House exempts colleges from Internet bill

The Minnesota House of Representatives decided Monday that public colleges and universities will not be required to block obscene Internet sites from their library computers under a proposed bill.
Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, offered the amendment, which exempted libraries at institutions of higher education including the University. The amendment passed 79-51.
As amended, the portion of the K-12 Education Finance Bill would still require public K-12 schools and public library terminals primarily used by children to block all Internet material considered obscene.
For the purposes of the bill, access to sites containing obscenity, child pornography or material harmful to minors under federal or state law would be blocked.
The author of the bill, Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said he wanted to eliminate student access to “Internet pornography, racist and other sites that could harm children.”
“I don’t think schools particularly should be distributing this material,” Seifert said.
Blocking Internet obscenity in public libraries has been a hot constitutional topic in past years, but Leppik says constitutionality shouldn’t be an issue in K-12 public schools.
She anticipates a challenge to the portion of the bill limiting access in public libraries, however.
“If it would be applied to all computers within a library, that would be problematic,” Leppik said. “If it’s (only) to computers in a children’s section, that would be better.”
Seifert said he would support creating separate children’s areas with filtering and adult areas without filtering.
An amendment offered by Rep. Joe Opatz, DFL-St. Cloud, would have broadened the screening requirement to apply to other libraries.
Opatz could not be reached for comment.