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San Diego middle school students suspended for viewing porn on smart phones during class

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POSTED June 15, 2012 9:19 p.m.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nine students have been suspended from a San Diego middle school after classmates claimed they were watching porn on cell phones in class, the U-T San Diego reported Friday.

The paper said the suspended students were in an all-boys English class at Bell Middle School in Paradise Hills. Other students in the class said some of those involved were masturbating, the newspaper reported.

Bell Middle School officials would not comment Friday when contacted by The Associated Press. The district's deputy general counsel Andra Donovan also would not confirm the suspensions. She stated in an email to AP on Friday: "We are legally prohibited from discussing student and personnel issues. I am sorry I cannot be more helpful."

Vice Principal Kathleen Gallagher told the paper that the nine students were suspended after school officials collected statements from classmates and interviewed them individually about what had happened. Gallagher told the U-T that the students involved in watching the pornography were being held accountable for their actions. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

The U-T said it reviewed testimonials written by 22 students in the class about the incident. Several said they raised their hands to report the behavior but the teacher kept reading a book.

The teacher did not reply to the newspaper's request for comment and could not be reached for comment. Teacher union officials did not respond to a request for comment by the AP.

Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general, said the case illustrates a growing problem. Thornburgh helped author a study for the National Academies' National Research Council in 2002 on how to protect youth from Internet pornography.

The years long study involved social scientists, educators and others, and what researchers found is it's nearly impossible to control with today's expanding technology, Thornburgh said.

"It's so easy to conceal," he said. "The images are perishable, so if a teacher is concerned about someone using a cell phone to look at pornographic images, all you've got to do is press a button and it's gone. So it poses all kind of challenges."

Thornburgh said researchers found the best solution is relying on parents, teachers, community leaders and others to teach children what is appropriate and what's not.

Parents of students in the class told the U-T the school has not told them anything about the incident.

In April, a Southern California school board voted to fire a junior high school teacher in Oxnard after footage surfaced of her performing in a pornographic video.

Student claims that the teacher was moonlighting as a porn star were initially dismissed after school officials said they couldn't find any images of her on the Internet. The investigation was quickly restarted, however, when other teachers showed administrators downloads from smartphones in early March.

The video was shot before she was a teacher and the Oxnard teacher has hired an attorney to fight her dismissal.


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