JEFFERSON CITY - A proposal offered by Gov. Mel Carnahan in his State of the State address would make it more difficult for young people to access pornography on the Web from school.
Gov. Carnahan proposed $178,400 in his budget for a grant program that would help elementary and secondary schools purchase filtering software for their computers.
"This software can prevent certain words from being used in computer searches, blocks access to particular sites, or allows access to only approved sites," Gov. Carnahan said.
He said schools who have already begun to purchase these programs have limited by high costs. If accepted, the administration said the grants would be available within two years.
More immediately, Sen. Bill Kenney, R-Lee's Summit, has proposed legislation that would make it illegal to supply pornography to minors via the Internet.
"I'm just trying to protect the kids," Kenney said. "I've heard many horror stories of kids just stumbling on to this stuff."
In order to keep people from "stumbling" on to pornography in other public institutions, Kenney said he plans to submit a bill that would equip libraries with filtering programs.
Although lawmakers in Jefferson City said limiting Internet access would protect students, at least one high school instructor disagrees. Bill Priest, chairman of the technology committee at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, said the software he has encountered black out web pages too arbitrarily.
"As a teacher I think most of these filtering programs are problematic because they can block worthwhile sites," Priest said.
Rock Bridge doesn't use any filtering systems but relies on the honesty of students and the monitoring of administrators, Priest said. At Rock Bridge, computer users must follow the district's "fair use" policy which states: "Computers are for classroom assignments and exploration... Obscene or inappropriate language or images, games or chat features are strictly prohibited."
Under this type of policy, students can use their own discretion in browsing the Internet. Priest said the lack of filtering devices allows computer users to view necessary sites while bolstering their sense of responsibility.
Kenney said he believes more precise monitoring software will be available soon but something is necessary immediately.
"You may lose some good sites ... but it is important to protect our kids from inappropriate sites," Kenney said.
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