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Firewall of information


If you are a student at Grosse Pointe South, you are likely familiar with the “This page is blocked” screen when trying to Google what seems like any and everything. Online games, major news publications and even teacher provided instructional videos are more than likely blocked while using a school computer/school WiFi.

Health, Psychology and Film Literature are all classes where both teachers and students are accustomed to weaving around frustrating technicalities due to internet limitations. This has been an ongoing matter, and students and teachers may not realize the impact it’s having on our education.

In the state of Michigan, it is required to take a health education class to graduate. In Health Ed., an array of topics are covered: drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health and more. Health Ed teacher Nicole Westfall has been working as a teacher for 27 years, 17 of which she said have been spent in the Grosse Pointe Schools running into technical issues throughout her career.

“The biggest restriction is mental health,” Westfall said. “When kids are working on a worksheet or notes, instead of using my notes they Google things like ‘what are signs or symptoms of depression and those are red flags to the district.”

When students search topics that would be considered concerning, their designated counselors are notified within minutes of it being searched. This system is set in place to prevent students from having issues that go unnoticed.

“I tell the kids, especially when we are covering mental health, to use my notes, find my answers, never Google things,” Westfall said. “I have had kids get called down to the counselors who will look at the kids schedule and see that they are in my class and call me and ask if they are covering the mental health unit right now.

The counselors will call the kid down and still talk to them.”

For most school districts around the country something called a “firewall” is used to filter websites available on that district’s WiFi connection to block all websites that have inappropriate subjects.

Within the district, Executive Director of Learning Technology and Strategic Relations Chris Stanley said internet limitations are vital for protective reasons.

“Website restrictions are absolutely a necessary tool for our district,” Stanley said.

“They serve multiple purposes: ensuring online safety, aligning with educational objectives, complying with legal requirements, and maintaining a focused learning environment. Our goal is to protect students and staff from inappropriate content.”

In case a website needs to be used in the classroom, there is a process set in place to ensure teachers can vocalize which sites they need in order to most effectively teach. Each website goes through a thorough evaluation before approval..

“When considering requests to unblock websites, we evaluate the educational relevance, content appropriateness, and security aspects of the site,” Stanley said. “For sensitive topics like drug usage in health class, we ensure the content is educational, factual and age-appropriate before deciding to unblock a website.”

The firewall used at Grosse Pointe Schools blocks websites based on their education level. For example, the websites that are blocked for a 3rd grader at Maire Elementary School will not be the same as a senior at Grosse Pointe South.

“We are mindful of the balance between safety and educational freedom,” Stanley said.

“While some restrictions are necessary, we continuously seek to provide diverse and rich online resources. We aim to facilitate a broad learning experience without compromising student safety and well-being.”

For students who are trying to do research for a project, or are trying to find resources to help them study, sometimes the internet limitations can be more frustrating than anything else. Helena Moore ’25 has taken Health Ed and Psychology, where she has run into this issue multiple times.

“What most of the time happens is the teachers have to adapt to not learning online,” Moore said. “We don’t use our computers very much during (Health Ed), because we can’t go over much in depth with online resources.”

For some students these limitations are more than understandable, but some feel like they are more disruptive than doing good in an academic environment.

“I understand that(the district) are looking out for kids that might look up something inappropriate, but I also think that when it comes to the firewall, they block things that don’t need to be filtered out,” Moore said.

“There have been so many times where random websites have been blocked and you’re not even looking up anything inappropriate whatsoever. It causes a lot of problems for many classes.”

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Julia Roeder '25
Julia Roeder '25, Supervising Web Editor
Whether it’s The Rolling Stone, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, or Tyler the Creator, Julia Roeder ’25 is guaranteed to have seen them in concert. All eyes envy her as she walks into the journalism classroom wearing merchandise she bought from the concert the night before. When she’s not listening to her favorite artists, she spends most of her time jamming out on her own guitar, being your average aspiring popstar. Besides her still-amounting popstar career, Roeder is also the Supervising Web Editor of The Tower. This is Roeder’s second year on staff and she is looking forward to continuing her role and being involved in the community and school. “I love Tower because you’re informing the community of what’s going on and also getting to know people on staff,” Roeder said.

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