echoes sentinel

anti-porn advocate makes 'filters' case

11 december 2003

long hill twp. - by jason goemaat, staff writer - © recorder newspapers 2003

plan2succeed brought its campaign for anti-pornography filters on library computers before the township committee, wednesday, dec. 3, looking for guidance on how to gauge the majority of residents' opinions on the issue.

plan2succeed, who has raised the issue at the library board of trustees' last two monthly meetings, wanted to also inform the township committee of their request for library computer filters.  plan2succeed has asked the library to install the filters to comply with the federal laws in the children's internet protection act (cipa), intended to prevent children from viewing pornography, by installing internet filter software on its computers.  the supreme court upheld the act as constitutionally valid in a june 23 ruling.

at the nov. 19 library board of trustees meeting, board president donald kuhn submitted a draft position paper stating why, at this time, the library won't put filters on its computers.  the paper cites, among other reasons, the unclear criteria of current filtering technology.  the draft also emphasizes that, because the library doesn't receive federal funding, it "is not legally bound by the provisions of cipa."

plan2succeed has repeatedly said they want filters to protect children from the possibility of viewing inappropriate material.  they have also said installing filters would discourage "criminal activity" that may result from voyeurism.

"you can help other town folks to help figure out what it is they would really like in their library," plan2succeed told the committee.

they recounted the conversations at the library board meetings, where they asked the board for suggestions on how to properly measure residents' input on whether or not filters were a good idea.

plan2succeed said they and the library board debated whether a survey could properly explain the issue for residents to give an informed opinion on filters.  the board told them it didn't think a survey could work.

"the library board had no suggestions to us on how to get the public's opinion," said plan2succeed.  they said they thought the board was telling them the public couldn't be "sufficiently" informed on the issue and it would rely on guidance from the american library association (ala) to make a decision on filtering.

plan2succeed presented a 40-page packet of different resources about filtering to the committee and interested people in the audience.  the packet [containing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] included all of the judicial opinions for and against cipa.

plan2succeed read a line from the library board's position statement, which said the board is waiting for "guidance" from the ala, the state library and its county system for further policies and procedures on child internet protection.

"we're sorry to hear they're not taking input from citizens but they are taking information from the ala," said plan2succeed.

an autonomous board

township attorney john pidgeon told the committee members and plan2succeed that, though the library board is appointed by the township committee, under state law, the board acts with total "autonomy" in running the library.

therefore, the committee couldn't influence any position the board makes on filters or any other issue, pidgeon said.

mayor suzanne dapkins told plan2succeed the committee would accept a petition as a measurement of residents' opinions on filters.

dapkins, however, didn't say what, if any effect, a survey would have on the library's current position on filters.  the mayor and plan2succeed didn't discuss whether the wording could be agreed upon, accurately explaining the issue.

after the meeting, dapkins said she thought pidgeon could help write a survey question which thoroughly explained the issue.

township committeemen walter sadowski said the library's intentions to prevent pornographic material on its computers were commendable.

"i don't think the library is in the practice of exposing our children to pornography," said sadowski after plan2succeed finished its statement.

sadowski said he thought plan2succeed was making a "legitimate point" about making the library as safe as possible from outside influences.

however, he said, "speaking as a parent," and not a committeeman, he thinks the library staff does "a great job" monitoring children's internet activity and keeping the library safe.

sadowski also said that from what he knows about filters, the inconsistency of the technology makes it difficult for library patrons to do legitimate research.

library director arline most, who was at the meeting, had no comment on plan2succeed's presentation.

"i'm not going to debate this in public," said most who said the library's position on filters is a board decision.

during further public comment, most invited everyone at wednesday night's meeting to the library board's wednesday, dec. 17 meeting, where the issue may be discussed further.

plan2succeed said they're "at a loss" on what to do next after learning the committee can't help put filters in the library.

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