Colo. legislation would require all public schools to install Internet filters

Colorado took its first step toward adopting an Internet filtering bill for schools when the Children’s Internet Protection Act was introduced on March 12.

House Bill 1266 calls for the implementation of a “technology protection measure” for each school computer that allows minors to access the Internet. The legislation, which would take effect in 2003, only affects public and charter schools and does not apply to post-secondary institutions.

According to the proposed bill, the filtering device would block access to visual depictions that are obscene or pornographic, as defined by Colorado law, or “harmful to minors.” The bill defines “harmful to minors” as any image that is lascivious, depicts a sex act “in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors,” or shows graphic violence. It also includes any visual representation that “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.”

The bill would allow administrators to temporarily disable the filters for “bona fide research or other lawful purposes” by an adult or a student supervised by an adult.

Most Colorado schools currently have Internet filtering programs on their computers, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Fritz, R-Loveland. The legislation provides for an undetermined amount of public funding for schools that do not already have filters.

The Colorado Education Association opposed the measure, saying it would take away local control from school districts and that its language was much broader than the recently enacted federal statute, also called the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

The organization’s general counsel, Marti Houser, in an interview with the Denver Post, noted that the proposed legislation’s reference to “graphic violence” could preclude a student from doing research on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Lawmakers on the State, Veteran and Military Affairs Committee are currently debating the bill.