echoes sentinel

library board oks filters for computers

22 september 2004

long hill twp. - by patricia llerena - © recorder newspapers 2004

[p2s note:  notes like these are from plan2succeed, not the author.  they are made to respond to the statements reported or circumstances described at the appropriate point.  for privacy reasons only, one name has been replaced by p2s founder.  my apologies to the excellent author for making these changes.  for the unedited version of this page, see the source url.]

the library board of trustees unanimously voted at a wednesday, sept. 15 meeting, to install internet filters on all of the computers in the children's department and some in the adult section, once the public library moves to its new location at the end of the year.  [p2s note:  the installation of the filters is a direct result of p2s's actions, but unfiltered computers remain and so will the dangers to our children, as other libraries have found out.]

the board reached this decision after about two years worth of discussion and public commentary.  [p2s note:  it's actually over four years.  can you believe it takes this long to protect children?]

"this has been a painful process," said board president donald kuhn.

board members lynette schneider and jerry klawitter will draft a new policy to implement this decision and present it at next month's meeting on wednesday, oct. 20.  [p2s note:  here's our recommended policy but they won't follow it.  see if you think it's good.]

the new policy will require children, under the age of 18, to receive parental permission to use unfiltered computers in the adult section.

several board members said the problem will be finding a way to implement this new policy in a way that is not burdensome for the library staff.  [p2s note:  protecting children from pornography and molestation is "burdensome."]

board member jerry klawitter said one option is to use two different color-coded cards to distinguish the minors who are not allowed to use the unfiltered computers.  [p2s note:  as opposed to the minors allowed to use unfiltered computers, right?]

the library's internet policy holds the parents responsible for the information their children access on the internet.  [p2s note:  the total absolution of librarians for any harm done to children is against the law of the land.]

in the policy, parents are advised that "children who use the internet unsupervised may be exposed to inappropriate or disturbing information and images."

parents' fears

about 20 parents, mostly fathers fearing their children could be inadvertently exposed to pornography at the library, addressed the board members.  [p2s note:  twenty parents speaking out about filters in the public library at a library meeting!  this is a major success for p2s, shows that this is an effort of dozens of town residents working together, and shows why the library and the town are afraid to ask the public in a municipal ballot question whether the public library should filter all computers!!!]

many referred to offensive pop up windows that could appear after another user has accessed pornographic information.

cyberporn "is as addictive as crack cocaine," said karl schlegel, of stirling.

"the library is not an appropriate place for hard-core graphic pornography," said john moser of gillette.

"the stuff we don't get (because of the filters) ... we don't need to be looking at anyway," said bill ross, of gillette.

"we're providing free public access to the internet.  if someone has those (pornographic) interests, they should do it at their own expense," said jim minogue of stirling, the father of seven children.

"if the library trustees don't normally allow pornographic books and magazines on the shelves, why allow pornography to come in through the internet?" asked mark williams of gillette.  [p2s note:  bingo!  it is for this reason phoenix, az has now passed a law requiring pornography filters on all computers that cannot be disabled for any reason.  this is the wave of the future and should be implemented in our town as well.]

"i think if the town was polled, you would find an overwhelming majority in support of filtering," williams said.  [p2s note:  this is what p2s has been seeking, only to be turned down by the library and by the township committee.]

steve delia of stirling said filtering is not censorship.

delia suggested satisfying pro-filtering and anti-filtering sentiments by installing filters on all the computers, which could be turned off at the request of the user, no questions asked.

"we've already had one arrest," said delia's wife, eileen. "why does the board think this won't happen again?"

"i'm afraid for my children," she said.

in may 2001, a township man was arrested for viewing child pornography at the library.  he was found guilty and sentenced to jail time on sept. 21, 2001.

"i think the fears that have been expressed (tonight) are overblown, said dan kahn of gillette.  "there are always risks in life.  i'm willing to take this very minor risk with my kids."  [p2s note:  and in the same paper, this man says, "i feel the bush administration has ... intentionally misled the american people on issue after issue from iraq and terrorism to education and the environment," so he is not a credible source for determining if p2s's arguments are "overblown."]

'filtering is censorship'

all the board members said they did not want pornography in the library and most said they would not vote for filtering all of the library's computers.

they also praised the library staff for doing an excellent job in monitoring the computer use and handling the instances when people view inappropriate web sites.  [p2s note:  an admission people view inappropriate web sites!]

library director arline most said during a friday, sept. 17, phone interview that the library staff rarely has to stop people from looking at inappropriate web sites.

once in a blue moon, she said, the staff may see a young adolescent male at a computer in the children's section, and it's obvious from his body language that he knows he's doing something wrong.  [p2s note:  another p2s success:  the library director admitting children sometimes view inappropriate material!!!]

in those instances, a staff member tells the individual to stop looking at the inappropriate material and the adolescent is embarrassed, she added.

"we seldom have this problem ... because (the computers) are so visible," most said.

"we're not doing anything actively to bring pornography to the library," said board member bryan boylan, chair of the committee that created the library board's report on filtering internet access.  [p2s note:  a major p2s success:  an admission by a library board of trustees member that they passively allow pornography into the library!!!!!]

"i feel filtering is censorship, even if it can be turned off," boylan added.  [p2s note:  still another major, major success for p2s.  here a library board of trustees member openly states that he believes the exact opposite of what the us supreme court ruled in us v. ala:  "concerns over filtering software's tendency to erroneously 'overblock' access to constitutionally protected speech that falls outside the categories software users intend to block are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled."!!!!  these admissions should definately be used in all law suits filed by us or others.]

there is no supreme court decision that says filtering is ok by itself, boylan said.  the decision only refers to cases that have to do with funding, he added.  [p2s note:  just because funding is not involved does not mean the case has not decided important issues that apply whether or not funding is accepted.  besides, $10,000 of funding was just turned down by our county library consortium (see here and here), so even if funds were available, the library might not accept them so they can continue to serve up unfiltered pornography.]

the supreme court upheld the children's internet protection act (cipa) in june.  the law requires that libraries receiving federal funding for internet service must install filters on all computers, as long as they are disabled at the request of an adult patron.

since the township's library does not receive this federal funding, the board is not legally obliged to filter the computers.

'tyranny of the minority'

schools superintendent arthur dibenedetto attended the meeting to react to past comments made by [the founder of the plan2succeed citizen's group, hereafter, p2s].  [p2s] supports filtering all of the library's computers and is critical of the american library association (ala), which challenged the constitutionality of cipa.

"my own child was given a pornographic book on the fourth day of kindergarten in public school.  i was told the public school librarian gave it to her because it was on the ala list of books.  the principal had it removed from the library saying it was twice as inappropriate as what i reported," [the p2s founder] said in an email.

dibenedetto referred to this email at the meeting, which was distributed by [p2s] on tuesday, sept. 7 to members of the press, community leaders and township employees.

[the p2s founder] was not present at the meeting.

"our librarians are extremely professional and ethical people," dibenedetto said.  "they would never put a pornographic book on the library's shelves."

the superintendent said he, the principal and librarian reviewed the award-winning book, "mangaboom," by charlotte pomerantz, and decided to keep it on the shelves.  [p2s note:  i could not find what award the book won, although the pictures were drawn by an award winning artist.  the caldecott award—it's awarded by the ala!]

"it's a little bit different," dibenedetto said.  the book's content is based on the puerto rican culture and makes reference to skinny-dipping.  dibenedetto said he could "understand (why) some people may find it (the content) objectionable."  [p2s note:  still another p2s success:  the school administrator admitting a kindergartner was given an "objectionable" book!.]

the superintendent said he considered [the p2s founder]'s remarks "nearly slanderous against our librarian and principal."  [p2s note:  p2s has only made the above quoted factual statements about an ala listed book and the actions of the librarian in giving a certain inappropriate book to a child and the actions of the principal in taking it away.  this community is lucky to have such an excellent principal who follows community standards instead of ala standards.]

"you are constantly faced (with) strong opinions put forth by a minority group," dibenedetto said to the board members, speaking from his own experience as a non-voting member of the board of education.  [p2s note:  the statements made by p2s are facts, not opinions.  fact:  a certain book has handed to a kindergartner on the fourth day of school by a librarian following an ala list of books recommended for kindergartners.  fact:  the principal considered a complaint for four days then reported to me she was removing the book from the library since it was twice as bad as what i reported to her.  fact:  the principal is the municipal employee who made the judgement at that time (she has since changed) that the book should be removed from the public school library.  fact:  my opinion of the book had little to do with the actions of the principal who indeed said it was twice as bad as what i reported.  fact: reporting the facts is not slanderous, although it may embarrass librarians or superintendents who would prefer to hide the passing of inappropriate materials as judged by municipal employees to public school children.  fact:  a superintendent who uses ad hominem attacks to divert attention from potentially inappropriate books in public school libraries is a potential danger to the community and it's children, particularly where his own personnel have already removed at least one inappropriate book from a school library.  now we understand why the editorial board of 2600 magazine said in 21:2, p.30:  "people just aren't as uninformed as those in power would like them to be.  and even those who are uninformed often just haven't had the issues explained to them in an engaging way.  when people realize the power they possess, they become a real threat to those who have been manipulating them.  fostering that realization is a worthy pursuit."]

"it's a tyranny of the minority," dibenedetto said.

david kaplan of gillette said he visited [p2s]'s web site, and found links to lists of books that should be banned.  [p2s note:  not true.  see pabbis.]

the books were deemed pornographic because of small passages within the context of the stories, which relate to the real world, kaplan said.  [p2s note:  apparently, this man has never read the explicit part of site.]

"most of the issues (brought up by) this gentleman ([the p2s founder]) are overblown," kaplan said.  [p2s note:  child molestation and children seeing pornography is "overblown," right?  what's overblown is how this man calls us aids, nazis, killer bees, the taliban, the communists, book burners, etc., all because we believe the public should decide in a ballot question whether the library should filter library computers paid for with our own taxes.]

"i don't think censoring (internet access) is any different from censoring books," kaplan said.

dan mcguire of stirling said he was dismayed at how "the crusade of a single zealot" could consume the community's time.  [p2s note:  not true.  see above where twenty people showed at the meeting to request that all computers be filtered.]

"this entire crusade of one person was inspired by his conclusion that a kindergarten book was pornographic," mcguire said.  [the p2s founder]'s definition of pornography is wildly exaggerated, he said.  [p2s note:  irrelevant.  the school principal said it was twice as bad as what was reported, and she was the one who removed it from the public school library.]

mcguire urged the community to respect whatever decision the board reached that night.

"the chances of something inappropriate happening in our library (are) relatively slim," [the p2s founder] said during a friday, sept. 17 interview.  "but, who wants to take the chance?"

"it's only a matter of time before some child gets injured because our librarians are following the ala (guidelines)" [the p2s founder] said.

[the p2s founder] said he began to investigate the public library and found a link to a web site which he deemed pornographic.

the web site, a health question-and-answer service called "go ask alice," was created by officials from columbia university in new york.  the link has since been removed.  [p2s note:  this site is being removed from many libraries.  for example, the south dakota governor had it removed from the state's web site.]

in response to an argument that computer filters are not perfect and block constitutionally protected information, [p2s founder] said, "all you have to do is ask to turn off the filters ... that's not censorship.

"homeland security will never be perfect in this country," he added, "but we're still trying."

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