GRPS: 4th-grader gets around filter to see porn

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools is tweaking its Internet filtering software after a fourth-grade student used Google to access pornographic material on his in-classroom computer.

The incident happened on April 3 at Dickinson Elementary School. The 10-year-old student was suspended for several days after, the district said, he intentionally circumvented the school’s filters to access the images.

“Material like this isn’t supposed to be accessible, just like drugs and alcohol, in a school setting,” said Lloyd  Whitelow, the boy’s father. “Especially an elementary school.”

School leaders have determined what happened, district spokesperson John Helmholdt told 24 Hour News 8. He said the student used the Google Images search feature and typed in a search term that the filters wouldn’t catch.

The images then displayed on his computer screen and were quickly noticed by the teacher in the classroom.

“If anyone was from behind and was looking at any of the screen, it would be painfully obvious,” Helmholdt said.

The boy’s father said his son denies being the one that pulled up the images and that he wants to see more than student discipline after what happened.

“I don’t feel as if this is a situation that should be taken lightly,” Whitelow said.

The school district agrees.

“Unfortunately, the content filtering system failed,” Helmholdt said, adding that the school can’t possibly close all loopholes students might find to access inappropriate material. “No content filtering system in the world is 100% foolproof.”

The district has already contacted the company that provides its filtering to address the problem exposed in the incident.

But it also said the risk of exposure to inappropriate content is one the school must take to educate children in a 21st century, high-tech world.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Helmholdt said. “This is a very rare and isolated incident.”

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