Parent’s iPad complaint stirs school board at Monday meeting

A parent's complaint to the Huntington County Community School Board stirred the entire school board on Monday evening, Oct. 8.

Billie Keith, a Huntington resident who is the mother of three HCCSC students who possess iPads - two at Crestview Middle School and one at Huntington North High School - says she discovered her middle schoolers' iPads have the capability to look up pornographic material using the Internet connection in her home.

Keith explained that after her children downloaded the Siri software as part of a school-mandated upgrade to the iPads, she was testing the safety of the devices' capabilities. Keith said she used the Siri software to ask the iPad to look up pornographic material, and the software returned several pornographic search results.

Scott Hoffman, District 1, was first to address Keith's concern, asking, "What are we going to do about this?"
Kevin Patrick, board president, added, "We need to figure it out ... We owe it to our kids' families to find out why this wasn't caught."

Chuck Grable, assistant superintendent, explained that the iPads are monitored for content only while the iPads are inside the school building. Once the iPads leave the schools, Grable says there is no way for content to be monitored.

He also explained that the school corporation does have the capability to "lock down" the iPads to prevent students from accessing inappropriate materials while in the schools, or outside them.

Patrick asked, "Who are the cyber police ... Who holds the kids responsible?"

Grable explained, "One of the first rounds of punishments for the kids when we find out they've been visiting somewhere inappropriate is the deans or assistant principals have been setting the parental restrictions on the back end of it (the iPad) for the parents. As a punishment, the dean does that ... they set the restrictions with a passcode the kid doesn't know. Then they (the students) can earn that back as they show good behavior."

Rex Baxter, District 7, also chimed in, "If we can't control this, we can keep the iPads in the school, right? I was under the impression it was under control; that is why it bothers me."

Troy Smart, vice president, added, "Our primary duty is to educate our students, not to provide a portal to inappropriate content. We didn't let our students write in and customize their text books."

Tracey Shafer, superintendent, stated, "We don't need to overreact or underreact."

And Grable added, "We need to reeducate."

Patrick requested that Grable should be responsible for attacking and solving the issue as soon as possible, and asked that Grable report his progress at the Oct. 22 meeting of the board.

Patrick concluded, "We didn't do what we said we were going to do."

The board also adopted the collective bargaining agreement, which altered the current agreement most notably by restoring the 2 percent Teacher's Retirement Fund payment and increasing the minimum teacher pay to $33,000for teachers with a bachelor's degree and up to three years of experience.

Schafer says increasing the salary keeps Huntington schools competitive.

Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff, reported a $1,686,000 cash balance in the general fund, a $290,550 cash balance in the Capital Projects Fund, and a $1,313,000 cash balance in the transportation fund.

Bennett also gave an overview of the 2013 budget during a public hearing that gave taxpayers the opportunity to ask questions.

The advertised budget for 2013 is $1,106,479,000 and the budget will be adopted at the Oct. 22 board meeting.
Bennett explained that within three days after adoption, the 2013 budget must be uploaded and finalized.

During the public hearing, no taxpayers addressed the board.

The board also approved three new classified employees - Sheryl Hippensteel, general education paraprofessional, Horace Mann Education Center; Jeffrey Miller, second shift custodian, Huntington North High School; and Paula Rice, general education paraprofessional, Roanoke Elementary School.

Also, Michael Rice was hired as a sixth grade boys' basketball coach at Crestview.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will be Monday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at Horace Mann Education Center.