Legislation requiring school districts to file "acceptable" student Internet policies with the state has received approval of the House Education Committee. Lawmakers voted unanimously to approve the measure, which the bill's sponsors believe will help schools keep students away from offensive material online.
School districts would be required to develop safe Internet usage policies that protect students from offensive and pornographic websites, and would be required to receive approval of the policy by the local school board. Though the legislation does not dictate a statewide policies for districts to follow, it does offer some guidelines for policy development. Districts must install filtering and blocking software on computers to prevent students from accessing questionable pages, and must also develop penalties for students who do access offensive or pornographic material. Districts would also be tasked with developing and maintaining some element of Internet safety training as a component of computer education. The legislation mandates that districts shall update the policy every five years.
The approval by the committee comes just one day after Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden teamed up to announce ProtecTeens 3.0, a tool that can be utilized by parents to help keep kids safe from predators while using the Internet and social media sites. Wasden’s website for ProtecTeens features a 25-minute long video that outlines the dangers of the Internet, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and sexting. Wasden is seen on the video urging parents to monitor their children’s activities on a myriad of devices, including cell phones, gaming systems, and laptops. Wasden says parents should be vigilant in the fight against pornography and sexual predators and cautions them to familiarize themselves with the lingo that teens use that can often seem foreign to older generations.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg.