LEWISTON — Students in Lewiston Public Schools will be allowed access to YouTube videos on district-owned devices, the School Committee decided Monday night.

Superintendent Jake Langlais made the recommendation Jan. 4, but the committee wanted to know what other districts were doing.

“I’ve heard from colleagues and peers around the state and got heavy input from other Western Maine superintendents,” Langlais said Monday. “Almost everyone uses YouTube.”

The internet platform offers educational material that would greatly enrich remote instruction, he said earlier this month.

He repeated Monday night that there is a risk of students watching inappropriate or even harmful videos that get past the district’s internet filters.

David Theriault, director of instructional technology for Lewiston Public Schools, said Jan. 4 that even with filters, some videos with mature content were “still readily available for student access.”

“I know it’s not perfect, but I would like to open YouTube as an educational resource,” Langlais told the committee.

Teachers have had access, but students have not been able to view videos directly from the site, which created hours of additional work for teachers.

Travis Ritchie, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher at Geiger Elementary School, presented a video to show the convoluted and time-consuming process teachers must use to make specific educational videos available to students.

“I have over 500 students and I teach seven classes,” Ritchie said. “My prep time is incredibly important.”

But the process of copying and linking YouTube videos to other educational platforms for students is “incredibly” time-consuming, he said.

He showed a list of the 12 steps it takes to circumvent students from directly watching a YouTube video.

He said professional, high-quality videos such as lessons from NASA scientists are off limits to students unless he spends hours creating each one for a different platform.

“Why does everyone use YouTube?” he asked. “Because it’s best at what it does. Free, high-quality videos, great audio, no glitches and it works every time. There is so much good curriculum.”

The committee voted 7-1-1 to approve the superintendent’s recommendation, with Vice Chairman Bruce Damon abstaining and member Ron Potvin voting no.

Damon said he was unsure about the nature of the risks because he does not use YouTube.

Potvin said he had the complete support of his constituents in opposing the use.

“One student’s safety far outweighs 5,000 opportunities for learning,” he said. “I totally oppose this.”

Potvin, a corrections officer at the Androscoggin County Jail, said at the Jan. 4 meeting that in his 30 years in law enforcement he had had his share of dealing with sexual predators.

“They love the internet, and they love YouTube,” he said.

But committee member Paul Beauparlant, a secondary school teacher in Auburn for 43 years, said not using YouTube as an educational tool was unimaginable.

“I was contacted by more teachers and constituents about this than any other issue,” he said, “and none said don’t allow the use. I very strongly favor this.”

Langlais said parents would be notified and would have the option of denying access to their children.

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