Reasoning Behind USD 497’s Blocked Websites Revealed

Tumblr, along with many social media sites, is unable to be accessed on district computers

Tumblr, along with many social media sites, is unable to be accessed on district computers

kyra haas, Reporter

Tumblr, Facebook, the non-educational Youtube.  Students with extra time on their hands at school often long to reblog a post, poke a friend or watch the latest cute cat video.

However, if a student attempts to visit these websites, they are greeted by a message from USD 497 informing them that their friendly neighborhood school district office has barred the website from school computers. Attempting access by using a proxy website is often fruitless because many anonymizers have been blocked as well.

In most cases, websites are restricted in order to comply with the CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act).

“By abiding by CIPA regulations, our district receives e-Rate money,” said Chantel Nicolay, Division Director of Technology and Library Services for Lawrence Public Schools.

According to USD 497’s Web Filtering 2011-2012 document, the CIPA has been deemed unconstitutional, but in order to receive e-Rate money, its standards must still be followed.

The Federal Communications Commision requires schools and libraries to “ block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors)”.

Tumblr, Youtube and Pinterest were blocked because the district could not find a way to filter out the large amounts of porn present on these sites.

“Before this [Tumblr] was blocked, it was common to see suspicious search queries where pornography was targeted in addition to the Tumblr website,” Nicolay said.

While clear reasoning exists behind the prohibition of these websites, some justification is clouded for others, namely Facebook.

“I have no idea why [Facebook] is blocked,” Nicolay said.  “ I understand the justifications that I have heard, but it is a contradiction to allow others and block one.”

Nicolay believes that blocking Facebook does not deter students from wasting their time because they can still access websites such as Twitter on school computers, and mobile phone devices do not have the district blocks on their web browsers.

If you feel that a website has been blocked without a legitimate reason or that a website should be blocked, you can use the First Class form “Web Filter Change Request” under the LPSNet icon to submit sites to be blocked/unblocked.