clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

School Internet filtering bill gets thumbs up from House

A bill that seeks to provide protection for Utah students by boosting Internet filtering on school technology devices was approved by the House on Thursday.
A bill that seeks to provide protection for Utah students by boosting Internet filtering on school technology devices was approved by the House on Thursday.
Ingram Publishing, Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that seeks to provide protection for Utah students by boosting Internet filtering on school technology devices was approved by the House on Thursday.

Lawmakers say the bill has support from numerous constituents, many of whom are parents whose children have been exposed to pornographic material on school devices. While all schools have implemented Internet filtering in some form, HB213 requires school community councils to ensure that devices have adequate filtering while on and off campus.

The bill also asks educators to foster "digital citizenship" among students by encouraging parents to teach their children how to use the Internet safely.

"This is an opportunity to make sure that at the local level there is good and effective dialogue and checks and balances taking place," said bill sponsor Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem.

But Internet filtering requires a balance. Some legislators asked what the impact would be for teachers and students doing research on anatomy or biology subjects if the filtering system were too strong.

Stratton said it would be up to local school districts to decide to what extent Internet filtering would be in place to facilitate specific learning objectives.

"It creates a forum to have those discussions," he said. "It (shifts) this from a macro to a more micro opportunity so that those issues can be dealt with."

Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who voted against the bill, questioned whether the school community council is the most appropriate group to implement the initiative as its primary task is to manage school land trust funds.

"I'm generally in support of the bill, but I question whether it's appropriate to start expanding the role of the community council," Coleman said.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said most school community councils are made up of parents, who would be key stakeholders in the process of Internet protection for students. He said that while the bill is not all-inclusive and that not every threat is avoidable, it does offer preliminary solutions to an ongoing problem.

"We've heard that this is just a start, and this may not be everything we need," Gibson said. "We can't legislate common sense. Locks keep honest people honest. If I want to break into a door, I'll break into a door. If I want to drive my car with or without a seat belt, I'm going to do it. This bill (promotes) digital citizenship, and it is important to be able teach that."

The bill passed the House with a 61-13 vote and will be read in the Senate.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MorganEJacobsen