Online monitoring could follow students home

Getting involved in students’ actions and demands in school are nothing new for the Fairfax County Public Schools School Board.

Online monitoring is one way the county is trying to benefit students by changing certain policies.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has always monitored student activity online, but the rules and regulations have gotten stricter. As part of the E-rate program, which provides discounts to schools in exchange for Internet service, FCPS must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This act requires schools to block and filter certain websites or any access to obscenity on the Internet. Under the act, schools must monitor online activity as well as educate students through informative classes about online safety.

“We follow the federal law requirements from CIPA. If there is a particular curriculum need at a school, the principal can approve the restriction or un-restriction of a particular website,” said Maribeth Luftglass, Assistant Superintendent and Chief Information Officer.

One argument against filtering is mentioned on the FCPS website. “Opponents of filters claim that use of filters infringes upon an individual’s constitutional right to receive information.” However, under CIPA, it is now law to block certain content.

“Another quote from student about their opinion with online monitoring.”

FCPS uses software called WebSense to manage the filtering of Internet websites. While WebSense monitors strictly school computers only, recently there has been an increase in personal computer monitoring throughout the nation.

With the constantly increasing amount of cyber bullying students engage in, the use of private companies to monitor student social network profiles has also increased. There are several companies that schools can hire which filter and monitor what students do on school networks as well as outside of school. This has sparked legal debate about freedom of speech versus the school’s responsibilities to prevent danger and protect students.

“I agree with our current policies and practices and would not support hiring an outside firm to monitor social media,” said Jane Strauss, Fairfax County School Board Dranesville Representative.

Because cyber bullying is at an all-time high because of constant internet use among teenagers, FCPS’s stance on the issue is to deal with each case individually by investigating reported incidents and sometimes using law enforcement, according to Luftglass.

Though FCPS does not have any plans to start hiring private companies to monitor students, there is always the possibility of this in the future.