What is Acceptable.
In order to use the computers at school, students must sign an Acceptable Use Policy (an AUP) to show to the school that they will follow their guidelines. Some of the rules in this policy include not viewing or using information or networks which are not authorized, not destroying or damaging data or networks, not violating copyright infringements or plagiarizing, and not intentionally accessing, transmitting, copying, or creating material that violates the school’s code of conduct (such as messages that are pornographic, threatening, rude, discriminatory, or meant to harass). Most schools adopt an Acceptable Use Policy in order to prevent their students from trying to break into the school’s network or from viewing “harmful” material such as pornography.
The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was a law that was passed back in 1998. This law was written for the purpose of restricting access of harmful materials to minors on the Internet. It was aimed mostly at keeping pornographic materials out of the view of minors. COPA tried make it so that distributors of harmful material had to restrict their site from minors. However the law was deemed unconstitutional as it restricted the protection of free speech.
Then in 1999, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was introduced. It was another bill that was dedicated to restricting minor’s access to explicit material. This bill on the other hand was not deemed unconstitutional and became a law in 2000. This law does not require schools to block certain websites and materials. However, in order for a school or library to receive federal funding via an E-Rate, the school or library must follow the CIPA guidelines which includes, “a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors…”(wikipedia.org).
Recently, I was called into the office because I had looked up the words “marijuana” and “weed” for information on a recent article that the Telegram was writing. I was pulled out of class, while I was taking notes, to be questioned on the subject. Upon further inspection, Mrs. Marquez said that I was in no trouble because I was looking up the words for educational purposes. I have heard of other students getting called into the office for looking up contraband words or using proxies to bypass the school filters in order to look up such words.
I contacted the Dixon Unified School District’s head of Information Technology Services, Kat Beebee, looking for an answer to the question as why so much is blocked on the computers at Dixon High. She has told me that Dixon High does receive funds from their E-Rate account. She has also said that she reviews many requests to unblock sites and explains the reasons why certain sites are blocked. Each site is reviewed for compliance with the federal law, district policies, and district limitations.
The current filter policy does receive updates from the Children’s Internet Protection Act compliant block list. In addition, when staff members request to have a site blocked, their request usually goes through. The biggest reason that there is an abundance of blocked material is due to the fact that the Dixon Unified School district only has one default policy for all grades, K-12. Ms. Beebee would like to have 2-3 policies in the future, but at this time, the school district does not have the resources to do so. Basically at this point in time, if a site is blocked for younger students, that means that older students suffer the consequences.
Most of the sites and materials blocked are blocked because of the federal government, through CIPA. However the school district staff also have a huge say in what additional sites are blocked. Social network sites, video sites, and forums are big examples of what sites students cannot visit on school computers. However, if anyone wants to argue against a blocked material, they can send a request to the school district via email and the request will be looked at by Ms. Beebee. As of now, the filters are very strict and there are consequences for those who go around them using proxies. If you do not have a good reason to be looking at a blocked material, it is better not todo it at all or you may lose computer privileges or suffer worse consequences.