Published: 16/02/2008 00:00 - Updated: 24/11/2011 17:18

School horror at guns site link

Moray Firth School, whose website included the controversial ad.
Moray Firth School, whose website included the controversial ad.

A LOCAL school head this week told of her shock at learning its website had advertised a course on how to repair guns and maintain weapons. The ad part of a package from internet giant Google was branded "inappropriate and insensitive" for a school by a North MSP in view of shooting tragedies at educational establishments in the USA and UK. The private school near Inverness has now pulled all advertising off its website. The Moray Firth School at Gollanfield took the action immediately after learning the pop-up ad appeared on its pages. The American online course advertised teaches students how to set sights, repair barrels and firing pins and how to access spare parts for guns. "I'm absolutely horrified that this has happened," said school principal Annie Cole-Hamilton. "This was entirely outwith our control and as soon as we were alerted about this we phoned our webmaster and pulled all advertising off our site. It's very unfortunate. This is a bizarre and one-off incident and we acted instantly." The original Petty East School was closed by Highland Council because of dwindling numbers a number of years ago, then re-opened as a fee-paying school in 2002. Mrs Cole-Hamilton explained that the school, which charges fees of between £6,000 and £7,000 per year, had charitable status and, like thousands of others, had free websites in return for Google ads. "I can only think something has gone wrong with Google's safety procedures because they are excellent about checking the ads which go on the site. "It would only have been there for a short period as these ads are changing all the time. "But we have now paid a small fee not to have the ads. It's a small sum but it now gives us control back again." Mrs Cole-Hamilton said she believed the ad had been put on the website because it was linked to an educational programme in the USA. The course is run by Ashworth College in Norcross, Georgia, and is available throughout the United States. It trains students online for a career as a gunsmith, giving advice on the tools of the trade, maintenance and repair of guns and safety programmes. The ad states that there are no educational prerequisites or experience required to enrol for gunsmith training. Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said she was shocked to hear about the incident. "This case highlights the huge difficulties worldwide regulating the internet which is the main source of information for so many people," she said. "Given the tragedies that have happened in schools in both the UK and the USA, to target schools with this type of advertising is wholly inappropriate and insensitive and it probably breaks the law in every country it appears." Mrs Scanlon said there should be legitimate courses for people licensed to carry guns such as gamekeepers and people involved in rural and sporting pursuits. "But to target school children is simply unacceptable," she added. "This type of course on-line can give young people ready access to information about guns and people seeking information about weapons for illegal purposes." There have been several shooting tragedies in school and university campuses in the USA and Canada and on March 13, 1996, former Scout leader Thomas Hamilton gunned down 16 pupils and a teacher at Dunblane Primary before turning the gun on himself. A spokesman for Google said: "Google's AdSense aims to provide advertisements which are relevant to the content of a particular website, offering users of that site a more useful experience. "In very rare cases, an ad which is socially or culturally sensitive may show up, but it will be reviewed and, if necessary, removed immediately as soon as it is brought to our attention. "Google also gives website owners the tools to prevent ads from specific advertisers or even particular genres from showing on their pages. "Users can also report ads they feel are not appropriate by clicking the link under the ad box." d.wilson@highland-news.co.uk

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