Seeing though a filtered lense

January 31, 2015


art by Bianca Roper

Everyday we are on an electronic of some sort, playing games, Googling whatever comes to mind and scrolling through social media. On most of our personal devices we can do as we please with little to no restrictions. Once we enter school grounds however, everything changes.

Our internet access to certain websites are restricted with blocks and filters. That’s because the Kirkwood School District is subject to the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Enacted in 2000, it grants money to any school that complies with the terms, part of which is to block or filter internet access to pictures or websites that are considered obscene, harmful to minors or child pornography. KSD blocks/filters sites through the company Lightspeed Systems. Any authorized person has the ability to block or unblock websites. Each year KSD is granted $40,000 into the district technology budget from CIPA.

CIPA was created to protect children, but The Call believes high schoolers should have more free reign. We can see how this act would be useful when thinking in terms of an elementary or middle schooler, but as high schoolers we have our own responsibility to decide right from wrong. An internet block should not be doing that for us.

According to Dr. Michael Havener, principal, this is difficult because as educators they are walking the line between wanting students to learn how to navigate the internet safely and keeping KHS an educational institute void of things that distract students. However, these distractions are inevitable.

According to the Pew Research Center, 78 percent of teens now own a cellphone with 47 percent of them owning a smartphone. That means that the 47 percent have access to an internet with no restrictions, rendering the filters useless. When parents or teachers argue that the filters need to be in place because it keeps school a learning place they forget to take into account the unlimited access our personal electronics grant us.

“If kids want to look up something bad they’ll do it at home,” Chris Raeker, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said. “We can’t teach kids [internet safety] through internet blocks.”

The teaching of internet safety is one of the requirements of the CIPA, but reiterating what Raeker said, creating a barrier does not cushion the blow. If a child were to go their whole life not seeing beyond a filter, and then that filter was  yanked away at 18, how would they react? Or how about the  majority of students who have access to blocked sites on their phones. You can teach a child all you want but if there is not exposure to how something actually is then those lectures actually prove useless.

At the beginning of the year, the district issued each student an iPad mini, a potentially incredibly useful tool for students and teachers. However, it feels a bit regressive to not be given full access. For example: when someone Googles the song lyrics to something, the majority of the sites are blocked because they are categorized under “music.”

We understand that certain websites have a place and a time that is not during the school day, like Addicting Games, but all we ask is that we are given more internet freedom. We know the process would be tedious and the end result may be the loss of the $40,000 added to the budget. Discussions have been in progress about the current filters and blocks for awhile now, and those in charge are aware of the frustrations that students face when denied access to websites.

However, when a student sits down to do a research project on the Holocaust and the pictures are blocked, there is an issue. When a student can access E! Online with no problems but is denied entry to Huffington Post, there is an issue. When a student cannot access anything pertaining to their education because of some silly filter, there is an issue. Unfiltered access should be a privilege earned, like having an IP.  Obviously, not everyone could handle the responsibility, but those who can shouldn’t be punished because of it.

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