Sunday, January 28, 2007

IT Spending at Kelly Middle School

Mary Landesman of sent me a summary yesterday of the Conn. law regarding endangerment of minors that formed the basis of the instructions given to the jury in State vs. Amero. Moral and physical injury to a child are viewed equally under this law. With both prosecutor and judge supporting its applicability in the case, questions should be asked regarding who was actually responsible for the URLs getting in front of the kids.

There is no shortage of terrific content filtering and antispyware technologies out there. As the largest licensee of Internet content filtering and antispyware technology in the world, we get to see just about every filtering methodology there is. Bottom line: if you want to lock down a school computer and analyze and log every event, and re-image PC's automatically, you can. However, many schools face bottom-line challenges in bringing this about.

We do a lot of business with schools. Our Command/F-Prot, ESP and Foolproof Security technologies reside on millions of school desktops. I know a lot of the procurement and IT folks personally, and I can tell you the biggest issues these teams face when it comes to deploying end point or perimeter security software are "budget" and "availability of personnel/expertise". Often, school IT departments are provided with no money, no training, no personnel.

On a plane last year coming back to Palm Beach from California last year, I sat next to a teacher who was doing double-time as his school's IT guy, because "no one was doing it" and the school had no dedicated IT manager. He told me a story of a shipment of brand new Dells sitting under plastic in a school storeroom because no one had the time or expertise to set them up. Turns out that his school committee has a history of budgeting a lot of money for hardware, and virtually *zero* for software and service personnel. Budgeters, this is bad strategy.

I know parents are pretty upset at what happened at Kelly Middle School. But perhaps they should consider moving their inquiries upstream, and start asking why the right level of technology wasn't deployed on the computer used by Ms. Amero and her students. Parents, start with the IT manager, then move on to the principal and school budget committee, then move onto the district, then up to the State. Follow the money. See if any proposals were submitted for this kind of software, then rejected. Ask why.

Incidentally, Kelly seems to have much more IT money available (and end point security software installed) today versus December 2004. Parents, what caused this change? Why didn't Kelly Middle School's IT department deploy more protection back then?

If Julie Amero does end up in jail, it will have at least one positive effect: school teachers and IT personnel around the country are going to start demanding more money be spent on content filtering and end point protection, lest they face the same fate. And children will be better protected as a result.

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