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Internet filtering “liberal” at CHCCS, still prompts student work-arounds

It has happened to every East student. You are in the media center Googling your research topic. You spot a promising link. You click on it, only to find your way blocked by a plain white and disappointingly familiar page. You have run into Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ web filtering software, and a simple refresh is not going to get you any further onto that page.

This practice is not simply the East computers being difficult. Under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, all schools that accept federal funding for internet must use filters to block content deemed inappropriate. CHCCS uses iPrism, a hardware device from EdgeWave. With iPrism, a group of experts called iGuard reviews web content and sorts it into categories, ranging from acceptable “Reference Sites” to unacceptable “Adult Content.” CHCCS lead media specialists meet annually to decide which categories will be viewable through schools’ internet and which will not.

“CHCCS has a very liberal filtering profile compared to most school districts in the state,” said Raymond Reitz, Chief Technology Officer for CHCCS.

All data on CHCCS’s network is collected. When a user attempts to access a blocked page, a record of the action is sent to Lincoln Center, CHCCS’s administrative office.

“We can certainly produce reports on, you know, attempts at going to the various sites,” said Raymond Reitz, Chief Technology Officer for CHCCS.

However, attempting to access a blocked site does not typically get a student in trouble as long as the student does not continue attempts.

“That all depends if it was something that was tried many, many times. But, you know, typically, I think our students know what the categories fall under the filter,” Reitz said.

Computer literate as this generation’s high schoolers are, many students have found ways to get around CHCCS’s filtering. Many students download software such as virtual private network services that allow them to bypass blocks.

“We are certainly aware that students have access to ways on the internet to get around filters,” Reitz said. “And that certainly is a violation of district policy, to intentionally get around the filtering while using the district’s network.

“If we’re aware of it, students can certainly be held accountable to the disciplinary consequences within their code of conduct at each school.

If you have encountered a site that you do not think should be blocked, you can click a button to request access. You will be directed to fill out a short form to be sent to the CHCCS information technology department. This request will be processed to be reviewed, not by iGuard, but by the same group of lead media specialists who decide upon appropriate content categories.

“Sometimes there are situations where a site is categorized in a way that gets it blocked,” Reitz said. “It may be caught in a category of maybe it’s gaming or, you know, adult content or something like that and that would be reviewed. And a decision could be made to turn that on.”

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