Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sex, Schools, and the Politics of Distraction

The superintendent of Westfall School District in south-central Ohio is being pilloried for accessing racy websites from work, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Okay, he shouldn't have done that. But is he really all that different from millions of other American employees who've done the same while at work? Don't millions more use work computers for personal stuff? This guy's biggest offense, I think, was forgetting how teachers and other school employees are held to higher standards than the rest of society. In other words, his main offense was stupidity.

And what did he actually look at? Well, he did check out one hardcore free porn site - exactly once. The rest appears to have been no spicier that what you see on the average newsstand. (Cosmo covers, anyone?)

At 6 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2007, [Superintendent] Cotner's computer was used to visit an Internet site that today features free online hard-core pornography videos, the newspaper [the Dispatch] found.

The computer assigned to the leader of the Pickaway County district also was used three times during the fall of 2006 to visit a site that sells sex aids and toys.

The majority of the site visits being examined by the Westfall school board involved Google image searches for pictures of swimsuit models, actresses and celebrities.

Some of those sites included Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and "almost-nude photos-wet-and-wild" of a female former American Idol contestant.

(Source: Columbus Dispatch)
Oooh, women in swimsuits! Wet women in swimsuits! I'm no big fan of the SI swimsuit editions (they give kids the idea that women's main role in sports is as eye candy), but does even the most prudish fundamentalist consider this to be porn? And is ordering a sex toy from a work computer any less ethical than shopping at Amazon while at work? Actually, if the superintendent had browsed the sex toy section of Amazon, no one would have been the wiser!

If I lived in this district, I'd be steamed, all right. But not about the superintendent's computer usage. The district's former treasurer is sitting in prison after pilfering tens of thousands of dollars. And its school board meeting drew a crowd of 300 last night. They came not to accuse the superintendent (though some attendees did call for his resignation), but to protest proposed budget cuts.

The politics of distraction is so handy in tough economic times.

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