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School Board Approves First Reading of Student Internet Safety Policy


BRADENTON –  At Monday's meeting, the Manatee County school board unanimously approved to publicly advertise a series of procedures that will prohibit unsavory or illicit Internet practices on district computers and servers in the name of student safety. In the same motion, the board voted to schedule a public hearing on the item for February 25. 

The policy, which will comply with federal, state and local laws on student Internet usage, "serves a two-fold purpose," as advised by Assistant Superintendent of Support Services, Scott Martin: "One is to make the Internet experience of our students safer in some respects. The other purpose is to qualify the district for continued E-rate discounts," which allows the district to buy telecommunication services at significantly reduced rates.

The qualification for continuing to receive the E-rate discounts is adopting a policy that complies with the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, said Mr. Martin, who told the board that the proposed list of procedures would do so.

Among the procedures prohibited on the list are "hacking and other unlawful activities," as well as access by minors to "inappropriate material," such as "visual depictions deemed obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors as those terms are depicted."

Mr. Martin described the list as a "minimum compliance-type policy (for complying with CIPA) ... I'm not trying to convey to the board that this proposal is our sole basis for ensuring that our students are protected on the internet; we aleady have those first rules in place." He added that such current rules, which include the prohibition of "sexting", or obscene text messages, could be added to the list of procedures outlined at the meeting.

Board Chair Karen Carpenter noted that technology such as smart phones can also be used by students for uploading obscene photos. "I'm wondering how broad this policy can be in order to protect our young people," she said, though the procedures in their current form would not seem to include students' use of personal smart phones, which do not fall under the communication mediums that are described in the list as only computers and networks that are owned and regulated by the district.

Board member Barbara Harvey stated her support for the policy, and also talked about the need to "make sure our children know that when you put information out (onto the Internet), it's out there, and you can't erase it."

Full results of Monday's agenda can be viewed here.


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