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Social sites blocked from student access

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Online social websites, like Myspace and Facebook, are unique networking tools that are extremely popular with young adults.

Users can make friends, send messages, post pictures and many other information-sharing actions.

These networking sites, though, are unavailable to students during school hours.

Bill Milner, Director of Technology for the Clay Community Schools Corporation, said that websites like Facebook and Myspace are blocked from students on school computers.

The reason behind blocking the sites was a habit of students doing "inappropriate things during class time" on the sites, according to Milner.

Some students were able to find a loophole by going to the secured and encrypted version of the websites, which is done by typing "https" before the website address.

Milner said the technology department discovered the loophole and blocked the secured websites.

"I know our kids are pretty sharp with technology," Northview Principal Tim Rayle said.

Milner also said that principals have access to the sites during the school day.

If a principal finds inappropriate material about the school or other students posted on one of the sites from a student in their building, the principal can limit the student's access to computers in the school.

Rayle said he has only looked at the websites when asked.

Last year, there was an issue with students making an inappropriate website about the parking lot space used by the Northview Marching Knights to practice.

Administration has limited control over the students' speech outside of the building.

According to an article in the March 2003 Indianagram, Dave Emmert, General Counsel to the Indiana School Boards Association said, "In Indiana, school administrators may only expel or suspend students for off-campus conduct (with the exception of attendance at or travel to and from school or related activities) if: (1) the conduct is unlawful and (2) either (a) the unlawful conduct can reasonably be considered an interference with school purposes or functions or (b) the expulsion or suspension is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property."

The school must also prove a "true threat" that violates school rules.

In the secondary school handbook, published on the school corporation website, there is a definition of "Network Etiquette" that says "Rules that apply to 'in person' also apply on the network Do not use profanity, vulgarities, or any other inappropriate, offensive, harassing, or 'stalking' language or behaviors."

Any violations, including accessing blocked sites while at school, are disciplined according to the Knight's Code, the Northview-specific student rules and regulations.

Beyond inappropriate material, there is a concern that too much personal information is being placed on these sites.

Members can look up each other's addresses, phone numbers and friends.

Milner said it makes it "too easy for identity theft." There is also a concern that sexual predators on the networks can use the information to prey on young members.

The handbook has a clause about personal information as well.

It says, "Students may not reveal their personal name, address, phone number(s), bankcard number(s), etc. or those of anyone else on-line."

According to Milner, last year the corporation held an in-service for parents to educate them on these networking sites and the dangers of students sharing personal information.

He also said there currently is no training for students on identity theft but he hopes that teachers are sharing the dangers with students while in the classroom.

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