DeKALB – DeKalb High School students would be allowed to use social media and other previously blocked websites under Internet filtering changes DeKalb School District 428 officials are considering.
The Internet filtering policy change is meant to enhance students’ learning and customize what is filtered to specific age groups, DeKalb High School Dean Sean Chamberlain explained to school board members Tuesday during an informational presentation.
“Like in driver’s ed, you have to let them drive the car in order to teach them how to drive a car,” Chamberlain said. “You have to let them use the Internet and teach them how to use the Internet appropriately. By just not allowing access, you’re not really teaching them.”
Specifically, school board members could remove a paragraph from the district policy reading, “including, but not limited to the following categories: adult content; nudity; sex; gambling; violence; weapons; hacking; personals/dating; lingerie/swimsuit; racism/hate; vulgar; and illegal/questionable.”
Chamberlain said the specific language can hinder learning, citing a specific instance where the filter prohibited students from doing research for a World War II project at school because it blocks the word “Nazi.”
Chamberlain said even without the paragraph in question, the policy would still follow the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which mandates the district block sites that display gore, pornography or violence as well as those that offer file sharing or allow users to bypass a filter.
Changes would be geared toward the high school students, while not much would change at the middle school and elementary school levels. Those students would still be blocked from social media.
“The idea is let’s not to punish the students before they’ve done something wrong,” said Ben Bayle, a computer and information systems manager with District 428. “Let’s open it up. We can always restrict it as things become an issue in the classroom.”
School board President Tracy Williams said he didn’t have any concerns about a less restrictive policy. He saw it as a way for the district to stay on top of changing social media.
“These kids are using [the sites] anyway,” Williams said. “The idea is we give them the right tools and the ability to utilize what’s there appropriately on the Internet.”