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War on Porn Comes to Rhode Island Schools

'Hopelessly vague' bill could cause trouble for teachers

War on Porn Comes to Rhode Island Schools

PROVIDENCE - Politicians, it seems, think they can solve every societal ill, real or imagined, by declaring a "war." Now Rep. Richard W. Singleton, an Independent from Cumberland is looking to bring the war on porn to Rhode Island schools.

Singleton is hoping to create a law that would make it a misdemeanor for school employees to bring pornographic materials or sex toys onto school property.

Singleton told the Providence Journal that his idea stems from a "troubling" incident he heard about in an unidentified South County town where an unnamed school employee brought an unspecified "something" into a school building that was described as "inappropriate." School officials who discovered the unspecified-but-inappropriate object were shocked to discover that there were no laws making possession of such an item on school grounds a crime.

Singleton told the Journal, "When this subject came up, I said, well there must be a law against that, but no, there isn't. It surprised me, quite frankly, that an employee of a school could bring this type of thing in."

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When pressed for specifics about the incident, Singleton declined further comment, telling the Journal he was "not allowed to discuss" it. It should also be noted that state prosecutors have no record of any incident like the one described by Singleton ever taking place.

A spokesman for Rhode Island's attorney general, Michael J. Healey, confirmed that state prosecutors were unaware of Singleton's incident…or anything remotely like it. Healey told the Journal, "We deal with every police department in the state. We certainly hear about things going on out in our communities but nothing like this has been brought to our attention."

Singleton's proposed legislation is modeled on a similar law in Texas. The bill provides a list of "obscene devices" that would be banned from possession on school grounds, and, for good measure, adds items such as books, magazines, videos and computer files to the list.

Rhode Island defines "obscene matter" as any item …taken as a whole that to the average person, applying contemporary statewide standards, appeals to the prurient interest, that, taken as a whole depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and that, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

School employees found in violation of the law could receive up to 12 months in prison and fines as much as $1,000.

Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Journal, "I think the bill is hopelessly vague. The other significant problem is that it could create an atmosphere of encouraging school administrators to rummage through teachers' belongings and that's of great concern."

Singleton's proposal has now been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.






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Mike Albo

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