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Pilot Program Slackens “Securly” Wifi Filters

Bruce Douglas and Nicole Lemmon started a pilot group made up of Kickapoo students to start lessening the blocks for Wifi.

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Pilot Program Slackens “Securly” Wifi Filters

Diana Dudenhoeffer, News Editor

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 Bruce Douglas, director of Information Technology at Springfield Public Schools, and Nicole Lemmon, director of Blended Learning met with select students in late November to explain the changes that they will make to the wifi filters in the coming weeks for the high schools.

  To begin the meeting, Lemmon passed out sticky notes  and asked students to list three grievances that they have with the current wifi filter system.  The following list includes some of the blocked content that students put on their sticky notes.

  • Drug use
  • Reproductive content
  • Forums content
  • The whole website is blocked if the site has gaming advertisements
  • Medical and anatomy searches
  • Sex cells
  • Pictures and Google images
  • YouTube
  • Chemistry research
  • Drugs
  • Health-related topics
  • Slow wi-fi in certain rooms
  • Controversial topics
  • Everybody but one person in a class can access a YouTube video

 

 Douglas explained that while the district recognizes that they need to make changes, they cannot completely remove the filters because they must comply with federal regulation.  

  The Children’s Internet Protection Act (FIPA), Douglas said, requires schools to censor pornography as well as “inappropriate material,” which is up to the administrators’ discretion.

  According to the Federal Communications Commission’s website, FIPA requires institutions that get discounts for Internet access to comply with certain regulations.

  The website also mentions that these  schools and libraries that receive a discount for wifi must enforce a safety policy that addresses  “access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet . . . and dissemination of personal information regarding minors”

Essentially FIPA’s goal is to restrict “minors’ access to materials harmful to them.”  

  The only question left unanswered is: What material is “harmful” to students?  Because this is up to administration to decide what is and is not harmful, the blocks on the wifi have been inconvenient at best for many students enrolled in Springfield Public Schools.

  The wifi filter issue came to Douglas’s and Lemmon’s attention when students presented a group persuasive speech to Principal Kelly Allison for their Introduction to Speech class in October.  The students, seniors Coleman Chevy, Yatsi Mak, Jamila Makhloufi and Emma Swenson, presented their argument that wifi filter regulations should be changed.

  “The presentation was very informative.  It was great to get student perspective and to be able to hear their frustrations . . . I didn’t realize that students were having so many problems with the filters,” Allison said.

  The first thing that he did was get a copy of the presentation and send it to the district, and that’s how Douglas and Lemmon came to start the pilot group at Kickapoo.

  The software, Securly, that censors websites on the Internet has three ways of filtering.  The first way is that it places websites in one of fourteen categories.  If the website falls into one of the prohibited categories, like “friendship content” or “forums content,” then the program will block it.

  Second, the program censors based on keywords.  If a student’s Google search contains certain words, then Securly blocks it.

  The third way in which the software filters is based on domain.  Entire websites can be blocked or unblocked based on set parameters.

  This third way that Securly filters content, based on domain, will be soon lifted, Douglas explains.

  Streaming websites like Pandora, Spotify and SoundCloud have been removed from the blacklist for high schools as of December 4, Douglas said, because he recognizes that streaming websites are not inappropriate or harmful to students.

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