(04/30/2002)
The Hur Herald has been banned by the State Department of Education on the net, saying their filtering program has indicated it is a pornographic site. School students, employees and personnel will no longer be able to read The Herald on any classroom or administrative office computers in the 55 counties.

The Department of Education implemented a filtering program in December, 2001, to protect students from pornographic material. The filtering program targeted The Hur Herald in the last few days. The filters have been required by federal law, although the West Virginia Library Association stated last week such programs do not work. The American Library Association and the ACLU have filed a suit over the issue.

Calhoun High School principal Roger Propst said "We are mystified why it is blocked. We have asked the State Department to put The Hur Herald back on-line." The County School Board Office also spoke with the State Department of Education regarding the matter, defending the content of The Herald.

Phyllis Justice, Director of the Office of Instructional Technology, with the State Department of Education said the problem is linked to The Herald being on an out of state server which may also serve a pornographic site. She has indicated pornographic material could possibly be accessed by a computer diagnostic tool called "pinging." Other innocuous sites have been filtered by the state's program.

The Herald maintains it has no control over nor is it responsible for other web sites the host may serve. The Herald is not affiliated with any other sites hosted by the server. "We're at a loss as to what we can do at this point," said Dianne Weaver, co-editor of the Herald. "It's a shame that students and school personnel are denied access to The Herald because of something that "could" happen but has not been an actual problem." There have been no complaints that any type of objectionable material has been accessed through The Hur Herald site.

The 'problem' appears to exist in the filtering program itself. A computer expert told The Herald the program or software being used by the West Virginia Department of Education is targeting IP/Server addresses instead of URL's, or web addresses (www.hurherald.com). The Hur Herald contains no pornography nor do they link to any such site.

The State Department of Education indicated they cannot correct the problem. Ms. Justice viewed the Hur Herald site and found no problem with it's content, but continued to state the Hur Herald must work out the problem with their internet provider. "There's something going on out there on the net, that I have no control over," she said.

Andrew Schneider, the Director of the ACLU in Charleston, says filters are inadequate devices, while they may be well intended, they do not work well. "They will block sites and material with which students and the public should have access," he said. Mr. Schneider said such phrases as "mars exploration" when typed into a search engine may be blocked because the word sex is contained within the letter grouping of key words, mar(s ex)ploration.


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