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Freeport School News
June 2002

 
 
June 12, 2002 (Posted June 18th)

Freeport Schools Ignore Spirit Of Federal Mandates

By Stewart S Lilker

Once again, the Freeport Public Schools demonstrated both a lack of leadership from the Superintendent and the Boardís willingness to avoid and evade the spirit of the laws they are have sworn to uphold.

Their latest gaff involves the districtís confusion and adherence to the federally mandated Childrenís Internet Protection Act, commonly known as CIPA.

The district failed to adequately notify the residents of the public hearing required by CIPA. Other than posting notices on the school buildings, the district did nothing to advise the parents 

Internet Use Policy in English (district refuses to publicize this)
Internet Use Policy in Spanish (district refuses to publish this)
The full text of the Law (a PDF file)
American Library Assoc. CIPA Web Site

and residents of the district about the public hearing scheduled for June 12, 2002. The lame effort to update the districtís web site at the last minute went almost completely unnoticed.

The districtís continuing violation of the agreement made with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Education, in which the district agreed to identify and maintain contact with the non English speaking parents in the district is ignored, as if it doesnít exist, by both the School Board and the districtís Superintendent, Dr. Eric Eversley.

In the second part of the meeting, past PTA Co-President, Stephanie Cieslik, asked why the policies were not available in Spanish and English at the meeting. The Superintendent, whose job it is to see that the requirements of the districtís agreement with the OCR are complied with, refused to answer. Board President, John Muscara, remarked that Ms. Cieslik had brought up a good point.

Your reporter followed up Ms. Cieslikís questions, directing his questions to the Superintendent.

FreeportNYNews (FNYN): How are people advised that there are meetings taking place? How do they know there is a meeting?

(Superintendent Eversley refuses to answer)

JOHN MUSCARA (Board President): Thatís not the issue. We will talk about that later.

Asst. Supt. Tony Ciaglia (Asst. Supt. of Curriculum): We are very diligent. Everybody that needs to be advised, is advised.

FNYN: As these meetings [district wide SAVE committee] appear to be subject to NYS Open Meetings law, can you tell me why the public wasnít advised that these meetings were taking place?

JOHN MUSCARA: Iím not sure what the procedure is.

FNYN: Does anybody know? Mr. Superintendent do you know?

JOHN MUSCARA: (Answering for the Superintendent) Nobody knows.

FNYN: Can you tell me why this document or any of the policy changes werenít available in Spanish tonight at this meeting?

JOHN MUSCARA: It was probably an oversight.

FNYN: Can you tell me where the Spanish translators are at this meeting?

JOHN MUSCARA We stopped using a translator, because we had no need for a translator.

FNYN: Could you please tell me what you did to advise the Spanish speaking community, which I understand is approaching fifty percent of the community, that this meeting was going to be held tonight? We understand that these policies affect their children and everybodyís children.

JOHN MUSCARA: The meetings were posted the way all meetings are posted.

FNYN: Are they posted in Spanish?

JOHN MUSCARA: I donít know.

FNYN: Does anybody know? Mr. Superintendent, do you know?

SUPT. EVERSLEY: Eversley: Mary, are they posted in Spanish?

Mary Bediako (Dist. Clerk): No, they are not posted in Spanish.

SUPT. EVERSLEY: No, they are not posted in Spanish.

The Internet Acceptable use Public hearing was convened without the Board ever calling the meeting to order. Board President John Muscara walked out and the Superintendent never showed up.

Board member Michael Raab asked what system would be in place to revoke studentís privileges. Assist. Supt. Of Curriculum, Tony Ciaglia answered, "If the student is involved in inappropriate Internet use, that card will be pulled. No card, no Internet. The recourse for regaining access, will be a (unintelligible).

Ciaglia continued, "The kids using Optimum Online will have access to the sites already pre determined by the school... When the child uses the Internet in the high school library, they [staff] will know whoís on and what they are doing.

Ciaglia came unprepared for the public hearing, claiming that it was called due to the E-Rate Regulations, when the reason for the hearing was the CIPA.

When your reporter asked Ciaglia if he had a copy of the current Internet Use Policy at the hearing, Ciagliaís replied, "I donít know that I do Mr. Lilker."

FNYN: Do you have copy of the district policy manual here?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: I donít know that we do, Mr. Lilker.

FNYN: Do you know the number of the old Internet use policy?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: Not off hand, I donít have that stuck in my brain.

FNYN: Wouldnít it be easier if we had it here?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: Yeah, but we donít.

(The clerk ran out and got a copy of the district policy manual, which is supposed to be at all board meetings.)

FNYN: Can you please tell me what has changed in the new policy compared to old policy?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: I donít know that I can, Mr. Lilker.

When your reporter questioned Ciaglia about the new policy, it became clear that nobody in the district did their homework regarding requirements of this policy.

Your reporter addressed Ciaglia: Item number one says that "No user will deliberately access educationally inappropriate materials or show others how to do the same." Could you please tell me who determines what is educationally inappropriate and how it is determined?

Ciaglia replied: At this level of the use, the first line of defense is the classroom teacher. The second line of the backup is the school administration. The third line is Ms. Schemp, our Coordinator Of Technology. The fourth line would be me. The fifth line would be the superintendent and ultimately, the sixth line would be the board of education.

FNYN: There is nothing listed in the district that explains what is inappropriate? Itís up to the person who happens to walk by the computer screen and look at the monitor? Isnít that right? A person could see FreeportNYNews and say that it is inappropriate, because it doesnít support the school district.

BOARD MEMBER RAAB: It is.

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: The inappropriate activities on the Internet are judgment calls that are made at the classroom level by classroom teachers and must relate to the educational lesson at hand. I hope you are not suggesting that our teachers cannot make the distinction about what is educationally appropriate and what is not.

FNYN: If someone reads a manual of the KKK, is that inappropriate?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: It depends on how it is being presented and how it is being used in the class.

FNYN: So itís up to the individual [teacher]?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: Thatís what we pay them for.

FNYN: There is nothing in the district that explains, or what the school district attorney has determined is inappropriate?

ASST. SUPT. CIAGLIA: No there is not. There is not. If you have one, write it down for us. We would be happy to review it. The classroom teacher and the building principal determines on a case by case basis what is inappropriate.

CIPA is clear regarding the determination of what is inappropriate for minors. It is unambiguous when it states, on page 17, "A determination regarding what matter is inappropriate for minors shall be made by the school board..."

The law is also specific when it comes to defining "child pornography," what is "harmful to minors," who is a "minor," what is "obscene," and the term "sexual act."

As the so called public hearing closed, Ciaglia explained that the teachers in their lesson plans would define what site the student should be using and "where they should be." He said, "There must be rigorous supervision of students while they are on the Internet." He concluded, "The teacher will set up the Internet sites in advance. The students will go through the research and learning applications without actually having access to the Internet."

Ciaglia never addressed the issue that the high retention rates in the high school make many students older than the legall definition of a minor, which is anyone under the age of seventeen. As CIPA effects only minors, it us unclear what the district intends to do about the students in the district who are classified as adults.

(Photo: Fifteen minutes after the hearing began, the room was almost empty, echoing the absence of the Board president and superintendent. Seated, from left to right. Mike Raab, Joe Cattano, Ron Ellerbe, Kishore Kuncham, Tony Ciaglia. Standing, Mary Bediako.)

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