Pornographic websites accessed at McPolin
March 29, 2011
A McPolin teacher was placed on administrative leave Friday after evidence of an Internet security breach surfaced earlier in the week, according to Patrick Ogden of the Park City School District. Students found a way around the filter by searching terms in another language and were able to pull up pornographic material, Ogden said.
The same filter is provided to all public schools throughout the state by the Utah Education Network, according to Ogden. "We’ve already taken the step of filtering out those types of sites so the holes in the filters have been plugged," he said. "We are still investigating the incident."
The teacher who was placed on administrative leave isn’t thought to be involved, Ogden said, but administrators are looking into how the children were able access the pornographic sites in the classroom.
"We don’t know how long it’s been going on," said Traci Sheinberg, who has a student at McPolin Elementary.
A number of parents believe school administrators may have been aware of what has been going on since as early as last fall, said Alison Strauss, whose student is in the class in which the sites were reportedly visited. "They’re telling us that they found out about it last week, but parents have been complaining about it for months."
That is not the case, according to McPolin Principal Bob Edmiston. "I am not aware of any situation as far as any inappropriate content being accessed until this situation presented itself," Edmiston said.
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"As soon as I had information, I started investigating and doing my best to make sure all students were safe and that we were doing what we should at school to make sure learning was the priority," Edmiston added.
The investigation began when a student who was asked to log into their account for an unrelated reason immediately cleared all Internet search history, Strauss said.
Edmiston said that the investigation has led to identifying nine students and a number of desktop and laptop computers involved in the incident. Strauss expressed concern that those involved in the investigation "can’t even give me an idea of what they have found."
"We are working with 9- and 10-year-olds," Edmiston said.
Strauss and Sheinberg have demanded Edmiston meet with parents in order to discuss what is being done about the situation. Sheinberg understands Edmiston’s sensitivity to privacy, but the administrators need to deal with the situation more directly, she said.
"The way this district deals with any possible scandal is just disappointing," Steinberg said. "Things like this are going to happen. Let’s just face it head on."
"Bob [Edmiston] has said it’s all about protecting the privacy of those involved, and that’s baloney," Strauss said. "They are trying to keep this silent, use it to get rid of a teacher."
Edmiston said he could not comment on concerns regarding personnel, but is willing to meet with the group of parents once he has more information about what took place. He said wants to wait until he has a clearer picture of what exactly happened. "I want to have the information that would make that a productive meeting," he said.
In the meantime, he has cleared his schedule as much as possible and wants to deal with inquiries one-on-one with parents and students. "We welcome all phone calls, emails and conversations and we’d love to manage those individually," he said.
The biggest issue is the lack of communication between the school administrators and the parents, according to Strauss and Sheinberg. A letter to parents was sent home Thursday following school, according to Strauss.
"Clearly there is some stuff that is private, but everything isn’t," Strauss said. "They’ve given us zero [information]."
Other district officials were unavailable for comment.