CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

A Survey of the Massachusetts Cities and Towns to Examine Interest Filtering Policies in Public Schools

Date of Award

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Steven D. Zink

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Abstract

Recent U.S. laws dealing with filtering information from the Internet have been challenged in the courts. The Communications Decency Act (CDA), passed in 1996, and the Child Online Protection Act (COP A), passed in 1998, were declared unconstitutional. The current version of the law, the Children's Internet Protection Act (ClPA), enacted December 15,2000, mandated that Internet filtering software be installed on all public computers providing Internet access in schools and public libraries. Those entities not complying, will risk loss of funding from the Universal Service discount program known as the E-rate (Public Law 106-554, Appendix D, section 7b). On May 31, 2002, Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, ruled on a suit brought by the ACLU on behalf of the American Library Association, that CIPA was unconstitutional for requiring libraries to comply with the law to receive E-rate funding.

The goal of this study is to document K-12 public school policies within Massachusetts regarding implementation and enforcement of the Children's Internet Protection Act. The significance of the study is to understand the complex social, legal, and moral issues involved when making decisions regarding Internet filtering. The methodology for this study was to mail a questionnaire to each of the 331 school superintendents in Massachusetts. After obtaining the results, a comprehensive report was produced. Parents and others could use the completed thesis as a guide to compare school systems in Massachusetts and to choose one that reflects their beliefs about freedom of speech.

School committee members from various school districts will have a basis to compare their filtering policies with those of other Massachusetts school districts. The mal report provides a comprehensive study and analysis of the common themes within various cities and towns. The dissertation shows overwhelming support by superintendents to "protect" children under their supervision. The great majority of schools have controls in place to deal with students attempting to access inappropriate material and escalating penalties for continuous violators.

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