September 17, 2008

Officials Tracking Source of Video

By Anna L. Mallory [email protected] 381-8627

Floyd County schools Superintendent Terry Arbogast said Monday that an investigation into just how students at Floyd County High got a glimpse of pornography during a school meeting should be complete by the end of the week.

"Nobody is close to the truth on this," he said after the school board met in regular session. Arbogast is leading the investigation and said he needs more facts, but will share what he could with "my community."

The board did not discuss the issue during its 2 1/2-hour meeting, and although two parents attended, neither spoke publicly.

On Friday, a laptop computer being used during a Students Against Destructive Decisions club meeting displayed pornographic images. Students in the assembly were able to glimpse the images before school officials intervened and moved to their originally scheduled speakers, a video and a debate between Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Murray Shortt and lawyer Jonathan Rogers.

Principal Barry Hollandsworth sent a letter home to parents that day that read, "While trying to start a video, several seconds of a pornographic scene occurred on the screen for your child to see," and that he regretted the incident.

Downloading pornography on school computers is against county policy.

Shortt would not say what, if any, legal actions could result from the incident.

Hollandsworth would not comment on the situation Monday, saying it was under investigation.

The school's history teacher, Stan Hawkins, advises the SADD club. On Saturday, Hawkins said he was behind the screen where the video was to be shown when the incident occurred.

No one would confirm whether the laptop in use was Hawkins'.

Hawkins was not at school Monday, and Arbogast said he would not return until the investigation is complete. He would not say whether Hawkins' leave is paid.

School board Chairman Douglas Phillips refused to discuss the incident, but said he was very concerned. Phillips said he had not heard complaints or concerns from parents.

Arbogast said he would fill in the board on his findings later this week, and that they would likely call a special session if any disciplinary action is needed.

He also said he would "inform the community" about anything he could share that was not guarded under personnel privacy laws.

The school system's curriculum director stressed that the incident does not reflect any lessons students learn.

"What happened at our high school has nothing to do with our curriculum. There's no relevance there," said Linda Petrie, director of instruction.

Floyd County follows the state's Family Life curriculum and its Standards of Learning, which covers a range of lessons on sexual health, personal hygiene and substance abuse.

The standards emphasize abstinence.

The SOLs outline at which grade levels students should begin learning each topic. Fifth-graders, they say, should begin listing reasons to avoid sexual activity.

At the high school level, students begin identifying ways to say, "no" to sexual activities, according to the SOLs.

Floyd County has about five instructors (one per school) trained in teaching sex education; however, no one is devoted solely to teaching about sex in the schools, Petrie said.

Either a school nurse or a physical education teacher gives lessons in the state's Family Life curriculum during a health or PE class.

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