School administration must clearly outline internet policy
By The Editorial Board
Historically, interactions between the administration and students have always been a topic of contention. At the high school, this divide has recently been amplified through the district’s internet restriction policies. It has become increasingly clear that this is an issue for which the school needs to construct a clear, outlined policy, leaving no room for confusion among the staff or student body.
The Editorial Board does not disagree with the implementation of restrictions on the district’s guest Wi-Fi policy, a system which blocks all users from accessing explicit content. This form of restriction falls under laws established in 2000 as part of the Child Internet Protection Act and is mandatory for all schools if they wish to obtain state and federal funding. For this reason, we understand that some of the restrictions are necessary.
Furthermore, while the high school’s use of GoGuardian may be unpopular among the student body, we do not seek issue with its role as an in-class internet restriction. We also support the school’s policy of letting teachers decide for themselves whether or not to utilize the program.
However, we do take issue with the district’s internet restriction policy in that, beyond the programs they have adopted for Wi-Fi and in-class monitoring, there is no set definition of what constitutes a non-explicit internet-related “issue.”
Several of the sites that the school currently blocks are, in the opinion of the Editorial Board, unnecessarily restricted. The most notable example of this is found in the blocking of literary analysis websites such as SparkNotes and Litcharts.
There is certainly reason for teachers to want their students to read the original source material — it gives an undeniably better understanding of the text being discussed. Teachers are also concerned that not reading the original text and relying solely upon SparkNotes constitutes academic dishonesty. But the argument from the staff that these sites hinder student learning is unfounded. Neither websites contain explicit content, nor do they disrupt the school environment. In fact, many students find the resources useful as review tools for essay or quiz review
If this is the administration’s definition of an internet issue, then it stands to reason that online resources such as Quizlet or Shmoop, both of which have been used in-class by teachers, should also be blocked. Their current accessibility via school Wi-Fi and computers suggests that the administration lacks an established definition of what non-explicit sites they block, and that they should thus consider revising their present system.
This is further supported by an absence of material on the part of the administration concerning any internet restriction-related policy. Again, while the Editorial Board does not take issue with the employment of internet restriction, the absence of clear protocol and guidelines on their use is troubling, as well as confusing to students.
Certain aspects regarding the restriction of internet use have been explained by the administration. The Student Internet Use Agreement form lays out computer-use guidelines, internet privileges, network etiquette, and security. However, the form fails to discuss or explain the school’s policy on non-explicit, yet banned websites; there is no mention of what sites students will not be allowed to access; and many members of the student body are not educated on the use of restrictive Wi-Fi.
It is also concerning to us that there does not appear to be an official method of regulating what websites are removed from the list of restricted sites. At present, the technology department is in charge of responding to requests that content be unblocked, not the administration. If the district is willing to restrict content beyond what is legally required, then we feel as though they should play a more active role in judging the content.
The internet is an ever-growing entity, and school culture has come to rely upon it more in the past years. Assuming the administration wishes to continue and expand their use of such a resource, as well as incorporate more technology into classrooms, they must create a clear, formal policy of what these methods of restriction entail.
This explanation should include a mention of all programs the school uses to restrict internet usage and a set definition of what types of non-explicit sites are blocked.
Lastly, the administration must make their rules and reasoning available to the student body and greater public. This information needs to be clear and easily accessible, showing an established policy that explains the rules and restrictions in detail.