Parents in McPherson are outraged after a student came across pornographic material while working on homework on a school issued computer.
Monday night, the Board of Education met to hear parents’ concerns and to discuss plans to make their computers and software more secure.
It was a packed room full of parents, many frustrated over the Summit Learning Program, that was implemented at the beginning of the school year.
“Links and images on the redirect from a slide on systems of government, show a naked woman’s body in an artful manner, and I put that in quotes,” said parent Dr. Lara Vanderhoof, a parent who spoke during the meeting.
She was one of many parents saying the Summit Learning program isn’t working as it is.
The McPherson schools Superintendent Gordon Mohn says the program is on the Chromebook of every 4th and 5th grader at Eisenhower Elementary and all students at the middle school.
One of those middle school students was using a link to the program last week with his mom at home that led to another link on the page, to content they weren’t expecting.
“You will see ads articles and pictures of sexual nature all over this website; thankfully my wife was there and saw one of the article’s headlines and quickly shut the computer down,” said Mike Berger, the student’s dad.
“The incident in this, the student was supposed to read an article as part of the research on a topic that they were studying so they accessed the reading material, and then they found the links on that site,” said Gordon Mohn, superintendent of McPherson Schools.
The next day the district shut down all internet access as they investigated.
Then, the same parent reported another incident on Thursday.
“There’s a huge difference between a child searching for information on his own on his own on the internet and a student following a link on his assignment that has been assigned by the Summit Learning curriculum,” said Berger.
So, the district says they took a next step for student safety.
“They can access the internet,” said Mohn. “They can’t access the Summit, all the links on the Summit site. There are parts of the Summit Learning platform that they can. But, those parts don’t have connections to the outside world.”
Some other concerns parents expressed about the program were that they say students haven’t been introduced to new content this year and that some of their assessments are not off of the content learned.
But, there were some parents who say they aren’t unhappy with Summit Learning.
Mohn says the board will put together a curriculum committee to study the program and see where to go from here.