Parents claim York Region school Internet filters ineffective; pornography accessible

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Parents claim York Region public school Internet filters not doing job
WATCH ABOVE: A Markham couple says it was able to access porn on their kids' school computers. The school board says it was a glitch. Mark Carcasole reports – Jan 22, 2016

TORONTO — A Markham couple said computers in York Region’s public school system aren’t adequately equipped to filter out pornography, putting children at risk.

Eva and John Himanen have three daughters at Little Rouge Public School in Markham, and Eva is even the vice chair of the school council.

They love the school, but Eva said officials there have refused to acknowledge what she said has been a problem for at least a couple years.

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“Kids were accessing inappropriate material,” she said, adding that she’s repeatedly brought her concerns to school administrators at council meetings, questioning whether they even have Internet filters.

Eva said school principals were so confident of system security that they let her test it out for herself; so the next day, she logged into the server using her daughter’s password and searched two distinct phrases on Google: “porn” and “naked sex.”

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“Images came up, websites came up. I clicked on a website, was able to open it up, no problem,” she recalls.

“It was just pages of horrific images that young kids shouldn’t be looking at.”

She took photos of the screens, distributing them to school and board officials as proof.

They show a Google search result field of various links to porn pages and several image preview thumbnails of uncensored pornographic images, showing multiple sex acts.

The couple claimed this is a problem board-wide, not just at their kids’ school.

“We had some parent contacts through the parent council and other people that we knew and said, ‘Can you please have a check to see if it’s happening at your school?'” said John Himanen.

“And we confirmed that it in fact was, this same situation.”

Margaret Roberts, board’s associate director, told Global News that is “not acceptable at all.”

She added that the board does have filters installed on its servers and they do block terms like those searched by Eva, but “there will be times when filters fail.”

Roberts said sometimes servers can get overloaded, causing those filters to give out briefly.

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“We believe it’s been rectified, we certainly have tried to make sure it has been,” she said.

“We’ve certainly gone to the computers in that school and elsewhere throughout the system to ensure [the filters are fixed].”

Roberts said there will be additional filters installed on their systems during the next semester break.

As an added layer of protection, the she said staff are always monitoring kids when they work online, both over their shoulders and digitally.

They also try their best to teach kids what’s appropriate to view at school and what’s not.

The Himanens say they understand no system is flawless, but consider this is a major slip-up and want assurance it won’t happen again.

“Our first and primary concern when we send our kids over to the school is that they’re going to be safe,” Eva said.

For its part, the York Region District School Board said so far, it has no record of any students accessing porn on its school computers.

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