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Mom furious after finding disturbing chat messages on school issued laptops

Posted at 11:39 PM, Dec 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-02 23:43:25-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. - When starting middle school in Henrico County this year, Shannon Odendahl said she was a bit hesitant after finding out her children would need school issued laptops.

"I don't allow my children to go on the computer and they were like 'well it's mandatory,'" said Odendahl.

The mother said the school told her the laptops would be for educational purposes only. However, she reached out to CBS 6 after finding some messages on her daughter's computer that didn't appear to be so "educational."

"A little chat box came up and I was like what is this?" she said.

Odendahl said she started looking into it, and found Google Hangouts had been downloaded on to the laptop.

Henrico mother

She said it appeared to be an app students can use to chat with each other online. As she kept digging deeper, she said she also found some disturbing messages being sent between the students referring to specific sex acts.

"I was devastated because when I showed her that and I didn't know she hadn't seen it and she goes 'what does that mean?'" said Odendahl when she told her daughter what she found.

Odendahl said she even found students messaging each other during school hours.

The mother understands it might be difficult for teachers to keep track of every student in the classroom, but said she would like to see the school system monitor the laptops more.

"I don't believe children under high school should even have laptops," she said.

CBS 6 reached out the Henrico County Public Schools for comment.

School spokesman, Andy Jenks said they do constantly work to monitor students, and the Hangouts app is blocked from students' account.

"Digital learning is an important part of our school environment. We’re aware of the parent’s concerns, and we will continue to make efforts toward encouraging the safe and appropriate use of technology. We all must monitor such activity on an ongoing basis, and we welcome any input to help us ensure that students are not confronted by unwanted or inappropriate content," said Jenks in a statement.