TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Features

September 29, 2008

topix of Concern

Schools ban students from forum site

It’s been called the “bathroom wall of the Internet.” Others call it the new “printing press” — an ultimate public practice in freedom of speech. In other places it’s considered the only source for news.

It, for good or ill, is Topix.com and it’s recently been added to the list of Web sites banned by the Corbin Independent School District.

“After discussions with administrators it was requested that Topix be banned from the district’s servers. It was felt that it was distracting students and staff members from students’ education ... kids were spending valuable class time looking at the site,” said Corbin School District’s Director of Technology Sherry Trimble.

Topix is news aggregator Web site that gathers headlines and news stories all related by a topic or place. Topix specializes in providing “by the zip-code” news. So to get news about Corbin, all you have to do is type in 40701 or simply “Corbin, KY.”

But school officials didn’t ban the site because of students wasting time catching up on local news — it had a lot more to do with the open forums that became part of the site in 2007.

The discussion threads allow anyone, anywhere, to post a topic of discussion about Corbin. As of Friday afternoon there were 1,933 discussion threads focusing on everything from the presidential race and local politicians to lost dogs, and upcoming community events.

But then there is what some perceive as the darker side — whole threads devoted to bashing individuals, families and even churches. Many posts accuse people of everything from drug abuse, to promiscuity, to embezzlement. And a good portion of those post name names — listing full names and even addresses at times.

Corbin High School Principal Joyce Phillips says the Web site doesn’t have any educational value, which means as part of the school’s acceptable Internet use policy, students can be punished for visiting the site.

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