Internet dangers discussion raises ire of some parents

Frank warnings of the dangers the internet can pose for children have stirred discord among some parents of Shenandoah County public schools students.

Some have taken to social media to express how upset they are with school officials about talks of a sexual nature when they went to pick up their children’s laptop computers at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg on Tuesday night. A Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office deputy discussed matters such as sexting and child pornography at the gathering.

Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston said he regrets that some people were upset but said school personnel have a responsibility to protect the kids.

“We meet with the parents because we want the students to be safe. I don’t know how to protect the children if you are not aware of this,” Johnston said.

The school system has pulled the content from future meetings and will hold those discussions at separate meetings.

“Ignoring it is not a possibility. It is not reasonable or accountable,” he said.

The presentation has been given previously without any problems, Johnston said. Those in attendance were sixth-graders and their families who would have been hearing about the issue for the first time.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter confirmed the deputy at Tuesday’s meeting had given the presentation before.

Carter said the program was designed specifically for parents.

“They need insight into social media, such as sexting and child pornography, so they know what to look for,” Carter said.

According to a posting on a private Facebook page, one parent became  vocal at the meeting and expressed displeasure that those attending were not aware such a talk would occur, and that young children were present to hear about the sensitive topic.

Some parents who said they attended the meeting posted on the Facebook page that they were upset they did not have prior notice there would be such a talk or that young children heard about the topic before parents had talked to them about it.

The computers from the school have filters on them to help block unwanted communications. Kids, however, have a lot more access to the internet with home computers and smart phones, school and law enforcement officials said.