SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education voted Thursday to support restoring public school students’ and teachers’ access to an educational database blocked by Utah Education and Telehealth Network administrators after parental complaints about inappropriate content.
Late last month, a parent who accessed the EBSCO database from her home found inappropriate materials and raised concerns with the Utah Education and Telehealth Network. The access was not gained within schools, which have filtering software intended to prevent students accessing inappropriate content, officials said.
The network administrators’ decision to block access was later supported by the Utah Education and Telehealth Network board on a 6-1 vote until further steps could be taken to ensure student safety. Access to the database will remain blocked until further action of the board, which meets again on Oct. 19.
The State School Board has no oversight authority over the education network. It was created by and funded by the Utah Legislature, initially as an educational television entity but evolving into an educational network over time. The Utah State Board of Education has one position on the network’s 13-member board.
Earlier in the day, Peter Bromberg, executive director of the Salt Lake City Library and advocacy chairman for the Utah Library Association, urged the board to support restoring access to the database.
“In blocking access to the 275 million articles to over 800,000 students across the state of Utah who rely on these extremely safe, curated and filtered research databases to do their homework every day, UEN has erred, has made a bad choice,” Bromberg said.
“The decision ignored the facts and was based on the report of someone searching for 45 minutes on her home computer “in an unfiltered environment unlike the heavily filtered environment that this would happen in a school setting. UEN themselves said at their board meeting they were unable to replicate these results,” he said.
The decision to censor millions of articles “has a sweeping and negative impact on students and teachers across this state,” he said.
The board voted 8-6 to direct its representative on the Utah Education and Telehealth Network board to support restoring access with the caveat that additional measures are in place to block inappropriate material.
But others, such as Diane Fisher — whose own children include two students in a public high school, a home-schooling mom and a certified public schoolteacher — urged the board to stand up for vulnerable children.
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Source:: Deseret News – Business News