Audit finds porn, explicit material on students’ school computers

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Sereena Henderson | Mississippi Today

State Auditor Stacey Pickering

An audit testing the strength of school districts’ filters on school-issued computers revealed the majority of the middle and high school students whose computers were tested contained pornography or other explicit material.

The state auditor’s audit included 150 devices in 18 schools in nine school districts. Of those 150 devices, 20 percent contained explicit material. All of the schools involved participated in a One-to-One initiative, in which each student receives one device for use at school and at home.

Six, or 86 percent of middle school students whose devices were tested, and nine, or 82 percent of high school students whose devices were tested,  contained inappropriate material, the audit found. The report did not name particular school districts or schools.

“Evidence also indicated that the district’s filtering systems were ineffective when filtering inappropriate material,” the audit stated.

All school districts must have an Internet Safety Policy, along with a Tech Protection Measure, or specific technology that blocks and filters access to obscene or harmful material, including pornography. They must also provide public notices and hearings or meetings to address proposed technology and the school district’s policy.

The nine districts involved did not enforce their policies by ensuring the security mechanisms were effective when students had Internet access, the audit stated. School districts also do not continue filtering access when students are off school grounds.

Clinton Public School District, one of the first districts to implement a One-to-One initiative in 2012, was one of the nine districts included in the audit. A written statement from the district indicated it had not yet received its individual results from the state auditor.

“CPSD has always used a mobile web filtering service, currently Lightspeed Systems, to filter explicit and inappropriate content for students and staff, both on and off campus,” the statement said. “CPSD strives to educate students on best practices concerning digital citizenship (cybersecurity, personal digital footprint, online safety, etc.).”

It also said the district’s technology department monitors the security and filtering measures in place.

The state auditor is recommending that the Mississippi Department of Education provide districts with “alternative solutions” to evaluate their monitoring systems; require uniform policies for all districts regarding the installation of filtering technology; mandate that schools filter students’ Internet access even off school grounds; and establish penalties for noncompliance.

A request for comment from the Mississippi Department of Education was not immediately returned late Wednesday.