Public school students or employees who use Internet service provided by UtahLINK leave a cyber-fingerprint every time they surf the Net.
Filtering software, which is used by the majority of Utah's school districts, track surfers' usages and help block access to Web sites deemed inappropriate in the K-12 setting.Such filters helped identify an elementary school principal in the Davis School District who reportedly had viewed sexually oriented Internet sites on a school computer, said David Doty, attorney for the district.
The administrator resigned recently, Doty said. He would not elaborate on specifics, citing confidentiality requirements.
"When you're an employer as big as our district, you have some aberrations, unfortunately," Doty said. "But from my standpoint, I think we have pretty good compliance (with policy) in our district. . . . I have not been deluged with complaints."
UtahLINK filtering systems tip district officials to the inappropriate access to sites dealing with hate speech, sex, drugs, criminal skills and gambling. Attempts to access those sites comprise less than 1 percent of UtahLINK's total Internet traffic.
UtahLINK is the state education system's onramp to the Internet. It is one of a handful of distance-learning tools that compose the Utah Education Network.
Students who violate "acceptable use" policies strongly encouraged by UtahLINK can lose Internet privileges. School employees face sanctions that could include termination.
Don Porter, network information manager for UtahLINK, agrees that no filtering system is foolproof, given the exponential growth of Web sites each week.
UEN contracts with a national company, Secure Computing, to block access to prohibited material provides UtahLINK with weekly updates to inappropriate sites.
The service is provided to each school district, although there is no requirement to use filtering software. Most subscribe to it. The others employ other means to detect inappropriate uses, Porter told a committee of the Utah Board of Education Friday.
Board member Boyd Jensen wondered aloud if the state board should require all school districts to use the UtahLINK filtering systems.
"We have this tool and it's a good tool, why don't we require every district to do it?" Jensen asked. "To me, it's a woeful waste of effort."
Associate Superintendent Jerry P. Petersen said filtering decisions are left to individual school districts. The vast majority employ some mechanism to monitor Internet usage, including desk-top histories recorded at each computer terminal and extensive supervision by teachers.
Statewide tracking logs indicate that in February, students tried 259,144 times to access Internet sites that were sexual in nature. Logs also recorded more than 6,700 attempts to access sites related to criminal skills, 4,775 for gambling, some 3,000 for drug-related sites and nearly 900 for hate speech. The attempts were denied.
The attempts to log on to inappropriate sites number nearly 275,000 for the month. Petersen noted Internet traffic that particular month exceeded 44 million hits.
"That's a pretty low number, when you look at it," Petersen said.