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INFORMATIONAL LETTER:   23

POLICY CODE:   IJND

 

TO:                  Superintendents of Schools, School Principals, and Technology Coordinators

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner, Department of Education

                        Michael P. Cantara, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety

                        Steven Rowe, Attorney General

DATE:             August 29, 2005

RE:                  NetSmartz Program Available for All Maine Schools

In the years 2003 and 2004 there were 1,117 reports to the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force of Internet child exploitation, a 173% increase from the 409 reported in 2001 and 2002. These crimes have a real and substantial impact on our youth.   Consider that a 2004 study found that nearly one in five young Internet users received an unwanted sexual solicitation in the past year and that 3% of youth received aggressive solicitations involving offline contact or requests for offline contact.

Computers and the Internet have become important educational tools for schools and students.   The Internet provides children with educational material and an opportunity to learn so much about the world.   Because the Internet has also become a place where sexual predators prey on children, Internet Safety must become a part of personal safety for children.   As educators, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and parents, we have an obligation to teach our children about the dangers they face online.   Just as importantly, we need to teach our children how to report solicitations so that we can protect other children from these predators.   

Over a year ago, the Maine Office of the Attorney General and the Maine Departments of Education and Public Safety joined together to form an alliance in the battle against Internet child exploitation. We worked with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to bring the NetSmartz Workshop to Maine. NetSmartz is an interactive, educational Internet Safety resource that is adaptable and can be used alone or in conjunction with other Internet Safety programs or curriculum to fit various time constraints. Visit www.NetSmartz.org and www.NetSmartzKids.org to view all NetSmartz has to offer.  

Last year, several Maine schools, including Maranacook, Palermo, Piscataquis, Mt. Ararat, and Shapleigh middle schools, agreed to pilot the NetSmartz program.   Teachers and administrators from these schools attended training through NCMEC and were given access to free downloadable versions of all of the NetSmartz activities.    Through our partnership with NCMEC, we’re pleased to announce that these opportunities are now available at no cost to all Maine Schools.  

We are excited to work together to help keep children safer on the Internet by implementing NetSmartz in Maine’s schools. Please join in this endeavor by designating a staff member (preferably your IT coordinator) to attend an upcoming training.   To participate, simply complete the NetSmartz Program 2005 Training Registration form at http://www.maine.gov/education/edletrs/2006/ilet/06ilet023form.rtf and return it to Seth Blodgett at the Maine Office of the Attorney General, 6 State House Station, Augusta, ME   04333-0006 or you can email the form to Seth at seth.blodgett@maine.gov.   Seth will be in touch with your designee regarding training opportunities and information about how to implement this program in your school.

To see how you can get started with the program right away, you can also visit the NetSmartz Maine web site at www.NetSmartz.org/education/me.