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D-158 in Huntley strengthening online filters after porn found on school-issued tablets

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 9:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 9:05 a.m. CDT

ALGONQUIN – District 158 officials are working to strengthen online content filters on school-issued tablets, after some parents complained they could find obscene and pornographic images on their child's devices.

Administrators from the Huntley-based school district said they have received about six complaints from parents since mid-August about being able to access the explicit materials on the tablets the district uses at its elementary schools.

Parent Jennifer Kinney, who has a second-grader in the district, addressed the issue Thursday, telling board members she could access "completely inappropriate, obscene and then some" images and articles both online at her home and again in a classroom during a recent orientation.

"I was still really hopeful that I was gonna sit in the second-grade class and do the same searches and not be able to get to the obscene and pornographic images," she said. "That night in front of the teacher, it pulled up the same [content] as it was at home."

After the meeting Thursday, Superintendent John Burkey told reporters the district is concerned about "sporadic problems of searches getting through that shouldn't."

Addressing the issue in the future, the district will devise a tiered online filtration system that blocks certain content for certain grade levels, he said. Administrators already have made short-term fixes to its online filters, primarily disabling certain search engines on tablets.

Burkey, though, emphasized that students still need a certain degree of access to their tablets for the classroom.

"We are not going to shut it all down so we can't use it as an educational tool," Burkey said. "One of the big steps that we are going to take is ... to have the ability to provide different levels of screening for different grade levels."

Since the 2012-13 school year, the district has gradually rolled out its "One-to-One" digital curriculum at its elementary and middle schools, replacing traditional textbooks with tablets and laptops.

The district has placed about 5,500 devices in the hands of students, from kindergarten through seventh grade. The digital rollout is expected to continue until 2016, when it reaches Huntley High School students for the first time.

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