Content Filtering Overview
To comply with federal law, the District employs several methods of Internet content filtering and monitoring. However, no Internet content filtering system can be fully effective in preventing access to harmful and inappropriate material. With global access to computers and people, there is a risk that students may access material that may not be considered to be of educational value in the context of the school setting. Students receive instruction, appropriate to their age, regarding strategies to avoid the inadvertent access of inappropriate material and what to do if they accidentally access such material.
Users will not use District resources to view or otherwise gain access to potentially objectionable materials. This includes text materials, video, images, or sound files that may be considered objectionable in an educational setting. If students mistakenly access inappropriate information, they should immediately disclose this access to their teacher or other supervising staff member. If a student finds that other users are visiting offensive or harmful sites, she/he should report such use to her/his supervising teacher.
However, it should be clearly understood that no filtering regimen can be fully effective. There are times when filtering may not catch a new website, and there are ways to bypass any filtering. Vigilance, care, and guidance should always be used, especially when students are using Internet resources in the classroom.
What computers does the content filter protect?
By law, ALL connections made from within the District to any Internet resource is filtered. This includes student traffic, staff traffic, and any users on our "guest" wireless network.
As a receiver of Federal E-Rate monies, Uinta County School District #1 must by law provide Internet content filtering to any and all connections made from our school district network, and from any devices we own. We receive our E-Rate funds from the Wyoming State government, who has provided us with a physical network appliance that filters Internet traffic (ours is provided by Lightspeed, a company specializing in filtering).
What content is automatically filtered by the District?
Sites we block and/or filter are divided into three categories:
- Sites we must block: Federal requirements state that sites categorized as adult and pornography must be blocked for all educational users (students and staff). In Lightspeed we block everything with an adult.x category.
- Sites we should block: We choose to block additional categories such as email spam, security and malware, “parked” network domains, and peer-to-peer traffic. We also choose to block proxy/VPN sites and services that would allow savvy students to bypass content filtering by using an offsite service as a “stand-in” for their Internet requests. These sites are not required to be blocked, but are considered undesirable for security.
- Sites we choose to block: These vary by school level, but are generally considered time-wasters, waste of network bandwidth, and/or undesirable in an educational setting. These include alcohol, drugs, gambling, “offensive,” some streaming music and video hosting sites, and sites allowing the posting of anonymous comments, chat, and bullying.
How do we accomplish content filtering?
We employ several content filtering methods:
- Every device connecting within our network – wired device, secure wireless, or guest wireless – that generates Internet traffic must pass through our Lightspeed content filter. The filtering appliance applies filtering rules depending on what school the traffic came from, what user, and what time of day. Sites are categorized by Lightspeed and their database is updated daily. This is a “passive” filtering that works no matter who owns the device, it watches all traffic.
- For student one-to-one Chromebooks, an additional filtering solution named Secur.ly is in place. Secur.ly filters all traffic on a Chromebook, even if that Chromebook is used outside of the network boundaries (at home, at the public library, etc). E-Rate requires us to provide filtering to student-issued devices that we own, no matter where they may be used. This is an “active” agent that is installed on every Chromebook and cannot be turned off (and students sure have been trying).
- YouTube Safety Mode is turned on for all GAFE users, and all traffic that comes in and out of the district network. Safety Mode will not show videos that are from personal accounts and/or not tagged with relevant categories (such as news, education, etc). FYI, we receive numerous complaints about Safety Mode being overprotective and blocking valid educational content.
- Also on our guest wireless network, we use a “DNS scrubber” that will not resolve network addresses for websites in many of the same categories as above. This is an additional piece that is used just for guest traffic.
If a student brings their own device, is Internet access to that device filtered?
If a student (or any other guest) is using the school's "guest" wireless connection, then yes the content is filtered. However, a growing number of students who possess smartphones with a third-party Internet connection (i.e. Verizon or Union) have their own connection to the Internet, and thus bypass District protection.
Does the District filter sexually explicit material?
Yes, we do to the best of our ability.
Does the District filter LGBTQ material?
Of course not.
Are students allowed to "override" the filter?
Are staff allowed to "override" the filter?
We currently do not allow personal overrides. However, we will evaluate and “whitelist” any website that has been incorrectly categorized by Lightspeed. This happens a bit, and we work very positively with teachers when legitimate websites are miscategorized to fix them quickly.
What can I do at home for content filtering on my own device?
The District cannot recommend or endorse specific software or services.