The objections posed by the Orchard Park computer services director to an Internet filtering system in public schools are absurd. The 10 percent to 20 percent of legitimate Web sites that "Bess" filters are a small price to pay for the 99 percent of harmful sites it blocks. Personal Web pages have no business in public schools, because districts have no control over their content.
I am in charge of a computer lab for middle school and high school students in the Silver Creek Central School District. Before any Internet filtering system was available, I checked the history of each computer daily and was appalled at the Web sites our students were able to access.
Students were visiting sexually explicit sites, gambling, applying for credit cards, buying products with their parents' credit cards, sending for free stuff and talking to strangers via chat rooms. Students downloaded and installed game and music applications that interfered with the performance of our network. This also conflicted with our policy that the computers are for academics only.
The most important block is the filtering of chat rooms and free e-mail. In the past, I discovered numerous students who spent all of their free time talking to strangers. I was able to read what was sent to our students, and in at least one instance it could have resulted in a dangerous situation. Silver Creek has its own e-mail program, so free e-mail is not necessary. In addition to monitoring student use, our e-mail helps to guard against viruses transferred through attachments.
Silver Creek has been using Bess for two years. We have not found any sites blocked that are essential to academic success. The Internet is so vast that there is always another address to find information if the first site selected is blocked. State databases and periodical indexes purchased by our school are not blocked.