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I agree 100% - I am constanly dismayed by the overwhelming number of districts that 
have a one size fits all filtering policy.
  I have changed filters three times because of the difficulty of customizing them 
for different users.
  I am on the third company -- and they are working hard to address all of my 
concerns.
  While there are some issues -- I have been wokring with the vice-president of the 
company and they are willing to listen and make changes....
   
  One of the most exasperating problems I found when looking for a new filtering 
product was the majority of the companies had never even had requests for the 
things I was asking for....
   
  One company told me that I could customize - but every time a teacher went to the 
website that was blocked for students -- the teacher would have to override the 
block with a login and password -- I said that was unacceptable -- Why am I 
inconveniencing a professional??
   
  Reporting was another issue -- I would prefer to monitor not block -- I finally 
am able to get some worthwhile reports and the company is working to address some 
of the other things I am asking for in terms of reporting.
   
  One thing I like about this product -- if the site comes up as blocked -- teacher 
or student can put in their email address and can explain their reason for the 
request (which is really turned on for students)
  The email comes immediately to my desk and I can quickly look at the site and 
determine if it should be unblocked. If there are any questions, I contact the 
building administrator and discuss with them.... (This is very rare -- the last 
request I had was to unblock joke sites and this was a person in the school office 
sitting where parents come in)
   
  If for some reason I am not at my desk -- I can check a log or I assign one of my 
techs to check the log as to not incovenience a teacher.
   
  I will say this -- if I was not a librarian first -- as a technician it would be 
easier for a one size fits all policy --
   
  It is alot of work to customize for teachers and ages of students.
   
  If anyone is interested in the company I am working with -- you can email me off 
list
  Paula
  

Nancy Willard <nwillard@CSRIU.ORG> wrote:
  > While I strongly am against any form of censorship, I am thoroughly
> disgusted by school districts that allow their filters to prevent
> educators from engaging in professional discourse. I have lost track of
> the number of times that I've posted a message to my WWWEDU discussion
> list and received a bunch of autoreplies from school districts saying
> that teachers there won't be reading my post because they contain
> "inappropriate content." Usually, these posts have to do with cases of
> school filtering censorship, controversial sites like MySp@ce or other
> media literacy-related challenges faced by the modern educator. The
> filtering software used to supposedly protect children is preventing
> educators from taking an active role in understanding and discussing the
> complexities of Internet use in the classroom. Schools may claim "in
> loco parentis" when describing filters used to protect children. But
> what are they trying to protect teachers from? Being better users of
> technology? Being responsible, informed educators?

Like Andy, I frequently have messages returned to me stating that a message
I sent to a member of either EdTech, Lm-Net, or WWWEDU indicating that my
message contained "inappropriate content."

But the problems are significantly deeper that simple censorship. Consider
this:

When the Internet emerged into public awareness, concerns about youth online
activity related to porn and predators also emerged. In an attempt to ward
off Congressional efforts of control, technology industry, civil rights
groups and others, came up with "parental empowerment tools" as a solution.
Far too many people believe that filtering actually works.

When the Internet came into schools it was the same time as NCLB.
Administrators do not understand technology and had their hands full with
NCLB. And there were insufficient funds for professional development. So
techies, who think all problems can be solved with techie quick fixes, were
given control. With the enactment of CIPA, filtering because the solution.

Because there was insufficient attention paid to professional development
and the false security of filtering, many teachers are still not prepared to
effectively lead students in high quality online learning activities.
Internet recess is far too common and it is during Internet recess that
students are using the Internet inappropriately at school.

The situation of concern has been exacerbated by the expansion of wireless
laptop programs -- for which there is no compelling research indicating
success and emerging research indicating concerns.

NO ONE has paid attention to what has been happening with the filtering
companies. So follow these links, if you will -- an amazing journey:

Go to the American Family Association web site. AFA is an extremely
conservative right-wing organization. http://www.afa.net. Now look down the
left side of the page to AFA Filter. This takes you to the AFA branded page
of BSafeOnline. http://www.afafilter.com/. Now scan down this page to the
Partners, strategic. http://www.afafilter.com/partners.asp?link=strategic.
Note there is a link to 8e6 Technologies. Click on this link
http://www.8e6.com/. Now on this page note under Customer Solutions that
this product is marketed to and used by many public schools. But look at the
SOHO/Home link http://www.8e6.com/solutions/sl_soho.htm. And scan down to
the link "Click here." Look familiar?

Now how is it that a filtering product that is marketed to, and used by so
many public schools has this close of a relationship with one of these most
right wing organizations in the country?

So, let's take another tour. How many of you have Symantec's Norton
Securities on your computer? This has a version of I-Gear, the product they
sell to schools. This product has a category called "Sex/Sexuality." You
will note that it blocks information on sexual technique, multiple
partnership relations, and homosexuality. So are you going to block or not
block? Most tech directors are going to tell you that they have to block
because of CIPA, and they are probably correct. If you have this software,
select this category to be blocked. Now try to get to sites like GLSEN,
GLAAD, or any of a number of other support sites for GLTB teens. You can't.
But now try to get to the American Family Association pages on the
anti-homosexual agenda, or any other sites of the radical right that are
opposed to civil liberties for GLTB.

So let's take another trip. This time to the Supreme Court ruling on CIPA
www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/02pdf/02-361.pdf. Now, you can ignore the
majority ruling, except you should note that this was only 4 judges. But
look closely at the concurring opinions of the two other judges who ruled in
favor of CIPA. Note that both of these decisions were grounded in the
finding that filters could easily be overridden to provide access to
material that was inappropriately blocked.

But you have to understand that the ACLU did not really push the issue about
biased blocking or youth access to constitutionally protected material. So
the language of the justices focuses on adult access and does not mention
biased blocking. Students still have constitutional rights of access to
information. How many schools do you know provide a rapid override and
review of blocked sites?

But if filtering products are blocking access to potentially controversial
material, even providing rapid override may not be sufficient. Imagine if a
shy 7th grade boy is "questioning." Is he going to ask to have the filter
overridden?

The ACLU did not do a good job at all on the CIPA case, and will not touch
the problems that are quite apparent based on involvement of the religious
right with filtering companies and obvious biased blocking because they are
still involved in the COPA case. COPA is a criminal law that requires sites
with adult material to have age verification. It will work as well as
Federal laws against online gambling -- in other words "not." But to block
the implementation of COPA, the ACLU has taken the position that filtering
is a "less restrictive alternative."

This case went all of the way up to the Supreme Court, who indicated that
they too were convinced that filtering works, and they sent it back down to
trial with instructions to the US DOJ that it had to prove that filters do
not work. The ACLU will be seeking to prove that filters do work. It is a
good thing these folks are all lawyers and so are not bothered by the
inconsistencies and illogic of this all.

So next October, this case will be going to trial. And the US DOJ will be
seeking to prove that the primary method that schools and 64% of US parents
rely on to "protect students" does not work.

I should also mention that the US Government provided funds to Peacefire to
develop a cheap, easy to implement proxy that can be used to circumvent
filters. But this was Voice of America and their concerns were the
censorship against the radicals in China and other similar countries. The
fact that students are now using this and other similar proxy systems to
circumvent school filters probably did not occur to them.

And in the meantime, students know how to get around the filters to get to
MySpace and other such sites, but many principals and counselors if
presented with a report on concerning online material remain blocked by the
filter.

So forgive me if I think that blocking the word "myspace" is sort of a minor
part of a much more major problem.

Nancy



-- 
Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
http://csriu.org
http://cyberbully.org
nwillard@csriu.org

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Cruelty, Threats, and Distress, a resource for educators, is now available
online at http://cyberbully.org.

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Paula Yohe
Director Of Technology/Library Media Center
Dillon School District Two
405 West Washington Street
Dillon, SC 29536
Phone: 843-841-3604 Fax:843-774-1214
paula_yohe@yahoo.com
                
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