Students upset by board's decision

School Board's decision to block gay, lesbian sites met with resistance

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By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
At the Oct. 22 meeting, the Moffat County Board of Education made a decision to block all sex education and gay and lesbian material from students' viewing on the Internet.
Some students and instructors at Moffat County High School disagree with the decision, and were also offended by comments made by board member Jerry Magas.
When the issue arose at the meeting about allowing gay and lesbian material to be accessed on computers in the high school, Magas said:
"Personally, I can't accept it. It's out there because we're saying it's OK. It's not OK."
Later in the meeting he said, "This is questioning our whole moral ethics. Isn't this a democratic society? If it is, then why do we allow these perversions?"
Katie Coulter, a junior at MCHS, thought Magas went too far with his comments.
"It was inappropriate," Coulter said. "He put his personal opinion in and let it affect the rest of the group. Who is he to say what is and is not OK?"
Dillon Warne, a senior at MCHS, agreed with Coulter.
"What he said was totally biased," Warne said. "He doesn't have any connections to anyone in the school. He was stereotyping us and we're getting punished for mistakes we didn't make."
"People that don't want you to look at these sites are pushing their morals on you," he said.
Warne questioned the purpose of blocking access to gay and lesbian material on the Internet.
"How many people actually look at a gay Internet site and say, 'I'm going to try this?'" he said.
Teneil Jayne, a junior at MCHS, thought filtering was necessary to a certain extent, but said the school board went too far.
"We do have questions about sex education and by blocking the sites you are blocking our chance to anonymously look up our questions," she said. "They're taking it too far."
Jen Gray, a junior, and other students interviewed agreed that there is a need to block pornography from students' access, but the decision made at the last meeting did more than block pornography.
"Let's get rid of the bad pornography, but don't interfere with our research," she said. "They should have asked the public before they made a decision."
Tony Jacob, a junior, thought the filtering was definitely affecting research.
"Often, even if you're searching for something that has nothing to do with pornography, it is blocked," he said. "I can't get into some of Shakespeare's writing because it talks about weapons. What are they going to block next?"
Warne also questioned the board's effort to shelter the students, and said even if it's not being done directly, people are being influenced by the beliefs of gay people all the time.
"If they try to shelter you now, what are you supposed to do when you get out in the world? It's going to be a culture shock," he said. "Gay or lesbian authors are going to put their morals in a book one way or another."
Journalism instructor Katy Gray agreed that if people wanted to shield students from all gay influences, an extreme overhaul of curriculum would have to be done.
"If people realized how many authors and artists were gay you'd have to take away our English book," she said. "And you can forget Michalangelo."
Gray said the filtering is blocking some good material along with the bad.
"Every teacher has a list of students who misuse the internet. You know what students have been caught," she said. "I don't understand what happened that we have to go that extra step."
MCHS students are being unfairly judged, she said.
"I just think this is not showing a lot of faith in our students," she said.
Joan Baxter, a social studies instructor and class dean at MCHS, also had concerns about the decision made by the school board and the comments made by Magas.
"I really have a concern about the issue of censorship and academic freedom," she said. "Add to that tolerance. What are we teaching our young people about tolerance?"
The decision sent the wrong message to students about acceptance, she said.
"We need to teach students that we need to be able to make room for all life-styles and people in our society," she said.
If students have questions about such material, what better place to get it than under the supervision and tutelage of instructors, she said.
"Where else are students going to get this material if they're not getting it under the guidance of people who can teach them about it?" she asked.
Tom Beachman, the librarian at MCHS, said despite slight concerns about the board's decision, he thinks students will still have the ability to access necessary material for research.
"I don't feel students are being threatened by a censorship issue yet," he said. "But the board should not interfere with students being able to access gay and lesbian material as a subject. It's a legitimate subject in many social studies and history classes."
He also said certain gay and lesbian sites should be blocked in certain cases.
"I can see the argument of filtering gay and lesbian sites if they are in a pornographic style."
But that is where the problem lies, he said. The Internet, and the software used to filter it, are still so new that it is impossible to block just the material you intend to block.
People need to realize that efforts to filter information on the Internet are still new, and not perfected, he said.
"The problem with filtering is it is very primitive," he said. "You're putting a lot of weight on a particular word. Even the people who produce this software would have to admit that it is a primitive approach."
Beachman compared the Internet to someone going to Denver or any other big city.
You have the museums, shops and theatres in one area, all which are wonderful and educational, he said. But right up the street, you'll find the pornography shops and crack houses.
We don't tell people not to go to Denver, but on the same token, one can either abuse or take advantage of what Denver has to offer.
He sees and understands the benefits of the overall filtering.
"Kids will go to unacceptable sites," he said. "This will help me in enforcing that."
"I'm watching for problems in regard to the free flow of information," he said. "But I personally feel we can still get objective information from the data bases we subscribe to."
One main idea should always be kept in mind, he said.
"People need to remember that we are in a democracy and the constitution needs to be upheld," he said.

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