Principal warns of Internet site | NevadaAppeal.com

Principal warns of Internet site

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Carson Middle School Principal Sam Santillo is asking parents to be aware of what their children are doing online at home, especially when it comes to fights between students on the Web site http://www.myspace.com.

“Girls are using myspace.com as a medium to display aggression and threats and harassment toward other girls,” he said.

In one recent incident, a girl posted derogatory comments on the site, including an obscenity, about another girl, whose mother printed out the post and brought it to school.

“We did not discipline anybody about that because it occurred off school grounds,” Santillo said. “We called everybody and said ‘You need to be involved in what your children are doing’ and that they could be using this a means to be disrespectful toward other girls.”

Although there are rumors floating around Carson Middle that students with accounts are being suspended, Santillo said there is no truth to it. He has no authority over students having myspace.com accounts.

“This is something that is happening at home,” he said. “If it’s the parents’ deal and they let the children use that, we’re not going to get involved in that at all.”

Myspace.com is a networking Web site that provides space free of charge to blog, chat and post photos. It allows people to write profiles on themselves and invite others to join their personal network.

“The kids think it’s innocent and they don’t really know what they’re exposing themselves to,” said Janice Towns, management information specialist for the school district. “They think they’re communicating with only their friends and they don’t realize the dangers they’re opening themselves to.”

People can lie about who they are and how old they are.

“What they’re telling you does not have to be true,” she said. “They could tell you they’re a 16-year-old boy when in fact they’re a 65-year-old man.”

The district has used a filter for the past five years called Websense that limits access to some sites, including myspace.com, on all school computers.

“We block pornography, the chatrooms, blogs, all non-educational sites,” she said. “If they find one that is educational that is blocked, I can release it.”

Carson Middle School administrators are considering sending a note to parents to alert them to the fact that their children could be using the Web site.

“We’re just asking people to be aware of what they’re children are doing,” Santillo said.

Recently, four eighth-graders at O’Brien Middle School in Reno were suspended for posting threats of physical harm on the site. The school released a statement to parents warning them of dangers of the site.

O’Brien Principal Scott Grange said that many of the problems are related to girls writing about one another.

“The majority of our students are using it for what it’s supposed to be used for, which is really just free positive communication with each other,” he said. “I love that. I think it’s a great positive thing. Just like anything else it’s that small percent of (people that) are going to ruin it for everybody else. I don’t want parents to shut their kids down if they’re using it positively.”

At Carson Middle, Santillo said any threatening posts made on myspace.com will be checked out.

“If it’s posted on myspace.com, and it’s something that affects the school district or the school and is brought to our attention, we will look into it,” he said.

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.