Next school year, some high school students will be able to have “safe” e-mail accounts courtesy of the School Board of Highlands County.

The school board approved a contract recently with Gaggle.Net, a Web-based hosted e-mail service for K-12 education.

“Primarily, we are targeting [grades] nine through 12,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Rebecca Fleck said Friday.

Details of exactly which students will get an e-mail account have yet to be worked out.

“We are still working on the procedure and policy,” Fleck said. “We don’t know that we are going to automatically assign an e-mail address to every student. No student will get one, however, without parental permission.”

It may be used for specific programs such as students who are enrolled in the online Florida Virtual School or for courses that require them to have an e-mail address, she said.

The contract, from July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2009, calls for 5,000 email accounts ($2.10 per account) for a total annul cost of $10,500.

The contract was approved in time to apply for a 100 percent reimbursement through the federal E-rate school technology program.

Gaggle.Net is an extremely secure system, Fleck said.

The system features an anti-pornography scanner that automatically detects and blocks embedded pornographic images as well as those in attachments, zip files as linked images or on Web sites included as URLs (uniform resource locator) in the message body.

According to Gaggle.Net, the scanner is exceptionally accurate and in most cases it can detect the difference between pictures of students in bathing suits and pornographic images.

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