Tuesday, May 15, 2001

DOE sued over doctored
Internet porn images

By Debra Barayuga

When a Nanakuli High student downloaded pornographic images on a school computer, superimposed faces of fellow students on the sexual images and circulated them last spring, the incident was reported to school officials.

One school official later told the U.S. Office of Civil Rights, "To me it was just a joke."

But it was no joke to one of the girls whose face was depicted in the images.

She called it "the worst thing that has ever happened to her in her life" and did not want to return to school to face her schoolmates.

The girls' parents filed suit yesterday in federal court against the Department of Education, contending school officials failed to prevent unauthorized access to the Internet and properly supervise students, particularly in light of reports that a Pearl City student was arrested for allegedly using school computers for illegal purposes.

The suit also contends the Department of Education was "deliberately indifferent" to sexual harassment by the male student by failing to properly discipline him, offer the female student counseling, or follow the department's civil rights policy and complaint procedures, Internet access policies or its recommended disciplinary action.

The male student was suspended from school for one day.

The girl, now a junior, whose primary interest was computer technology and who planned to pursue it in college, stopped going to her graphic communication technology class because she felt uncomfortable being in the same class as the male student who crafted the images, the suit says.

The girl filed a harassment complaint with police.According to the suit, Vice Principal Bradley Odagiri notified her parents about the incident but dismissed the matter as insignificant, saying, "Kids will be kids."

The student was robbed of the opportunity to continue her interest in computers, the suit says, because the male student was allowed to register for the advanced class this year.

At a meeting between the parents and students involved, the student who was left in charge of the class said he told the male student to stop downloading the pornographic pictures. The male student said another student offered to pay him for the images.

Nanakuli High School staff deferred responses about the suit to Principal Levi Chang, who could not be reached.

DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen noted that the department had a filter to block out offensive sites at all schools before April 2000, when the incident allegedly occurred.

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