You’re walking down the hallway, casually swinging your backpack with an AP Gov textbook heavy in your arms. As you wander to the math office, you whip out your phone and click on the glorious blue app: GroupMe. Oh, GroupMe, the savior of group projects and mass planning. If it didn’t exist, you don’t know how you would talk with your peers about your upcoming history study group (of course, besides regular, verbal discussion). However, as the chat begins to load, it stalls. You can’t read anything. The LPS internet filter strikes again.
As most LPS students are aware, the LPS internet filter lurks behind every tap, click, and link. It waits, ready to terminate your Instagram feed or block you out of a Weebly website. Currently, my only app (besides Google Drive and Gmail) the wifi allows, is a shopping program. So, I now spend my passing periods buying unnecessary outfits and shoes. Thanks LPS internet filter.
Enough sarcasm, there is certainly some merit in the LPS filter. I understand its existence, though I don’t always agree with it. It helps keep us focused on the task at hand: our education. Yet, doesn’t Arapahoe’s new “no-cellphone” policy already do that? Should we be allowed our electronic liberties outside the classroom?
I launched into investigation. Eventually, I was able to interview Mike Porter, the head of LPS technology. He offered his insight upon the LPS wi-fi filter.
What websites and apps are blocked?
“There are probably 756 bazillion websites in the world, so it would be tough to list them all. Instead, it may be more helpful to think in terms of categories. The main categories that are blocked are games, adult (think The Onion or something like that; rougher humor), porn, hate sites, social media, and things that are very violent. Those are the main categories–others are malware, spoofed sites, known bad actors.”
Who decides what apps get restricted? What’s the process?
” Yes, we subscribe to a service that lumps the millions of websites into the categories, and LPS determines what categories we allow/block and at what level. In other words, some categories are available at HS that are blocked for elementary schools. The process is that we crowd source it–many school districts use these services, so we have the collective wisdom or helping determine if The Onion is adult or it is a humor site., for example… However, LPS can whitelist (allow)/blacklist (block) individual websites as we see fit, so we (LPS) have the final control of that.”
Why might an app get restricted?
“Lack of educational merit and/or not age appropriate. I realize that is a very simple answer, but that’s the gist of it. We enlist principals and administrators to help with those determinations.”
What are the benefits of a filter?
“Filters are mandated by federal law, which is called CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act). The goals of the law, and LPS’s interpretation of, are to prevent kids from stumbling onto obscene or graphic material, and to help keep kids on task. As you might know, devices (phones/laptops) can be distracting, so we’re trying to keep the content kids have access to to have educational merit. And we owe our parents and community a reasonable sense that the materials that their students have access to are age appropriate. It’s the same concept as selecting titles for a language arts class, or magazines for the library.”
My Final Thoughts…
After speaking with Mike Porter, I can only say… “I get it”. As frustrating as the LPS internet filter is, it’s logical. The wi-fi is free to students, and LPS can manage it as they please.
If you’re looking for unfiltered wi-fi during school hours, I suggest the internet of Starbucks, or perhaps cell-phone data. Otherwise, the Instagram DMs and Snapchat streaks, will have to wait till home.