picture of a woman and, in the process, exposed the district’s lack of a filtering system from its Internet provider. "We do not have a filtering system on the Internet itself," said Principal Jennifer Randall.

The gap was a surprise to parents. "As parents of students attending Union schools, we were completely unaware there was no filter in place," said Peters Elementary Parent Teacher Association president Ginger Swanson.

The boy was connected to a site that filters content for children. Somehow, the picture made it through those safeguards and there was nothing to stop it in the local system. "A little boy typed in a word and we had a picture come up on the screen that was inappropriate," said Randall.

The incident was discussed by the school’s P-T-A, which is satisfied that the school is looking into how it happened and how to prevent it from happening again. But the P-T-A president believes the school either needs a local filter on the Internet or needs more restrictions on Internet access. "His teacher is extremely responsible,” said Swanson. “She did everything she had been trained to do. She did everything she could and it still happened. This says to me, we need a filter. All of the parents thought we had one," she noted.

The problem is under review by the district. Union policy gives parents a choice whether their children have access to the Internet. The district isn't saying if the service will be filtered, but says its use will be monitored.