For the past four years, along with the addition of the Macbooks to the high school, the district has used the iBoss filtering system on the school’s internet to prevent students from accessing harmful material. However, this filter stretches beyond what schools are required to block by law and sometimes blocks materials that are completely harmless and even those useful to students. Teachers and students struggle with research, and class materials are blocked for unknown reasons, as some sites simply refuse connection rather than giving you a reason why they’re blocked. The filters that are placed in our high school should be significantly loosened for the benefit of both the student body and our teachers.
In the year 2000, Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools that receive funding for technology to have a filtering system in place to prevent students from accessing internet material that is ‘obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.’ The filters currently in place at our school significantly exceed the legal requirements, blocking social media, music and sites with methods of user interaction/communication, including news sites that have comment sections.
The American Association of School Librarians states, “Filtering websites does the next generation of digital citizens a disservice. Students must develop skills to evaluate information from all types of sources in multiple formats, including the Internet.” As the district’s Internet filter currently stands, students are often unable to evaluate multiple sources of information while working on research projects or papers for classes. When they click on multiple sites that sound like they have good information, only for them to be blocked, students are forced to settle for what works.
This is not a call to completely remove the internet filter. It is a call for the educational benefit to students and reduced stress on teachers, unblock vague categories of websites such as “Forums” or “Audio/Video” that block materials that students and teachers attempt to use only to be blocked from on a daily basis. Not only would student research improve, but students would be less likely to turn to outside resources such as the hotspots from their phones, which give them unrestricted access to the entire Internet.