Schools receive funds for beefed up internet security - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Schools receive funds for beefed up internet security

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Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2012 6:45 am

Advancement in technology has led to challenges for school districts everywhere. With the convenience of email and other forms of messaging also comes a downside that has made national news for the past few years.

What happened to Megan Meier, a 13-year-old from Missouri who hanged herself in 2006, was arguably the case that first brought the consequences and prominence of cyberbullying to light. A classmate’s mother was charged with conspiracy for her role in acting as a boy Meier’s age through MySpace and the subsequent online harrassment that led up to the young girl’s suicide.

And while the mother who was charged with these violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act eventually was acquitted, it raised questions about whether schools and parents were doing enough to prevent cyberbullying from happening.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was signed into law in 2000 and eventually found constitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2003. It is comprehensive in that it deals with all aspects of keeping the internet safe for children.

There have been changes to CIPA since its adoption, including in the past week when parts were changed to beef up the district’s role in monitoring what their kids are doing on school computers.

To further entice schools to comply, CIPA has an E-rate program that covers a percentage of the cost of the school’s telecommunication system. Dependent upon several factors, such as the poverty level of district families, districts can collect more than a majority of their telecommunication costs by updating district policy to comply with current CIPA laws.

At a recent board meeting, the Tempe Union High School District, and thus Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools, did just that. They have been compliant with CIPA for the past few years, said associate superintendent Dr. Greg Wyman.

“It’s just additional funding for our district and much of what is in the act, we already do,” Wyman said.

CIPA includes provisions that require districts to monitor computer use, including chatrooms, and block websites that contain obscene material. Wyman said that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked on the majority of school computers, but some classes do have access to them.

“Facebook and Twitter are not automatically available in classroom settings,” he said. “We use Google Docs in the classrooms and kids in can go in and chat. We have access to that and can go in and monitor it.”

However, while cell phones are banned in the classrooms, there is no way to directly monitor what students do with them while at lunch, Wyman said.

“Schools control it internally the best they can,” he said.

To find out more about CIPA, visit the website, www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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