For the final post in my three-part series on my experience this year with blocked websites and the laws regarding Internet use in schools, I’d like to look at how these laws are affecting school Internet policy, and whether they’re being interpreted correctly.
My own reading of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) indicates that the law is primarily concerned with protecting minors – defined in the document as “any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years” – against “access through [school] computers to visual depictions that are obscene or child pornography.”
Computers used by adults are also required to be protected, but “An administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority under subparagraph A(i) may disable the technology protecting measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.” This seems to leave it up to individual districts to decide whether or not they will restrict teacher use of the sites the filtering software is blocking. Certainly there is nothing unlawful about the sites I’ve been denied access to so far this year, and there is no content at any of them that is remotely obscene or pornographic!
It’s also important to note that in the newly-released CIPA rule revisions, the FCC has determined that social network sites do not fall into one of the categories that must be blocked. So if districts choose to block them, that is a local decision, not a CIPA mandate.
So what does the U.S. Department of Education have to say about all of this? Let’s consult an interview with their Director of Education Technology, Karen Cator. She says:
- Providing access to YouTube is not a violation of CIPA rules
- There is nothing that says websites have to be blocked for adults
- Broad filters aren’t actually helpful; we need more nuanced filtering
- She doesn’t know of any districts who have lost funding by allowing access to appropriate sites
- If sites are found that are deemed appropriate they can be unblocked
- Having the process in place for unblocking sites is definitely important
- Teachers need to impose their professional judgement on the materials that are [made] available to their students
So, what’s the takeaway?
- Knowledge is power. I need to stay informed about the laws and requirements for school internet use.
- The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about. My voice can be stronger now because I can speak with confidence about what is and is not required by law.
- The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. If I want unrestricted access to valuable web resources I must be prepared to speak up, for myself and my students.
What’s your takeaway?
I have been wrestling with the issue of blocked websites in my district lately, partly because of my own frustrations with blocked content and partly because teachers are funneling their requests to have sites unblocked through me, which is proper procedure since I am the Technology Coach as well as the librarian at my school.
So far this year I have tried to use: Continue reading
Can I convince teachers to allow students to create “book pages” like the ones shown in this post titled The Thinking Book at the Spicy Learning blog, instead of the standard book report? I can at least try!
Originally this post title was to have referred to the fact that I was leaving my job at Alice Drive Elementary School and doing something else. I had become so disheartened at my failure over the years to institute any real changes in the library media schedule or program that I was ready to just give up and move on.
Enter my new principal, Mrs. Boozer. In May I shared a heartfelt letter with her and broke the news to her that I would not be returning. She responded to my concerns by letting me know that she had some of the same concerns herself, and that she wanted to begin making some changes that would set our Library Media program on the path to becoming a model program. Did you hear that? A Model Program!!!
Her first act was to take Library out of the related arts rotation, replacing it with a Math Lab. It took blood, sweat, and prayers on her part to work out a way to staff the Math Lab, but she persisted in the face of district red tape and budget constraints until she received final approval for her plans. Now our students are getting extra help and practice with math concepts, and our library is operating under a fully flexible schedule.
So, I want to publicly thank Mrs. Boozer for her faith in me, and to say that I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve our students, teachers, parents, and community in a new and more effective way. I’ve rediscovered my passion for my job, and I appreciate the fresh start that this year has brought.
Let the learning begin!
Please take a moment (okay, a few minutes – it’s long) to read this post from the AASL blog. More action is needed to get school libraries into the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) bill. SKILLS only has 5 co-sponsors (none from S.C., for those who were wondering) which means it is vulnearable to being cut from the final bill.
Basically, we need to continue calling, writing, faxing, and emailing our senators to let them know this is important.
It only takes a few moments to call the senate switchboard, ask for your Senators’ offices, and leave the message: SUPPORT SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN ESEA! OUR COUNTRY’S STUDENTS PERFORM BETTER IN SCHOOLS WITH SOLID SCHOOL LIBRARY PROGRAMS.
Click here to look up the contact information for your elected officials.
Update: I forgot to include this quote from the article, which really surprised me when I read it:
Unfortunately, we have not had great support from the education unions and from other K-12 organizations. We are competing with everything from literacy coaches to classroom teachers – even though we know that school librarians are both of these. In the present political environment and the challenging budget climate, we have to cling to survival for our school libraries and, more importantly, the students they serve.
Somehow I guess I expected that other professional education organizations “get” how important our school libraries are, and were fighting hard for us teacher librarians as well as for classroom teachers. They aren’t. It’s up to us to band together and speak out for our programs and our students.