Does the Wake County school system do enough to keep students away from pornographic and violent websites on school computers?
As noted in today's article, Carolyn Homan doesn't think so and has been trying to urge the school system to do more since November 2011. Feeling she wasn't getting anywhere, she made her pitch directly to the school board on Tuesday.
Homan showed a YouTube video and held up explicit images that she said she had found while surfing computers at her children's school, Brassfield Elementary School.
"Kindergarten computers have access to porn,” Homan said at Tuesday’s board meeting, as she held up photos of graphic images she said came from Brassfield’s computers. “Filters filter out only a few sites such as Playboy, leaving billions of explicit videos and sites.
Here's a small sampling of items available at every school computer at Brassfield. This is just a sampling: hot stripper porn dancing, hot stripper pole dancing, full anime porn movie, and this portrays elementary school children raping a babysitter.
Plenty of gruesome sites were found which feature dismemberment. Plenty of violent sites were found, and as you can see there's the school background. This was all on school computers.
This is one of the milder explicit photos. The rest I didn't feel comfortable bringing.
Something must be done, especially for the youngest children."
Homan’s unconventional approach caught the attention of school board members, who asked system administrators to look into the issues she raised.
“If you look hard enough, you can find (inappropriate material),” said school board chairman Keith Sutton. “That’s what she did.”
Board member John Tedesco said that during a break in the meeting, he, other board members and administrators looked up some of the sites Homan mentioned on Tedesco’s school district-issued iPad, using the district’s network.
“If it’s as she said, it shouldn’t be that easy for our children to run across that material on school computers,” Tedesco said.
But Vass Johnson, Wake’s senior director of networking, said Tedesco may have been using a cellular network to access the sites, which wouldn’t be covered by the school district’s Internet filters.
Homan proposes that individual schools set up dual access systems, in which students would be limited in what they could search, but teachers would have unlimited access. If students need more access, Homan said, the teacher could provide it on a supervised basis.
And if that can’t be done, Homan suggests setting up a districtwide system of limited access to pre-selected sites. She said she also would want search engines such as Google and navigation bars disabled.
Johnson said school officials are not sure Homan’s options would work in a district the size of Wake, whose 150,000 students make it the largest in the state.
Instead, school officials say they follow an approach of educating teachers, parents and students on Internet safety and using filters to monitor what students can see. For instance, Wake will hold these three classes on Internet safety for parents March 12-14.
“We need to find a balance between providing sufficient and appropriate access,” said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance.
Wake has had Internet filters blocking access to inappropriate sites even before it was mandated by federal law several years ago, Johnson said. He added that Wake uses a countywide database, updated weekly, that lists thousands of prohibited sites and search terms.
Even with the technology, Johnson said the school system relies on teachers to provide Internet supervision.
“There are no filtering programs that are 100 percent effective,” Johnson said. “Ours does a good job. But nothing compares to a class being monitored by a classroom teacher.”