A key aspect of student life is interaction with technology during school hours. While it is evident that schools must have rules and regulations on how to use the internet on school premises, it is also important to recognize that students should have access to sites they intend to use for academic purposes. For instance, some students use Reddit to see test taking strategies and college tips, but Reddit is a website that is restricted on campus. Other students use Reddit to practice for the ACT or to hear first-hand experiences from students who attend their dream college. In addition, often when teachers try to show an educational video on Youtube, it is restricted. Other ways in which teachers are affected by the web restrictions are when they are forced to use proxies for students to work on legitimate academic projects.On a similar note, the school insists that students use school-approved databases for research, but most students find these databases inadequate. If students want to use sources outside these databases, their choices are limited.These are only a few examples of how the internet restrictions in our school are flawed.
Sometimes, when students are assigned to research sensitive topics such as breast cancer, they are not able to access legitimate articles and sources because the school wifi blocks them. On a similar note, students are not able to access LGBTQIA+ websites at school, but can access websites that spread anti-queer rhetoric. For example, the website of the Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-LGBT hate group is allowed at our school. Moreover, the school’s wifi allows Snapchat but not Instagram, even though there is no real difference between both the apps. In other words, it is important to understand that the rules imposed on the school have no logic.
These are the problems, but what is the solution? In order to have a system that is fair, it is important to have a committee of decision-makers from various backgrounds, which should include students, parents, teachers, and administrators. This could help spark a conversation about internet restrictions and censorship in the school, thus leading to a set of rules that are more nuanced.
In any case, students still have access to restricted apps and websites at school because they can use mobile data. Apart from mobile data, a few loopholes which could break the web’s shackles include easy access to the WHS Staff WiFi, which is not restricted, and the use of a VPN. It is important for the committee behind implementing these web restrictions to understand and consider the loopholes while creating these rules.
At the end of the day, this is yet another example of out-of-touch school officials creating rules that they don’t even understand and that needlessly frustrates students. We should have a more diverse committee to look into district policies so that students and staff can collaborate to have an enriched learning environment.