School to remove web blocks from server

During the month of October 2008 web blocks will be removed from the school’s internet server, in a trial run for the tentative future removal of all web blocks, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said.

Currently, the school’s internet server is monitored by a website filter that detected around 60 different types of website categories.

Categories like violence, drugs and “phishing,” websites that attempt to extort personal information, are blocked from the server.

In the past, categories like tobacco and streaming media were blocked categories but a few months ago the Educational Technology Committee decided to unblock these websites, Educational Technology Committee Chairman and math teacher Jeff Snapp said.

“To my knowledge there have not been any disciplinary issues related to this decision,” Snapp said. “The only negative effect has been that more bandwidth is used so everyone’s access to the internet is a little slower.”

While no websites will be blocked by the server during the month of October, the school will continue to monitor the websites visited on their computers, Snapp said. 
The decision to remove the web blocks was reached by the Educational Technology Committee because they believe it will help students with research assigments involving topics like drugs that are currently banned.

“There have been instances of certain classes needing to research particular topics like drugs, gangs, etc., and related websites were blocked,” Snapp said. “The Ed Tech committee hopes removing the blocks will allow students to exercise their decision making abilities as they explore the educationally appropriate websites related to their research.”

Both Salamandra and Snapp believe that this experiment will work successfully but that it will rely on student support and responsibility.
“We need everybody’s help,” Salamandra said.  “The freedom has a price, and the price is being responsible.”

Snapp hopes the new policy will more accurately reflect the values of the Honor Code.
“I think there is a natural tendency to test a boundary, especially when the boundary is moved, but the Honor Code is clear about what is appropriate and what is not,” Snapp said. “Our students are very capable of making appropriate decisions.”
Salamandra’s concern with the experiment is for students’ safety. Any site that would compromise a student’s safety is a “problem,” he said.

His secondary concern is comfort.

“The internet has become a big bully, and it’s so easy for kids to hurt each other on it,” Salamandra said. “Any problems where kids would feel uncomfortable, the school would respond.”

“I truly hope that this works because it will help the kids so much,” Salamandra said.
“But if we have to pull the plug, we will.”