Hey everyone, I am the author of the "bad word" spreadsheet being discussed. I got an email from a slashdot users letting me know about the discussion, so I wanted to share what I can from my perspective on this topic. As usual, there is always a lot more to the story than you will get from just looking at one piece of information (the spreadsheet) and hopefully I can help explain that. You certainly may not agree with what our school is doing (that is fine) but I at least want to make sure you have the full story.
Note: In posting this I am not speaking officially for my school district, but am simply trying to explain the situation from my personal perspective.
First, it is important to realize that the spreadsheet you see is a work in progress. Up until January 2011 our students did not have school-issued email accounts. This is still a brand new venture for us, and we have been and will continue to modify our policies. I really appreciate the feedback many of you have provided. You have lots of good points that I believe will help us as we continue to develop this.
So, first question... how did we come up with this list? We wanted to give students email accounts to help increase communication and collaboration. However, this was something new for our district so we had to be careful when rolling it out. We developed the student email guidelines through meeting, surveys, and discussions with teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, students, parents, community members, and our board of education. The list of what resulted. For the launch of our email system the consensus was to have some sort of word filter, and to keep email sending with out district. Over time I hope we can open up email so students can send outside of our domain as there are obvious benefits for them to be able to communicate with people in businesses and other schools around the world. However, we felt it was best to start out more restrictive, and the work toward more openness over time. Change in a public school system is like steering a large ship with a little rudder. It takes time. There are a lot of people involved and we need to help people along with these changes.
Anyway, we made the actual list of "bad words" by working off several other lists provided to us from other schools and organizations that have been doing this themselves for years. We combined their lists and edited it down to what you see. We removed loads of words that did not seem reasonable to filter (you would be amazed at what was on the original lists). We continue to revise the list (again we have only had this for about 8 months) and will certainly run through the suggestion many of the posts here have brought up.
Yes, we realize that a filter list is not going to stop inappropriate words. Students can use all sorts of variations. However as a school providing email to children, the consensus of our community to to provide some level of filtering. More than that though, we have added the topic of responsible use of technology to our curriculum so we can help our children work through this topic.
Again, thanks for your feedback, and feel free to ask me additional questions.