Public schools and libraries in Missouri would have to take more steps to prevent young people from looking at objectionable internet sites under a bill headed to Gov. Bob Holden’s desk at press time.
The measure, which was part of a larger utility bill, was given final approval May 17 on a 28-2 Senate vote. The bill had passed the House earlier and would go into effect immediately if the governor signed it.
Similar bills passed the Senate in each of the past two years but died in the House.
“I hope this protects children from accessing objectionable material both at school and at public libraries,” said sponsoring Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla.
Steelman, a mother of three, said she has concerns about what kind of material children can access on the internet. “They are on the computer all the time and it worries me,” she said.
The measure would require the state’s elementary and secondary schools to provide filtering software for computers used by students or to receive internet service from a provider that can filter pornographic material.
The federal Children’s Internet Protection Act already requires schools and libraries receiving eRate funds to use filters. Missouri’s bill would extend this requirement to all of the state’s public schools and libraries.
Public schools would have until Jan. 1 to write rules that would set the standard for what is considered pornographic material. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would oversee the policies. School employees would be subject to discipline if they fail to meet the requirements of the bill.
State officials estimate that 50 percent of public school districts in Missouri already have filtering software.