School Laptops Help Children Find Pornography and Meet Sexual Predators


At the urging of Fullerton police, a mother sent us this chilling story of her 11 year old girl who was nearly lured into a meeting with a suspected sexual predator after spending months chatting with him on a school laptop. School district employees deceptively promised parents that the laptops were safe when they required parents to purchase them, ignoring evidence that abuse of the laptops is prevalent throughout all grade levels. Many other children have been harmed by the 1:1 Laptop Program, but this is the first time that a parent has had the courage to come forward with the truth.

What I am about to share is very personal, and something that I’ve feared sharing for months now. You see, my children are transfer students, and I’ve feared that our transfer for next year would be denied if I spoke up, or that my children would be humiliated from the publicizing of this. I’ve been afraid that somehow the message that I want to convey would be torn apart and somehow I would be accused of poor parenting. Regardless of my fears of discrimination or criticism I am coming forward because I feel that it’s my duty, as a parent, to warn other parents of the very real danger that exists for our children.

My daughter was a sixth grade student at Golden Hill Elementary School last year for the 2008-2009 school year. The parents of incoming 6th graders attended a meeting, prior to the school year starting, about the laptop program. We basically voted whether or not we wanted to participate in the program. It was my understanding that if I did not want my daughter to participate I could send her to one of the surrounding schools that was not participating in the program. Due to the fact that she was a transfer student, my husband and I did not want to transfer her out, as we felt that the other schools in our area were not, let’s just say, as nice of schools as Golden Hill. We agreed to the program because we felt that we had very little choice, and signed the appropriate paperwork to begin leasing our daughter’s very expensive laptop that we really couldn’t afford.

Parents were encouraged to ask questions after the presentation. Topics about internet safety were brought up, and the parents were told that many state of the art firewalls were in place. If a child were to search an inappropriate topic they would immediately find out about it and the child would be questioned. They said that a tech person from the district would come in regularly, if not every week, and randomly check the computers for such material, or to do repairs on the laptops as needed. I can honestly say that when the school principle and district technology and media rep stood up there and told me this, I believed them.

In the beginning of January, 3 ½ months into the school year, I checked my daughter’s email and found incoming emails that warranted suspicion. After further investigation of the emails I found out that my daughter was able to access pornography and that she was chatting with adult men online. She used her school laptop to access a pornographic website, from her bedroom at night, using the neighbor’s unsecured wireless. What I did not find out until later was that she was making plans to meet one of the men that she had met online. In the 3 ½ months that this was happening neither the school nor the district was alerted by her inappropriate web usage from her school laptop.

Looking back I can remember when I picked my kids up after school I often saw 6th graders, with their laptops open outside of the houses that surrounded Golden Hill. They were accessing unsecured wireless too. I wonder what they were accessing outside before and after school that they weren’t allowed to access at home. My daughter told me that many of the students had found pornography on their school laptops with ease.

I took the laptop to the Fullerton School District to be searched by the Technology and Media Assistant Director Sam Ricchio. I was so angry. I asked him how it was possible for her to get onto such websites if there were so many firewalls in place. I wanted to know why they weren’t notified right away like they promised us that they would be if such searches were occurring. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any answers for me. He searched her computer for days before calling me and recommending that I take it to the police for a more detailed search.

I took the laptop to the Fullerton Police Department. They were successful at doing a forensic search on the computer. They told me that she was in fact chatting online using Yahoo Chat. They tried to send a warrant to Yahoo to get the records of the chat sessions, but because Yahoo purges the chats so quickly, it’s not possible to get the records. Since there were no records, no crime was committed and the case was closed. A month after everything with my daughter was revealed; the Fullerton Police Department came to Golden Hill and taught on internet safety.

The school had a meeting at the end of the year for the parents of graduating 6th grade students. Parents were given the option to keep the laptop or to turn it in. We were encouraged to keep the computer because “It’s still a great computer with incredible firewall protection for your child. If your child looks up the word, say, ‘breast cancer’, it’ll be flagged.” My husband was so appalled by this that he approached the principal, Robert Johnson, and the district Technology and Media Director, Ted Lai, afterwards to confront them on the lack of truth in what was being promised. Ted Lai said, “Your daughter is a brilliant hacker, and her situation is a one in one million case.” It’s unbelievable that he would rather make sensational claims and accusations instead of recognizing the huge gaping flaw in the laptop program, which is lack of safety for our children. I called the detective who handled our case, and I told him what Ted Lai said. He sounded shocked at what he heard, and assured me that he never said anything like that to the principal or Fullerton School District. He said that it was far from a one in a million case, and that a similar thing happened to a child who attended a neighboring junior high, only she actually got in the vehicle with the predator.

Sam Ricchio recommended that I take all laptops and computer cords into my bedroom at night for safekeeping. He does the same thing in his own home. Our daughter no longer has private computer access, and my neighbor has secured her wireless. I felt stupid for being so naïve in thinking that a child should have a laptop with access to whatever she could dream of. I felt safe in believing that a school district would have the best firewalls to protect my child like they promised that firewalls do. I do believe that parents have a responsibility to watch over their children, and this generation requires a new kind of vigilance, but I also believe that a school has the responsibility to be honest in their abilities to protect our children as well. Let’s face it. Kids are kids. If you give them the key to unlock Pandora’s Box, they’re going to unlock it. It is unnecessary and unsafe for a child of any age to be given a laptop of their own.

My goal in coming forward with this story is to make parents aware that personal school laptops for children are not safe even though firewalls are in place, regardless of how much a child is supervised. Most children are not kept under constant surveillance by parents, caregivers, after-school programs, or even on school campuses. Seemingly innocent chat rooms are the hunting grounds for child predators, and the internet itself is filled with material that a child of any age should not have access to. This is not an isolated incident. This is not an outstanding circumstance or child. This can happen to your child or a child that you know. The police told me to consider myself lucky that I have my daughter with me, and that I did not have to identify her body from somewhere. They were right. I am lucky. Countless other families aren’t as lucky though. You can protect your children from what Fullerton School District believes is a safe and beneficial program. You can choose to NOT purchase a school laptop for your child, and to NOT support the laptop program.

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  1. #1 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 15, 2009

    This is bad. Really, really bad. Will heads roll?

  2. #2 by Hollis Dugan on September 15, 2009

    They use guilt and intimidation to get parents to sign up for this and then suggest their 12 yearmold is a hacker if they go on Yahoo? What the hell is the matter with the school board members? Are they addressing this?

    It is time to end the school laptop program

  3. #3 by pattyh on September 15, 2009

    I applaud this ladys courage to share her story. We as parents need to hear what is REALY going on with this program so we can make decisions based on the truth. Unfortunately the School District is not the place to go to for the Truth!

  4. #4 by Chris Thompson on September 15, 2009

    Much gratitude to this mother who is moral enough to care about other children as well as her own.

    Unfortunately, my time spent challenging this district causes me to have little problem accepting the voracity and accuracy of this mom’s contentions especially as it pertains to the defensive comments manufactured by some in district staff who refuse responsibility. They hide behind the seemingly impennetrable veil of, “but we’re just sweet, loving educators.”

    This part of the laptop issue is difficult for me as there is no question that it is inevitable that internet access will be a part of children’s education and there are inherent risks involved. The real message of this story is that this district will on occasion lie, violate the state constitutional demand for free schools, bury their head in the sand and not think twice about shaming people into paying dearly for this program. They chose this hill to die on and so far parents and community members have allowed them to continue their march to the top of that hill…on their backs.

    Very simply, the Fullerton School District not only cannot guaruntee that their children will not have access to illicit sites or chat, they cannot even come close to controlling it. At best, they unwittingly lure parents into believing that these laptops are especially safe. At worst they knowingly mischaracterize the level of security. Make no mistake, this district characterizes themselves as experts in digital education and they are not. They are a district which thrusts this cobbled together program into the hands of teachers with vastly different levels of technical accumen. Their motto seems to be, buy it, give it and then figure it out.

    Oh, how I hope that I am wrong, but allow me to make a prediction. Little will come of this. The most telling part of this entire post is the mother’s characterization of her fear of retribution by the school if they exposed the situation. Note that even the father in this story waited for the meeting to end before confronting the principal. And, at that, he is in a 2% category of parents willing to open their mouths. Frankly, as long as parents continue to happily bury their heads in the sand, this will continue.

  5. #5 by karen on September 15, 2009

    I give this Mother so much credit for speaking up!

  6. #6 by tech on September 15, 2009

    If I’m reading this correctly, a child can sit on the playground after school and access any open wireless from a nearby home or business. If that’s true, than every child is in danger and PARENTS CAN DO NOTHING ABOUT IT.

    This is really screwed up.

  7. #7 by Stanley Holditch on September 15, 2009

    Hi Folks. First of all, I also want to thank the poster for sharing her story with the rest of the world. There are a lot of people out there who want to pretend that the threat of online predators is just media-driven hysteria, and I know that other responsible parents appreciate her story.

    I work for InternetSafety.com and we make content filters for the Internet that can not only block pornography and other objectionable content, but also record IM conversations onto logs that are kept for long periods of time. This story is exactly why we do what we do. We currently work with several schools to help make their laptop initiatives safe for kids and with our solutions it won’t matter whether the Internet connection is at home, in the school, or on someone else’s wireless connection.

    If the school does not want to implement better filtering, we have filtering solutions for individual families. But know that there are technological solutions out there that work. There is no substitute for talking to your kids about Internet safety and communicating with them about their online activity, but having the right tools is a huge help, and can help keep your child safe. One thing we recommend, aside from installing a filter, is printing out and signing the InternetSafety.com Family Gameplan [ http://www.internetsafety.com/internet-monitoring-game-plan.php ] as a family. I hope that helps.

  8. #8 by The Commissioner on September 15, 2009

    Where is Minard Duncan on this? How about Hilda or Bev? What is going on here? Will someone from the school board step up and address this issue please?

  9. #9 by Minard Watch on September 15, 2009

    Yeah, we know Minard Duncan reads this blog. So how ’bout in Minard? Got anything to say?

  10. #10 by Anonymous on September 15, 2009

    Yes, it seems that the FSD could certainly upgrade their security.. Where’s the family’s responsibility? Why is an 11 year old girl, accessing pornography and chatting online w/someone older than she, arranging meetings? I think this family needs some individual/family counseling..

  11. #11 by tech on September 15, 2009

    I have never seen a firewall that manages to block everything. Parents need to be able to monitor their kids, but that’s not possible if the school gives them access to laptops 24/7.

  12. #12 by Joe Sipowicz on September 15, 2009

    Precisely. The kids have the computer all day long. blaming the parents is just plain chickenshit. The FSD promised security, didn’t deliver, then tried to deny that a problem existed. Shameful.

  13. #13 by Chris Thompson on September 15, 2009

    Much like you anonymous may need to go back to school in order to increase your reading comprehension. The point of the story is that the district implies that these computers are secure and that illicit chat and pornography are filtered. What the family does not need is your lobbing emotional hand grenades from the shadows after they show the courage to reveal this story to the benefit of others.

  14. #14 by Ricardo on September 15, 2009

    The problem with our society is that most people are only concerned about cold beer, what a shame we are.

  15. #15 by Travis Kiger on September 15, 2009

    Chris, I appreciate your prediction, but I think we’re on the edge of a new era of accountability for the school board. Someone will have to answer for the lies that parents were told.

  16. #16 by Travis Kiger on September 15, 2009

    That is correct. And even if parents manage to protect their own child’s laptop at home, the kids get to school and copy over stuff from their friends computer the next day.

  17. #17 by admin on September 15, 2009

    Travis, I admire your persistence and desire for accountability, however, the only way to assure accountability in government is by using the laws of our great nation to do so. It took me 25 years to learn that valuable lesson in life.

  18. #18 by 1st time on FFFF's blog on September 15, 2009

    Travis,

    Great job bringing this issue to our attention! I especially want to thank and acknowledge the courage that it took for this family to take a stand for the benefit of others.

  19. #19 by SpectorDoug on September 16, 2009

    It is not my intent to simply plug my company or our school PC and Internet monitoring software Spector 360 – but there are inexpensive technical solutions to this important challenge. It is a waste of time and money to have a district IT person visit to do physical “spot check” of just a couple computers. Plus that doesn’t help them meet government regulations such as CIPA anyway. Solutions like ours can track every single student web page visited, chat, email, image downloaded, offline application (homework) run and more. We can even send alerts to the same administrators when keywords such as “suicide” or “proxy” are typed or found. Parents who can’t wait for their school district to adopt technology like this can protect their children and get the same alerts for $99 with a product like Spector Pro. This software will even enable you limit the use of PCs at night. This short YouTube video explains how one school district was able to stop “bad things from happening”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s4kkW-AsNU

  20. #20 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 16, 2009

    Doug it looks like that was your precisely your intent. We don’t take advertising here so please – no free hawking.

  21. #21 by Elementary Parent on September 16, 2009

    It’s not only the 1:1 laptop program that has problems… It’s pretty clear to me that the FSD district is in over their heads with regards to kids and computers. My kids go to Acacia (which is an excellent school!) and although they don’t have a 1:1 program there, they do have a laptop cart that is circulated around the classrooms so each child has some time with a laptop. When the kids have access, they’re often playing online games, viewing advertisements about hair loss, mortgage deals, etc. I feel that kind of content isn’t appropriate for young children; even though many would consider it “harmless” I don’t think it belongs in an educational setting. I don’t blame the teachers because there’s no way they can monitor a classroom of thirty children surfing the internet.

    I think the district has unfortunately reacted hastily to a sense of urgency to somehow get technology into the hands of school children, without really thinking about or articulating the long-term goal.

  22. #22 by Fullertonian on September 16, 2009

    Not to blame EITHER side on this one, however, here’s some food for thought. If this 6th grader didn’t have a laptop obtained from the school district, would they have done the same thing on the family’s home computer?

  23. #23 by Huh? on September 16, 2009

    Whaddya mean “not to blame either side”? That’s not what happened. What happened was the parents got ripped off, lied to, and then insulted for good measure. And in between their kid almost got into a whole lot of trouble.

    By all means lets not blame anyone – except cast aspersions on the kid to exonerate a bunch of self-serving educrats and well-heeled do-gooders.

  24. #24 by Travis Kiger on September 16, 2009

    Fullertonian, probably not. Parents don’t let kids take an internet-connected computer into their room alone at night unless someone with authority has (deceptively) promised them that it was safe.

    Furthermore, if all of the kids’ homework is done on the computer, a parent can’t even make reasonable time restrictions on computer use. Kids will just say that they are “doing homework”, and the parent has little chance of knowing otherwise.

    And finally, a computer at home cannot be used by a child waiting out in front of school, on the way home, at the coffee shop, or for copying files from friends at school.

  25. #25 by pattyh on September 16, 2009

    So what does the F.S.D. have to say about this?

  26. #26 by Joe John Johnston on September 17, 2009

    Sounds like an isolated incident, perverted kid should’nt have been doing that. Parents need to keep a better eye on their kids.

  27. #27 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 17, 2009

    #26 – good thing you’re not a cop.

  28. #28 by pattyh on September 17, 2009

    Is it an isolated incident or has someone finaly had the courage to talk about it? Joe Johnston, maybe you should read the last paragraph of this testimony again. Or better yet; call the Police Dep. and see just how isolated this really is.

  29. #29 by Sick to my Stomach on September 17, 2009

    Joe John I really hope that you don’t have any kids. I truly feel sorry for them if you do because you’re the type of man who beats the crap out of his son for being a homosexual. You obviously don’t get out much to see what is really going on in this world with today’s kids. Quit sticking your head in the sand. Wake up and quit being so judgemental. Why don’t you get off your horse Mr. High and Mighty. You’re ability to see has been obscured by that white cloak that you ride around in at night.

  30. #30 by dr_of_ed on September 17, 2009

    [1] How tragic that a parent writes a letter, intended for publication, and then doesn’t even bother to spell check it so it won’t read “school principle” and other ridiculous errors that would leave any high school graduate red-faced.

    [2] Schools shouldn’t promise that computers are ever safe. They might not be even if they are connected to the school network.

    [3] Parents have to start watching their own children when they are in their own house. It’s cradle-to-the-grave socialism if you want schools and teachers to raise your kids and watch over them and discipline them.

    [4] Heads will not roll. One thing administrators do is take care of themselves. Notice that even in the face of numerous teacher layoffs in these grim budget times, administrators gave themselves *pay raises* this year.

    [5] It is not “unsafe” to give children laptops, any more than it is “unsafe” to teach them about the human reproductive system. The governor is phasing out paper textbooks so laptops are the way the whole system is heading. Texas and other states have been working with them for years with no problems. We need to learn from the success of others.

    [6] What do people think their whining will accomplish? Have a game plan – don’t just whine for the sake of being an entitled dammit-I-have-my-rights parent.

  31. #31 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 17, 2009

    dr_of_ed, thanks for visiting. You got one thing right: schools shouldn’t promise laptops are safe.

    Sorry to disagree with someone of your academic achievement, but giving kids unsecure computers 24/7 is unsafe. Have you read the post and comments? Kids can access unsecured signals almost everywhere – not at home.

    Actually you got something else right too. Administrators do take care of themselves. And the feckless school boards let them get away with it.

  32. #32 by Interesting on September 17, 2009

    Recent poll results on OC Register:

    Who’s at fault for child’s misuse of school-issued laptop?

    The school district that issued the laptops and assured of protections.
    13%

    The parent who failed to monitor laptop use.
    63%

    The child who visited inappropriate sites.
    24%

    Total Votes: 183

  33. #33 by Robert Blake on September 17, 2009

    Blame the parent for not monitoring his id’s computer use 24/7? That’s hilarious. Blame the little kid?

    I wonder how those questions were really phrased. Sounds like a push poll for the administrators union!

  34. #34 by Sick to my Stomach on September 17, 2009

    I’d like to know which parents today can monitor a computer around the clock especially homes with full-time working parents. That’s just funny. Oh and to the dr of ed all you took away from that was grammatical errors? You’re pretty ridiculous. Nice smear campaign.

  35. #35 by also sick on September 17, 2009

    And this is about an 11 year old girl. Imagine what all of those Jr. High kids have on those computers. SICK!!

  36. #36 by Name on September 18, 2009

    Although it is upsetting that a child was exposed to this inappropriate content the computer skills that will be gained by participating in the program will be a great advantage in the future.
    P.S. Robert Blake – the poll was written exactly as quoted.

  37. #37 by Mr. Peabody on September 18, 2009

    Name :
    Although it is upsetting that a child was exposed to this inappropriate content the computer skills that will be gained by participating in the program will be a great advantage in the future.
    P.S. Robert Blake – the poll was written exactly as quoted.

    And what computer skills might those be? How to surf the internet? How to use a word processor or put together PowerPoint slides? How to send and read email, or download files? When it comes to a child’s elementary education, those “skills” should be far down the list of priorities, if on the list at all. What’s important at that age is the three R’s so that there’s a strong foundation of basic skills. It doesn’t matter that those R’s are “old-fashioned” or don’t require technology, they’re still the core of a quality education. Besides, those computer “skills” are achieved with MINIMAL effort on behalf of the kids, they learn that kind of stuff far, far faster than adults. The 1:1 program is a giant boondoggle, and it waters down the elementary education of our children.

  38. #38 by FTTNeedsGZS on September 18, 2009

    I am a Fullerton Elementary school teacher and a parent of elementary school children who have been a part of the laptop program. First, I am aware of numerous children who have accessed inappropriate sites and viewed illicit images while using their school issued laptops. Furthermore, we discovered inappropriate material on our son’s laptop. For those of you who would blame this on “bad parenting” get your heads out of you a#%! These are curious adolescents, who if given the opportunity, will venture into areas they shouldn’t go. In giving these laptops to children to take home and expecting them to refrain from inappropriate sites is equivalent to putting dirty magazines in a young boys closet but telling him to not look at them. When not monitored (and what parent can do this 24/7 ?) they will act on their curiosity. Unfortunately, this can lead to emotional, psychological and even physical harm through sexual predators who are just looking for an opportunity to catch a young child who has wandered into the dangerous world of the internet.
    To the mother of the daughter who was caught up in this unfortunate situation please be encouraged. What others may mean for harm God can use for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). May you and your daughter experience His all-sufficient grace! (2 Cor. 12:8) FTTNeedsGZS

  39. #39 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    How right you are, Peabody! The laptop program is a double failure. It isn’t secure and it doesn’t promote real learning.

    It might substitute for the old typing classes we took if the kids are actually taught that.

    If anything internet access to “knowledge” will promote passive, brain-dead regurgitation of information in some cases false (welcome to Kharakhastan!).

    Learning to manipulate Microsoft programs like Excel can be useful indeed – but it won’t teach you how to analyze data. Clicking spellcheck won’t teach you how to write.

  40. #40 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    FTTNeedsGZS, for all that I thank you for you advice, my head is not in my ass or any other beast of burden. No one expects a parent to monitor an adolescent on a 24 hour basis, 7 days per week. However, a parent should be able to take precautions that make such monitoring unnecessary.

    The solution to this problem is parenting, both in teaching your children right from wrong and in doing your best not to allow them unfettered access to content you find objectionable. Never allow an adolescent unrestricted access to a computer; take the computer away and lock it up at night or when you aren’t home to watch them. I use a safe to store the computer along with other valuables. If this is not an option for you, consider a padlock and a basket.

    The school district did fail in this as well. They failed to perform a follow up when the problem happened, making strange claims that the child was some sort of “hacker extraordinaire”. However, I doubt very much they were attempting to force children to view this material or meet adult predators online, so it can’t be fairly said that they were willing accomplices to the act.

    Finally, the “firewall” software is probably the most to blame. They were most likely the lowest bidder to the school’s IT bid, and in this case you get what you paid for…

    Were I the school district, I would provide an “administrative” or “root” password to parents upon request. This would give you the ultimate control over the laptop.

  41. #41 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    Ben :

    However, I doubt very much they were attempting to force children to view this material or meet adult predators online, so it can’t be fairly said that they were willing accomplices to the act.

    Ben, that statement is so irrelevant and assinine that it doesn’t even deserve a response.

  42. #42 by FTTNeedsGZS on September 18, 2009

    Thanks Ben. I’m not suggesting that parents do not have a responsibility to monitor the use of a child’s computer use. They do!! However, my “ass” comment (Sorry if that offended anyone) was primarily to the many who have personally attacked the mother and suggested it was all her fault.
    I was monitoring my son’s computer use and that’s how I discovered the inappropriate sites. Thank God I made that discovery before he went too far down that perilous internet road.
    Your suggestion to get a safe and lock up the computer is a great idea, but what about the hours they are actually using it? Do you suggest I look over his shoulder each and every minute?
    My point, as is yours I think, the district ought to provide a better firewall or password protection or something to prevent this situation which is not isolated. I know for a fact that several Nicholas students have used their computer to look at inappropriate sites (That is when they are not playing video games or listening to music. What a great use of the computer)

  43. #43 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    The Fullerton Harpoon :

    Ben :
    However, I doubt very much they were attempting to force children to view this material or meet adult predators online, so it can’t be fairly said that they were willing accomplices to the act.

    Ben, that statement is so irrelevant and assinine that it doesn’t even deserve a response.

    I point out that the school isn’t at fault unless they’re trying to force children into the act. Blaming them isn’t going to solve anything.

    But thank you, I’m glad to see that internet trolling is still going strong.

  44. #44 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    FTTNeedsGZS :
    Your suggestion to get a safe and lock up the computer is a great idea, but what about the hours they are actually using it? Do you suggest I look over his shoulder each and every minute?
    My point, as is yours I think, the district ought to provide a better firewall or password protection or something to prevent this situation which is not isolated. I know for a fact that several Nicholas students have used their computer to look at inappropriate sites (That is when they are not playing video games or listening to music. What a great use of the computer)

    FTTNeedsGZS, nothing said in this discussion has offended me, much less anything you’ve said.

    As for watching them every second they’re at a computer, no. Many routers have an outbound port filter. You can turn that on and allow only connections to port 80. This stops online games and chat, for the most part. Additionally, you can whitelist sites (i.e. only allow them to go to certain websites) and if they want a new site they can bring it to you. These are more advanced techniques that might require a trip to the local technician but it would give you all the tools you need to enforce your rules without Big Brother-esque supervision.

  45. #45 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    Let’s see: the District isn’t at fault because they’re not “trying to force children into the act.” That is pure, unadulterated bullshit, Ben, and you should be ashamed of yourself for writing something so stupid.

    By all means let’s not blame the public agency responsible for coercing parents (through the threat of transfer) to buy or lease overpriced computers that they claimed had built-in safeguards! Oh no, let’s not blame the elected board of trustees and their administrators for creating this fiasco. They’re just victims, too! The victims of a bad parent.

  46. #46 by A Mom on September 18, 2009

    My question is what is an 11 year old child doing on a porn site for that many months without the parents knowing a thing about it. Where were her parents during those months that this girl was able to be in a chat porn room, give out her email address and arrange a meet? If you have a family computer that is out in the open why was this child allowed to be on the laptop in her room why not have the same rules for both family computer and laptop. Seems to me like the parents let the laptop be the babysitter like so many other parents do and then when something like this happens they blame everyone else instead of themselves for not watching out for their children. Just because the school had all these firewalls and programs to stop this doesn’t mean as a parent we just say OK and don’t check on things ourself. Mom needs to stop blaming the school and look at herself at this point and see where she could have prevented this. She needs to sit down and talk with her daughter and find out what is going on with her. If the daughter is doing this at 11 what will she be doing at 13? Wake up mom and sit down and talk with your daughter and watch closly what she is doing and who she is talking to. Take the time out and be a parent stop leaving it up to the schools.

  47. #47 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    The Fullerton Harpoon :
    Let’s see: the District isn’t at fault because they’re not “trying to force children into the act.” That is pure, unadulterated bullshit, Ben, and you should be ashamed of yourself for writing something so stupid.
    By all means let’s not blame the public agency responsible for coercing parents (through the threat of transfer) to buy or lease overpriced computers that they claimed had built-in safeguards! Oh no, let’s not blame the elected board of trustees and their administrators for creating this fiasco. They’re just victims, too! The victims of a bad parent.

    At no point did I claim that parents are to blame. Please point out where I did so or cease to put words in my mouth. I did not claim that the School District is a victim nor did I claim that there were not steps the District should take.

    However, the school district certainly didn’t sit down and force these kids to go those sites, nor do they condone the actions of those children that do, and blaming them for adolescents going to visit adult sites is ridiculous since the school has zero ability to stop them when the kids are off campus. I may as well blame parents when the kids use non-school computers to view the same material, or text inappropriate pictures of themselves to other students. I don’t hold that to be a failure on the part of the parents, just as kids using school (or library) computers isn’t something I blame on the public agency. There is one party causing the issue, the kids themselves. The treatment is to appropriately punish the kids for their behavior, not go on some Luddite rant based on the computer making the material available.

    I stand by my statement. The Districts only “crime” was claiming the incident was isolated when they should have immediately gotten a better means of protection to prevent viewing objectionable material in the first place. I agree with you that it is wrong for them to require a computer and threaten to transfer them, but it isn’t wrong of them to make computers available to students since so often learning to use these tools is a necessary part of making a living as an adult.

  48. #48 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    There you go again! Nobody accused the District of commiting a crime. Just creating a wretched laptop program, and requiring machines that they represented as safe.

    The statement that it was an isolated incident is not a crime either. Just a lie.

    BTW, an 11 year old is not a teen.

  49. #49 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    The Fullerton Harpoon :
    There you go again! Nobody accused the District of commiting a crime. Just creating a wretched laptop program, and requiring machines that they represented as safe.
    The statement that it was an isolated incident is not a crime either. Just a lie.
    BTW, an 11 year old is not a teen.

    “Crime” in quotes is a long standing literary convention indicating either sarcasm or that I’m quoting from another source. I will leave it up to you to figure out which.

    For reference the machines are perfectly safe. There is nothing inherently unsafe in a computer, in the same way that there is nothing inherently unsafe in a hammer. Would you allow you child to use a hammer and nails at home unsupervised?

    The uses that the computers are being put to, that the School District does not condone, are inappropriate. The School District has stated that they do not condone these actions and have attempted to take steps to prevent it. The protection was insufficient, and the Schools did not respond well or quickly to being told that the protections had been circumvented, but they did not cause the children to go and browse the websites. The kids did it of their own recognizance, while they were outside of school supervision and not on school premises. It is up to the parents of these children to punish their kids as they see fit, within the bounds of the law. It is not the parents fault that their kids were curious, but teaching their children that it is wrong is entirely within their realm of responsibility.

    Again, I request that you point out where I blamed the parents, as you claimed I did in an earlier post.

    I’m not sure why you decided to define “teen” as I never used the word, I said adolescent. However, the term applies to both depending on the level of physical and mental maturity.
    http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=teenager

  50. #50 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    Ben, you’ve subtly moved from “not force” to “not condone;” I think pretty soon you’ll be on the right side of this.

    You imply that because it is an inanimate object – like a hammer – a computer is herently “safe,” but with use by a child it requires supervision. To me that sounds like it is inherently unsafe – in the wrong hands.

    And of course these computers were given to kids to use before and after school – during periods in which they would have no supervion.

    I would be really curious to see what the eighth grade boys have been up to as they “create knowledge” with their laptops.

    BTW, your original statement that “parenting” was the solution to the problem suggested that lack of it caused the problem in the first place. if you meant something else please forgive my misinterpretation.

  51. #51 by Chamber Star on September 18, 2009

    I think Ben has it right. Maybe mistakes were made (I’m not saying they were, but if they were) but not by anyone in particular. We are all in this together and the worst thing we can do is undermine the confidence that the public has in our school administrators.

    I only speak for myself here but I have great respect for the people who run FSD. The Board of Trustees is made up very sound, experienced members and the administrators are all highly educated professionals. The Superintendant is a doctor for goodness’ sake.

    What we need to do is move on and look forward to ways we can make this indespensable program even more successful – and available to every student in Fullerton. We need workers in the future who are computer savvy and can do all the things that I can’t even begin to figure out with my computer!

    So look forward and come together, for the betterment of Fullerton!

  52. #52 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    I’ve said the school doesn’t condone the actions of the adolescents. I’ve also said the schools didn’t force the adolescents to go to those sites so the action taken was a willful one on the part of the adolescents. I don’t think there is anything logically incongruous between those statements. It certainly doesn’t imply that the District is entirely culpable for what the adolescent does off campus and after school hours. That the equipment is supplied by the school seems to be the issue, but the school no longer controls it once it is in the hands of the students. Personally, I’d rather they discontinued the program and simply had a monitored lab made available to kids in an extracurricular fashion since that would be safer and less expensive for the parents and the school, but what’s done is done. For reference, the lab environment is exactly what they’ll encounter when/if they go on to a university.

    It was not my intention to imply a lack of parenting is the problem. Adolescents will be curious, and I can recall more than one occasion as an adolescent where I actively worked to circumvent parental restrictions to satisfy my own desires. Being a parent is certainly not an easy task.

    The solution for parents is to use the tools available, such as denying that the child be capable of using the computer unsupervised (lock it up), whitelisting websites, etc, but adolescents will certainly attempt to get around those restrictions (and in this story, that circumvention was to use a neighbors unsecured wireless network). To that end, if the school is going to offer this, they should also offer a parents education night on how to secure your router for those who are unaware that there is even an issue. If some parents in the PTA know how to do it, they might even volunteer the 30 or so minutes it takes to set up a common white list for other parents that are unsure about how to go about it.

    However, once the problem is identified or the adolescent has engaged in inappropriate behavior that is where you will be able to do something to change future behavior. If the adolescent is doing it at school the school can discipline the student (and, no doubt, the parent will want a word or two as well). If the behavior happens at home, the parent will have to discipline their child. This was the entirety of what I meant by parenting is the solution. A problem has arisen that was not foreseen by the parent, and it is up to them to correct it before it gets out of hand.

    I’ll cede you the point about safety of computers. I can absolutely see your point of view, and though I don’t consider the device to be inherently unsafe, you are correct; it can be unsafe in the hands of an inexperienced user.

  53. #53 by Travis Kiger on September 18, 2009

    Ben :

    I’d rather they discontinued the program and simply had a monitored lab made available to kids in an extracurricular fashion since that would be safer and less expensive for the parents and the school

    There you go, Harpoon. He came around, just like you figured.

  54. #54 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    Ben, thanks for your comments.
    You write very well. If you’re interested in writing a separate post on this or any other topic send Travis an e-mail.

  55. #55 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    Travis Kiger :

    Ben :
    I’d rather they discontinued the program and simply had a monitored lab made available to kids in an extracurricular fashion since that would be safer and less expensive for the parents and the school

    There you go, Harpoon. He came around, just like you figured.

    Not at all. The question is one of whether the school is culpable for what the kids do off campus.

    That I don’t approve of the program is a personal observation. I do not agree that the schools are culpable or to blame, and I did not start off this series of threads with that belief that forcing students who did not participate to transfer was acceptable, either, which is that that personal observation addresses. Good try, though.

  56. #56 by Ben on September 18, 2009

    Thank you, Harpoon. I might at that.

  57. #57 by FTown local on September 18, 2009

    I sincerely doubt that these kids are finding porn online by “accident.” I’m guessing that when mom & dad aren’t nearby they “find” the same stuff at home on their desktop pc.

    When I was kid I found porn in the form of magazines multiple times and in various public places. I was more than happy to peruse these magazines, particularly considering the cover price and my lack of income at the time.

    Then and now, the most common venue for these magazines is small independent liquor stores. I notice those stores aren’t being derided as irresponsible purveyors of filth; the community isn’t rallying to shut them down.

    But when a well-intentioned school program has a problem that allows curious kids to willfully access the stuff, they’re horrible people who are trying to wreck our children?

    A little much, I think.

    As for trading files, they can placed on floppy disk (if you’re pc is that old), cd, or flash memory.
    Hell, your kid might have 15 different email accounts online that you don’t know about. You DO realize an email account works like online storage, too, right?

    I would suggest that when something like this pops up, instead of looking for someone to blame, first ask yourself “What can I do to fix this problem?”

    Worry about blame later–it’s not nearly as important as you think it is.

  58. #58 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 18, 2009

    FTown local :

    I would suggest that when something like this pops up, instead of looking for someone to blame, first ask yourself “What can I do to fix this problem?”

    Agreed. We need a new school board.

  59. #59 by dr_of_ed on September 18, 2009

    Yes, I read the article. And anyone with more than an ounce of technical know-how can set up laptops *not* to connect to unsecured wireless networks.

    However, the point is *no* system, no laptop, no computer is100% safe. Why would anyone think differently, especially when such false assurances come from the district officials that so many posters here say they’ve never trusted (or respected, it seems)?

    What it comes down to is schools being smarter about the real world, and parents doing the difficult work of parenting. And there are plenty of clueless administrators and parents who aren’t doing that difficult work, unfortunately.

    Yes, laptop security is a problem. Yes, it needs to be addressed. Yes, it needs to be fixed. But the histrionic writing in the article and spitting on the people who will end up doing the fixing isn’t necessarily the best approach.

  60. #60 by Concerned Mother? on September 18, 2009

    The mother in this letter should be grateful her children are able to attend a school that offers a laptop program. Her letter displays just why our youth are misguided.

  61. #61 by r4 nintendo ds on September 19, 2009

    Its too bad, But School principal and staff of school is responsible for it. They can band it if they want to do it. i am suggesting to installing a software which not allow to access porn sites or as FTown local said.
    Hope they do some strong action for it.

  62. #62 by Sick to my Stomach on September 19, 2009

    Did everyone just over look the part where the mother saw kids before and after school accessing unsecured internet? Looks like these kids can look at whatever while walking home from school or waiting for the bus. Also, you all sound very good at computers talking about all the technology, news flash folks most parents aren’t! So maybe when the school said it was safe, parents thought that’s what it meant. Plain and simple.

  63. #63 by The Fullerton Harpoon on September 19, 2009

    Concerned Mother? :

    The mother in this letter should be grateful her children are able to attend a school that offers a laptop program.

    Her letter displays just why our youth are misguided.

    That is a matter of opinion about the school. Please elucidate on why her letter displays why our youth are misguided. And which youth would that be?

  64. #64 by RalphEvans on September 19, 2009

    Technology can monitor it. I use a D-Link router that has Securespot (only 3 models do) which has a blacklist of millions of porn & hate sites that are banned from anyone, even a prying 11 year old neighbor kid on wifi, from accessing bad sites. You could install net nanny or some other blacklist site.
    It’s probably a good idea to have kid computer use in a common room like a den or dining room and not their closed door bedroom.

  65. #65 by Jane Customer on October 6, 2009

    Thank you for publishing your story. I think the laptop program is a bad one. It won’t end, though. Who do you think benefits from all these laptops being sold? Unfortunately, their propaganda is louder than a lone citizen’s story.

  66. #66 by Charlenered on August 2, 2010

    What a whiney bunch you are. Kids know more sexual stuff than you think. I am shocked at some of the stuff my granddaughter started telling me starting at age 11 from bad language to explicit descriptions of sexual activity. “Concerned” mommy should be glad her kid was on a computer and not screwing some local 14 year-old in the park.

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