Uh Oh! Website filters block educational resources

Gabby Duso '23, Staff Writer

ROADBLOCK District wide content restrictions sometimes unintentionally block websites used as educational resources. (Gabby Duso ’23)

A new craze had swept the school. 2048 cupcakes, could be seen on the laptop screens of students everywhere. That is until the website was blocked.2048 cupcakes isn’t the only game that has fallen victim to the website filters. Alex Cline ’25 said that other games were barred by the school’s WIFI.

“I remember on the first day of my freshman year at South,” Cline said. “I was relaxing at lunch and I tried to open Cool Math games for nostalgia, and I couldn’t because it was blocked.”

Website restrictions, Cline says, make sense at schools, but exist whiting much transparency as to what is blocked. Director of Instructional Technology Chris Stanely said that WIFI in the school district utilizes different filter categories including advertising, proxy avoidance (VPNs), games, gambling, social networking, mature content, streaming media, and illegal drugs to flag different sites.

“The web content filters search and block certain websites that contain specific words or patterns of words,” Stanley said. “For example, we have a gambling filter, so the web filter searches for websites that fit that category.”

Though educational resources may not appear to fit within these categories, Teacher Nicole Westfall said that occasionally websites needed to complete assignments will be restricted. She recalls providing kidshealth.org to use for an assignment in her health class without realizing that it would be flagged.

“I provided this as a resource, and students could not use it,” Westfall said.

Despite informational sites occasionally being flagged, Stanley said that teachers can get content needed for classes unblocked. If teachers would like to use a restricted resource, they can fill out a form to request the website be unrestricted.

The goal, according to Stanely, is to ensure student safety and focus when using the internet in a school setting.

“The web filter works to omit any category that doesn’t deem itself to be educational,” Stanley said. “My opinion is that the firewall is doing its job appropriately.”

Students like Cline recognize this goal, yet also acknowledge that high school students can feel belittled by web restrictions.

“Positively it makes focusing in class easier,” Cline said. “Negatively some students feel like their freedom is being limited.”

Stanley recognizes student dislike of these filters but ultimately believes they will benefit from the system in place.

“Our goal is to always ensure the safety and well-being of our students,” Stanely said. “The web filters work hard to make sure it is happening by only providing web content that is needed. Although students might not always see websites being blocked as a positive, our intent is to provide needed educational resources.”