For some reason, Violet K. couldn't show her sex video to the class.

Though the YouTube-posted "Mammalian Reproduction Systems" had loaded for last period's grade 10 biology class, all that came up now was an all-too-familiar screen:

Content Blocked

Enough was enough! Something had to be done about Bessy.

Bess of Both Worlds

For Violet, the name Bessy invoked the image of an old woman in a rocking chair, creaking back and forth, watching the neighbors from behind dusty curtains, and lecturing visitors about how strange, modern concepts weren't good for the sensibilities.

So when the new principal introduced Bess, an internet content-filtering system, it was close enough in name, and certainly in functionality, to be a "Bessy".

"It seems some students put a bullying video online," explained Principal Summers at the first staff meeting of the semester. She brushed a lock of "blonde-but-we'll politely-not-mention-it was-grey-yesterday" hair from her stern face. "Bess will keep these troublesome sites off the school's internets."

"Didn't they get caught because they posted the video?" Violet asked, of the mind that if students wanted to publically document their crimes, they should be given all the self-affixing rope they needed.

"Nonsense," Principal Summers dismissed, "Inappropriate sites encourage bad behavior. Bess removes such temptations. Surely you all want to keep the children safe?"

The rhetorical question got the expected response-- a few grumbles, but no objections.

Violet figured that anything ostensibly for the safety of "the children" would be, at worst, a harmless annoyance.

For a while, she was right-- until Bessy began meddling in the affairs of science.

Smoke Screen

"What the fail?" Violet exclaimed, mindful that students may be around. She'd hit a Bessy-shaped roadblock while lesson-prepping.

Content Blocked

She phoned Roman, Bessy's school-board-appointed IT administrator.

"Your site was added to the block list," he confirmed, "It's been put into the 'Tobacco' category. Is that correct?"

"It's a research site about 'Chemicals in cigarette smoke and their effects on the human respiratory system'," Violet replied, "Of course it deals with tobacco."

"So it is a smoking site?"

"ANTI-smoking! Why is it blocked when I can still access…" she Googled a few choice phrases, "Tobacco Appreciation Society, Bongs Are Fun, Chicks with Sticks… "

"Bess uses keywords to evaluate new sites," he interrupted, "Sometimes-- rarely-- there's a false positive. I can add an exception for your site. No worries. Bess is just learning how to keep the children safe."

Banned on a WHMIS

Violet wasn't sure Bessy had learned the right lesson-- nor had Roman.

"What's the proper procedure when this chemical spills?" she demanded, holding a beaker over Roman's head.

He jumped back a foot-- all the space the repurposed AV-closet-cum-IT-office afforded. "I-- what the-- what is it?"

"Dihydogen monoxide," she said, tilting the beaker. "Answer!"

"I don't know!"

"Then look up the MSDS sheet on the WHMIS website!"

Content Blocked

"Category: Dangerous Knowledge!" she said, putting the beaker down.

"But--" Roman typed shakily, "Bess logged the keywords 'explosives' and 'hazardous materials'."

"They're curriculum-mandated and government-approved Material Safety Data Sheets-- information about handling explosives and hazmats-- safely! The only thing dangerous about that knowledge is not having it!"

"I can unblock it," he offered, his eyes darting nervously between her and the beaker.

"And…?" she prompted with her classroom voice.

"And retrain Bessy-- um, Bess."

"Good, because next time, I'll come back with something stronger than water."

Principal Point of Failure

Now, as Violet dialed the classroom phone, she considered forcing Roman to watch an endless loop of 'The Miracle of Life'.

"It wasn't me," he pleaded. "I've been retraining Bessy."

"Train her not to be a prude!", Violet snapped. "Reproduction is part of the curriculum."

"Oh-- this isn't a content block. Looks like a custom block's been put on the whole site," he said, adding quickly, "But I didn't put it there!"

"Then whom?"

He told her, and for the first time in her life, Violet left class to go to the principal's office.


"Indeed I did," Principal Summers confirmed, "Bess' printouts showed a whole bunch of students going to that site this morning."

"That was my first period class working on their lab assignment," Violet explained, "I need the site unblocked."

"Oh, I can't do that," she tisked, "Who knows what they would watch?"

"They'd watch their lab assignment! It's been part of the course for years, now."

"Well, if you or any faculty really feels they need an Internet unblocked, just put a note in my mailbox in the morning and I'll consider allowing it for a couple hours."

Violet simply didn't have a reply to 'HTTP requests should be submitted in writing'.

Dangerous Minds

Violet returned to class to a chorus of alt-tabs-- as if she didn't know that the students got off-task with the lab computers. She didn't mind, as long as they got their work done--

She stopped in her tracks, staring at the pile of completed assignments.

"How'd you guys finish the lab?" she asked a group of students at the back of the class.

"We watched the video, Miss K.," one of them answered.

"But the site's blocked."

"We, uh, watched it at home yesterday."

"Uh-huh. Sure."  She plunked down her laptop. "Set me up."

After an install of SwitchProxy and a quick lesson in Google Translate, Violet's safety was back in her own hands.

As for Bessy, she spent the rest of her days alone, peering through the curtains, wondering why no one visited anymore.

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