could set a new precedent for online free speech.

The court heard the case of a former middle school student who developed a personal Web site in 1998 that made derogatory statements about a math teacher and a principal in his school, including solicitations to raise money for a hit man to kill the teacher.

The student was permanently expelled from the school system, and a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld the school district's decision in a split ruling in July 2000.

The case began when the student, whose identity is known only as "J.S.," created a Web site called "Teacher Sux" that contained derogatory statements about Kathleen Fulmer, a math teacher in the Bethlehem School District's Nitschmann Middle School, and the school's principal, Thomas Kartsotis.

The site contained images of Fulmer's head morphing into an image of Adolf Hitler, as well as images depicting her decapitation. It also solicited donations of $20 per viewer to help pay for a hit man to assassinate Fulmer.

When the principal was notified about the Web site, he notified police and the FBI.

Fulmer, according to media reports, also won a $500,000 judgment against J.S. for mental suffering she endured as a result of the statements about her.

Speaking for the majority opinion of the Commonwealth Court in 2000, Senior Judge Jess Jiuliante said the Web site disrupted the educational process and constituted a valid threat.

Judge Rochelle Friedman, in a dissent, noted that the statements, however violent, came from a child who plainly had no intention to carry out his fantasies beyond his Web site.

Both Jiuliante and Friedman noted that J.S. pulled the Web site when informed that the school district was taking note.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court spokesman said there is no deadline on when the court must rule on the case. - Newsbytes

Computer Access Improves, but Divide Remains

WASHINGTON, D.C. - American children had nearly ubiquitous access to computers at school last year, but a recent U.S. Census Bureau report suggests that kids from the country's poorest families are still much less likely to have a PC at home.

August 2000 figures, released by the Census Bureau in September, showed that 54 million U.S. households contained at least one computer. Among households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, nearly 90 percent reported having at least one computer. For households with incomes below $25,000, that figure fell to just 30 percent.

But the Census Bureau said that 90 percent of all U.S. children had computer access last year, as technology in schools did much to level the playing field. The report, "Home Computers and Internet Use in the United States," said access to computers at school was nearly equal across income, race and ethnic categories.

The report also found that 77 percent of white non-Hispanic children and 72 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children lived in households with computers. For African American children, however, that number was 43 percent and for Hispanic children it was 37 percent.

Of the 54 million households with computers, 44 million had at least one family member using the Internet at home, according to the report. A similar survey conducted in 1997 found that less than half of households with PCs were connected to the Internet. - Newsbytes

Help Desks Chart New Course

AURORA, Colo. - Governments' evolving use of computers and software is taking help desks to new places.

Gone are the days of fixing what's broken, said Rick Mapes, director of the city's Client Services Division.

"Users are becoming sophisticated to the point that they know how to get their own help on canned applications," Mapes said. "Where I see our need to step up and provide continuing value is to become integrated into the various business practices in the organization."

He is encouraging his staff