Web Sites Attacking Kids Dilemma for Our Schools

Article excerpt

Byline: Carmen Greco Jr. Daily Herald Staff Writer

When teachers see nasty graffiti scrawled on the bathroom wall, they scrub it off or paint over it.

But what does a school official do when a student creates an Internet Web site to broadcast his ddislike of certain classmates

Faced with just that situation at Jay Stream Middle School in Carol Stream, officials paid a visit to the student's home and, with the cooperation of parents, shut down the Web site. Joining school officials on the house visit this week were Carol Stream police.

Mostly, the remarks boiled down to name-calling. But in one case, the material implied threats against other students, according to Police Chief John Numrich.

"There was one statement in the site that could have been interpreted as threatening," Numrich said. "When the parents found out about it, they were very cooperative with us."

Police and school officials believe they did not overreact, considering the weight of the remarks and the fact that two parents called police with complaints about the site.

But Edwin Yohnka, a spokesman for the Chicago office of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes officials' response was excessive.

Forcing closure of a Web site that was distributed and visited off of school property and not during school hours should raise a First Amendment rights flag, he said.

He said greater intrusions into students' lives have become more acceptable following the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., two years ago.

"It's a question of the degree to which school officials are now involving themselves in things outside of school," Yohnka said. "School officials are not responsible for the activities of students 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"If he's simply posting things about people he doesn't like; by what authority does the school district and police have to shut down the Web site? …