Quad-City Times from Davenport, Iowa on November 19, 1999 · 4
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Quad-City Times from Davenport, Iowa · 4

Davenport, Iowa
Issue Date:
Friday, November 19, 1999
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: ..... - ,,r. .-, - - -- , ir i - . -, , . 1 r ri 4A QUAD-CITY TIMES Friday, Nov. 19, 1999 nTQaad-City mm m Founded 1857 A Lee Enterprises Newspaper Editorial INTERNET ACCESS: It must be policed Use common sense, not WebSense Censorship is a strong word. Most often, it's associated with restrictions on free speech and on the dissemination of information. But not all such restrictions amount to censorship. For example, a convenience store that chooses not to stock certain magazines for purchase by its customers isn't guilty of censorship. But what about a public school district that chooses not to provide its students with unfettered access to the Internet? that's the question now being debated by students, faculty and administrators in the Davenport Community School District. The district currently uses software called WebSense on virtually all of its computers. WebSense blocks access to Web sites that fall into various cate gories, including abortion, gambling, pornography, entertainment and religion. Unfortunately, the software is not very refined. By restricting access to sites that mention sex, for example, WebSense blocks access to sites that contain legitimate news stories on such topics as the impeachment of the president. And this is what has the students, . particularly those in the high school journalism classes, so upset. They see the Web-filtering process as censorship and an infringement on their First Amendment rights. Well, the fact is, the students should have their access to the Internet restricted. After all, the schools do not indiscriminately place books and magazines on the library shelves, and they shouldn't treat Internet material differently just because it's electronically published on a computer screen. That said, the students still have a legitimate gripe not because they're being denied certain information, but because of the manner in which the Scripps Howard The wrong way to soft-soap the teacher For a change, a school system is not at fault in a case of bureaucratic overkill. In Arlington, Va., two 10-year-olds are facing felony charges for slipping soap into their fifth-grade teacher's water bottle. It was unquestionably a stupid prank, but a felony requiring the police, the state's attorney and a juvenile court judge? The principal's first call at Randolph Elementary was the correct one: a three-day suspension plus eight hours of community service, stiff but justifiable. We might have added a chewing-out for the kids, if such a thing is still allowed, plus a quiet word to the teacher that leaving a class alone with one's coffee cup or water bottle is asking for it. The teacher, Michael Searles, however, insisted on pursuing the case and asked the local police to press charges. Searles has declined to talk to the press, but the local teachers' union defends his actions. Says the union's executive director, in leaden bureaucratese, "The teacher is interested in get-, ting appropriate services V for these students." Revenge is more like it. CHARLES PITTMAN Publisher JOHN M. HUMENIK Editor information is being denied. As the courts have repeatedly ruled, publicly funded city and school libraries cannot act arbitrarily in selecting materials for use by their patrons. Their decisions must be based on such factors as the professional judgment of the staff, the school curricula, local community standards and budgetary considerations,. And therein lies the problem; By using WebSense, the district is delegating the job of a teacher or librarian to a stream of computer codes that cannot exercise professional judgment in deter 6 6 By using WebSense, the district is delegating the job of a teacher or librarian to a stream of computer codes ..." first be denied. The central tenet of the First Amendment is that content-based restrictions on speech and on access to speech must be justified by a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to achieve that end. And, as even its supporters acknowledge, WebSense is anything but "narrowly tailored." This places school districts that use filtering software in a difficult position. The First Amendment does not obligate a school to provide Internet access, but once that access is acquired, content can only be restricted using the same judgment and standards a librarian or teacher might apply. That's not a job that can be farmed out to a software manufacturer. The students deserve access to the Internet. And common sense dictates that their access must be policed so that the school isn't acting as a conduit for pornography or other objectionable material. But the job of policing the Internet is too important not to mention too complicated to be left to WebSense. VIEWPOINTS: From around the These cases of overkill have a way of escalating, and this one has. In addition to the local juvenile justice system, the Rutherford Institute, the same legal foundation that championed Paula Jones' cause, has weighed into the case on the side of the students. Judge Esther Wiggins, who has been stuck with this chore, should throw out the charges and remand the case back to where it belonged in the first place: the principal's office. The Washington Post U.N. accepts blame for Srebrenica It is not easy to admit the truth of Srebrenica, the Bosnian town where thousands of Muslim men were executed and hundreds buried alive, where a grandfather was forced to eat the liver of his grandson. But in its report released on Monday, the United Nations accepts its share of the blame. It designated Srebrenica a safe haven but failed to supply enough troops to make the safety genuine. When Bosnian Serb militias set about the massacre in July 1995, the U.N. force of 110 soldiers in Srebrenica offered no resistance. By the United Nations' own reckoning, as many as 20,000 Muslims OP BETH CLARK General Manager CLARK KAUFFMAN Opinion Page Editor mining wnat is "acceptable." Granted, the school staff can fine-tune the software to permit access to sites that would otherwise be blocked, but for such corrective action to take place, access must nation died in this and other "safe" areas that the United Nations had sworn to protect. The U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, should be commended for this stark admission. The question, however, is whether his honesty will spur bolder peacekeeping in the future. In the conclusion to his long report, Annan invites U.N. member states to reflect on "the gulf between mandate and means; the inadequacy of symbolic deterrence in the face of a systematic campaign of violence; the pervasive ambivalence within the United Nations regarding the role of force in the pursuit of peace; (and on) an institutional ideology of impartiality even when confronted with attempted genocide." During the Bosnian war, Annan's predecessor called for 34,000 troops, but the Security Council gave him only 7,400. In the recent case of East Timor, the council supported the idea of a U.N. referendum on independence but refused to send troops to deter a blood bath that was widely predicted. The United Nations' current silence about Russia's war crimes in Chechnya, and its early impotence on Kosovo. But in cases where the council does approve action, it is fair to insist that it be serious. The U.N. member states need to embrace force to secure peace; they neml to shove neutrality aside and denounce evil in order to combat it. NIOTS OPINIO MGE I NEVfR MIND THE HARD QUESTIONS.. 1 ,j HERE'S YouR CHECKf MARIE COCCO: Muzzling freedom, women, to pay U.N. dues Human rights take a step backward As U.S. Rep. Chris Smith sees it, there are universal truths. And universal rights. Freedom of religion. Freedom of expression. Freedom of movement. What American would disagree? They are the staple phrases of stock political speeches. Smith does not take them out and dust them off every so often when he is asked to preside, as congressmen do, at a parade or at a laying of wreaths. He uses his power to promote them. This puts the New Jersey Republican out of sync with the prevailing Washington ideology, which is this: American business and military interests come first. Human rights abroad come second. You can always count on Smith to make a passionate speech about religious and political repression in China. To harangue his colleagues about Tibet or East Timor. To pen a scathing letter about persecution on the eve of an important overture to Vietnam. To prod the United States into recognizing the abuses of Northern Ireland's Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Protestant police force that wields power over the province's Catholic majority. KATHLEEN PARKER: The pendulum swings toward The nice thing about pendulums is they eventually swing back. Several unrelated events in recent weeks prove the rule and suggest that Americans are fed up with 20th century victimology and its illegitimate offspring, the government self-esteem worker. A state Supreme Court, for example, says that children may be spanked without parents' fear of being charged with abuse; a local school board says violent hoodlums won't be tolerated regardless of how many celebrities and TV cameras show up; a state board of education resolves that children should be disciplined rather than drugged into appropriate behavior. Bless my stars and stripes, but common sense seems to be making a comeback. As you give thanks this week, consider these glad tidings: In Colorado a few days ago, the State Board of Education passed a resolution recognizing that many discipline problems are just that, rather than biological disorders requiring psychotropic remedy. The board revived to encourage school personnel to use "proven academic andor Smith draws the line, though, at people at home and abroad who do not share his own religious views about abortion. He wants those people governed by what could be called the Smith Exception to International Human Rights. The exception is for women. And for groups that advocate abroad for women to have access to safe and legal abortion. In the doctrine according to Smith, they must be muzzled. To make sure they are silenced, Smith has driven the now-successful budget move to tie payment of back U.S. dues to the United Nations with reinstatement of the Reagan-era global gag rule that prohibits population and family planning groups from using their own money to advocate legal abortion abroad. That's their own privately raised money. Not the taxpayers' money. The law already bars the use of American funds for abortion or abortion advocacy overseas. Moving away from victimology ... classroom management solutions to resolve behavior, attention and learning difficulties." The board also resolved "to encourage greater communication and education among parents, educators and medical professionals about the effect of psychotropic drugs on student achievement and our ability to provide a safe and civil learning environment." In other words, some "children" might benefit more from consequences than from drugs when it comes to discipline and learning. Such as, perhaps, being expelled for rioting? Or getting a well-placed exclamation point on the behind rather than yet-another-lecture-ho-hum-can-I-go-watch-TV-now? Ask teachers what's wrong with education these days, and most will tell you: No discipline. No consequences. No "guts" among administrators emasculated by civil rights agitators, litigators and self-esteem parents too busy to notice that Johnny's, well, just a little monster, frankly. School board menders in Decatur, 111., tried to say as much when they recently ' Worth noting ... "How can you be expected to govern a country that has j 246 kinds of cheese?" 3 Charles de Gaulle The president and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have vociferously and repeatedly fought this gag rule in the past. Albright has argued with passion that it undercuts fundamental principles of U.S. foreign policy. It is a rule, she has said, "that would punish organizations for engaging in the democratic process in foreign countries and for engaging in legal activities that would be protected by the First Amendment if carried out in the United States." But now she wants the U.N. dues paid. The price is the rape of the First Amendment. The capitulation is done. The White House is putting out the line that this is no big deal, that the president will use his authority to grant "waivers" to groups so they will be able to keep advocating ways to prevent the 75,000 deaths and 30 times more debilitating maternal injuries from unsafe, illegal abortions every year. The waivers literally come at a price: For each one issued two-year expulsions to six students who rioted at a football game. Was the expulsion deserved? Surely. Excessive? Probably. About time? You bet. Predictably, civil-rights czar Jesse "The Reverend" Jackson appeared on the scene and demanded that the boys be readmitted to school. These "children" three of whom are freshmen for the third time are being deprived of their right to an education and need help, not punishment, Jackson says. The reverend may be right that the boys need help, but that fact doesn't preclude the need for punishment as well. Our failure to endorse punishment as an option, both to parents and teachers, is surely responsible for the escalation in disrespect, violence and other social pathologies common among youth as never before. In a compromise, the school board has reduced the boys' expulsion to one year and offered placement in an alter native school, where the stu- dents can continue "learn-ing." A fair enough coittpro-mise, though Jackson, who reminds me of one of those granted, the program that funds family planning services overseas is to be cut by about $12.5 million. The anti-abortion Republi cans insist that this money , , may not be used for birth control, il Specifically, they have ; taken a stand against using these funds to teach impoverished women in the develop" ing world how to use birth -control to space their preg-.. nancies. This is what they really think of freedom. This is what they really think of women. "The poorest women in the j world, the poorest children, i are bearing the brunt of an ; ideology based on religion," said Amy Coen, president of Population Action Interna- - j tional. "If we don't see it, believe me, the rest of the world does.' - ; This is the first time it will be written into U.S. law that : private groups using private funds are subject to govern- ment censorship, by censors who are motivated by reli- gious belief. ; That's one heck of a human rights message for the indis- npncnhlo nntinn tn conH nnt to the world. (Marie Cocco writes columnsj forNewsday.) discipline old vets who never got word that the war ended, plans tq persevere. ; The boys, meanwhile, might have benefited long ago from a visit with another man of the cloth, the Rev. Donald Cobble,, who wound up in court on -child abuse charges for spanking his son with a leather strap. A few days ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the case, ruling that Cobble had a right to discipline his son absent, "substantial risk" of injury Individually, we may dis agree with the draconian measures both of Cobble afld the Decatur school board. We 1 may even take issue with the", Colorado Board of Educa- X tion's implication that some misbehavior can't be excused with a doctor's note. ; But collectively, we might enjoy a sigh of relief as the ' pendulum begins its journey back toward personal responsibility, accountability and., consequences. (Kathleen Parker, an ! Orlando Sentinel columnist"-' welcomes comments via e-mail at kparkMr(kparker.com, ' although she cannot respond to all mail individually.) -A

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