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Fourth- and fifth-grade students accessed porn at Illinois elementary school

“It’s more common than you think,” Patrick Trueman of Morality in Media, told LifeSiteNews.
Mon May 5, 2014 - 7:26 pm EST

GLEN ELLYN, IL, May 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Illinois elementary school is scrambling to improve its web filtering systems after a parent complained that three fourth- and fifth-grade boys were able to view pornographic material using a school computer and one child’s personal iPod.

The school in question, Forest Glen Elementary, did not immediately respond to LifeSiteNews' request for comment, but one school official told ABC7 that the school’s IT department has blocked the offensive website and is updating its firewall.

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“It’s more common than you think,” Patrick Trueman, a former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice who now runs watchdog group Morality in Media, told LifeSiteNews. “Kids are more sophisticated than the teachers with respect to pornography on the internet. Even though a school may have blocking software, kids often know how to get around it.”

Parents should be aware that schools often don’t take adequate precautions to keep kids safe from explicit material – not out of malice, but out of ignorance.

Trueman said that many cash-strapped schools just download whatever free or inexpensive filtering software they can find, without regard for quality or effectiveness. “That’s not good enough,” he said.

Instead, Trueman recommends IT professionals at schools and public libraries alike visit Morality in Media’s Safe Schools, Safe Libraries Project for resources to help them engineer a safer environment for children, including policy suggestions, software recommendations, and more.

However, Trueman pointed out that as long as kids have access to personal internet-connected devices during school hours – which may connect to the web via cellular data and thus avoid the school’s Wi-Fi filters completely – kids will always be at risk of seeing something inappropriate.

“Students should not be allowed to have pornography on internet-connected devices,” Trueman said, “but how do you police that?”

For grade schools like Forest Glen, Trueman recommends an outright ban on personal internet-connected devices. But he admits that things get trickier when students reach the upper grades, where many children’s parents will want them to have cell phones for reasons of safety and easier communication.

“When it gets to high school, the problem is, every child seems to have a phone, and every phone today seems to be connected to the internet,” Trueman said. “So, it’s much more difficult. But at least what the grade schools and the high schools can do is check their software to make sure they have not just some off-the-shelf brand, but something effective.”

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Trueman says the best way to ensure your local school is taking measures to prevent kids from accessing explicit material is to get involved and ask the right questions.

“Schools don’t do the work, and then they act surprised when there’s a problem,” Trueman said. He said it’s up to parents to do the research if the school refuses, and pressure the administration to take whatever steps necessary to keep kids safe.

“Every parent should find out what the pornography blocking policy is at their school and public library, and what filters are used,” Trueman said. “Find out who is responsible for those filters, and have a parental meeting with that person, so that person, on behalf of the school, can assure them that the kids won’t get pornography at school. Oftentimes, what you’ll find is that the person doesn’t know a lot about it.”

Trueman said parents shouldn’t accept budget-related excuses for poor filtering software, and should demand highly rated, effective programs like the ones recommended by the Safe Schools, Safe Libraries Project.

“Parents are the ones in charge,” added Trueman. “You can’t turn your children over to the school and expect the school to raise them.”

Trueman also recommended parents talk to their children’s friends’ parents about this issue the same way they might inquire about gun safety precautions, or rules for jumping on the backyard trampoline.

“You should treat pornography like a disease,” Trueman said. “Would you let your kids go into a building or go over to a friend’s house if you knew they were going to catch a deadly disease? The answer is no. So, parents need to know before they allow their kids to play with a playmate at the playmate’s home, ‘What is the policy for blocking pornography on all devices – not just the desktop, but the [video game consoles], laptops, iPads, iPods, et cetera?’ Parents need to know, what is the policy?”

Just by asking these questions, said Trueman, parents “can often educate their neighbors.”


  pornography, public schools

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