Teachers said kids were msging during class


GIRARD -- The ban on Vindy.com from city schools has been lifted after one week.

Superintendent Joseph Jeswald said complaints from teachers about students using Vindy.com's discussion boards prompted him to ban access to the entire Web site on Jan. 8.

"At first I didn't really know there was a difference between the Web site and this site where they can blog," Jeswald said. "We don't want to block or filter the newspaper, but we don't want our students to be using this blogging site during class."

The blogging site he referred to was the discussion groups available to all visitors to the site,

forums.vindy.com.

Several message threads regarding Girard City Schools, the administration, coaches and the school board have been prompting a number of posts for some time. One thread of posts in the forums in particular addressed a New Year's Eve party in the city that involved members of Girard School Board and students, with comments from people who claimed they were at the party.

A user with the alias 'Wouldnt You Like to Know' posted this (as shown), saying they were a student:

"...Over half the school drinks, does drugs, and does many other things im sure people are unaware of or they choose to turn the other way when they are aware of things. just like what will happen with the kids at this party. just cause this parent is on the school board there children will probably not even get in trouble, but if this party was at another house, all hell would be raised. not only by parents but by the police and the school.i know you all probably think im just a stupid little kid who has no right saying anything, but the fact of the matter is that im just as oppinionated as anyone else and from the way i see it everything has been taken way to seriously."

Minutes later, 'studentt' posted, "Seriously..you all act like you didnt party in highschool. YOU guys should grow up a little. yes it got out of hand but you are you to decide who gets the boot."

A user under the pseudonym 'another.student' followed days later with, "...Besides the fact that kids dread to go to school everyday, nobody makes it much better. yes, we do make stupid decisions and yes most of us in that high school will admit to drinking underage. then the school probably wonders why so many problems are occuring..."

The thread -- along with three others addressing the Girard school system -- continued with posts from users claiming to be students and parents. The uncertainty of the user's real identity, Jeswald said, was the problem.

"There's no accountability," Jeswald said.

Jeswald said the choice to block Vindy.com from all computers in the school district came after receiving phone calls from teachers "about students being on that site during class time."

Girard schools' technology coordinator John Spano said the school district uses the software Online Bess to filter e-mails and block some Web sites from being accessed from school computers, including MySpace and Facebook. Spano said the district has been using the software for seven to eight years.

To ban a particular Web site, Spano said, a district must submit a request to the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, where the Northeast Ohio Management Information Network is based. NEOMIN provides a variety of information science services to schools in Ashtabula and Trumbull counties, including Warren and Niles city schools and Liberty, Howland and Lordstown local schools.

"The choice [to block a particular Web site] is ultimately the superintendent," Spano said. "The ban was lifted today, which was also his decision."

In the Girard High School, Jeswald said, there are six or seven computer labs and at least one computer in every classroom, in addition to computers being available for student use in the library. Spano and Jeswald said the problem was they didn't feel it was appropriate for students to use the message boards at Vindy.com -- in addition to other sites that allow online chatting -- during class time.

"In Girard, there are no study halls. They are in class all day, so they shouldn't be looking at that stuff," Jeswald said.

"There were lots of students using the site during class," Spano said of the forums.

Jeswald said it was important to him as a former English teacher to stop students from viewing and posting to the message boards during class, even though he encouraged the use of newspapers in the classroom. Girard City Schools also participates in The Vindicator's Newspapers in Education Program.

"This policy [of banning access to particular Web sites] is changing frequently," Jeswald said while Vindy.com was still blocked. "We'd like to review this on an ongoing basis to see what's best for the kids."

Spano said the sites blocked from computers in the school district were continuously reviewed.

"It all depends on our need and use for education," he said.

Photo illustration by Katie Libecco

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