The parents of a second-grade student in Lee’s Summit are in a holding pattern after their child was exposed to X-rated videos at Meadow Lane Elementary School.
The parents, who are not being named to protect the identity of the child, said the child was shown multiple videos by another student. The children gained access to the YouTube videos through their district-issued Chromebooks.
According to district spokeswoman Janice Phelan, the district has in place a content filter that’s required by law and complies with the Children’s Internet Protection Act. She added in an email that YouTube for Schools has been the only YouTube option open for elementary students and the full YouTube website should not have been available.
Somehow, according to the parents, that filter was breached. They have not sent their child back to school since they learned of the incident Feb. 1.
“It was the worst, nasty triple-X-rated movie you could think of,” the father said in an interview.
According to the mother, she was told that the district has eight firewalls that restrict access to sites such as YouTube. She said her child reported being shown a video of two girls having sex. The couple then met with Andrew Gibb, the assistant principal at Meadow Lane, on Feb. 2 and it was confirmed that the students were able to access the full site.
“A piece of my 8-year-old (child’s) innocence was taken away from her,” the mother said.
According to a statement provided by the district, officials were notified about the situation on Feb. 3. The district’s technology department immediately began an investigation and made the recommendation to close all access to YouTube for Schools. Access was shut down by the afternoon of Feb. 3.
“Through the investigation, technology department staff members determined that our district’s Internet filtering did not catch a recent update to the regular YouTube website, allowing all YouTube content to be accessible for a short period,” the statement read. “Normally, only YouTube for Schools is available on student devices. In this instance, R-7 staff members believe a recent firmware upgrade on the appliance that manages the district’s filter was flawed and caused full access to YouTube to open late last week.”
Phelan said the technical issue was resolved Monday “and the district is planning to allow appropriately filtered and protected access to YouTube for Schools soon due to its educational value in our classrooms.”
According to the district, administration at Meadow Lane spent the week of Feb. 1 working with parents of the few children who were able to access the websites.
“My family is scarred and disgusted beyond any words’ description,” said the mother who spoke with the newspaper.
The parents said they met with their child’s teacher and Sheryl Cochran, the principal at Meadow Lane, on Sunday. They said Cochran assured them it was safe for their child to return to school.
Despite the reassurance, the couple withheld their child from school this week.
“We want comfort from the district,” the mother said. “We don’t blame the principal or the teacher at all. They had no clue. It was the technology department who wasn’t doing their job. I am afraid to send (the child) back to school.”
The mother added that the school has been sending work home for their child but was informed by Cochran that the arrangement was temporary.
“I told her to look at it from our view,” the mother said. “This was pretty traumatizing for us as a family.”
According to the district’s content filtering and monitoring policy, the district monitors the online activities of students to protect against access to visual depictions that are obscene or harmful to minors or are child pornography.
However, the policy states, content filters are not foolproof and the district cannot guarantee that users will never be able to access offensive materials using district equipment.
The father would like the district to look into online activities at other district schools and disclose the number of incidents that occurred in the year before the Meadow Lane episode came to light.
“I want to see how many children have been disciplined for using inappropriate content,” he said. “How many cases are there and at how many different schools?”