In accordance with the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000, Montgomery County Public Schools installed Internet filtering software on all school computer networks during the summer.
The filters were first employed on July 1 and restrict access to websites of seven different categories. Sites relating to sexually explicit material, criminal skills, hacking, hate speech, violence, weapons, and drugs, tobacco, and alcohol were all blocked. Access to un-moderated chat rooms and anonymous electronic mail was also limited.
The Children's Internet Protection Act established that schools must have rules and technology to protect both adults and children from obscene material. Schools that did not comply faced losses of federal funding and E-rate discounts, which are lowered telecommunication service rates.
Larry Wong, Montgomery County Public School's IT security officer, said that the delay in implementing the filters was necessary because the county had to figure out how to comply with the Protection Act. "We had to go through a process to look at requirements," said Wong.
According to Wong, implementing the filtering system involved buying software and a list of sites that should be blocked. The county then picked the seven categories, from 40 possible categories, that it wanted blocked.
Even though Wong said that the software company does research to build the list of sites to block, there have been problems with the filtering.
For example, media specialist Lisa Hack said that she has encountered several instances of educational sites that have been blocked. She also said she has "seen sites that should have been blocked, but aren't."
Peter Hammond, network administrator for the Magnet Program, has run into similar problems. He said that the software has a tendency to "miss sites," and block "useful sites." Hammond managed to get the beneficial sites removed from the blocked site list by going through the county's evaluation process, which Wong encourages staff members to do.
Professionals can get sites unblocked by "going through our evaluation system," said Wong. The process involves staff identifying and evaluating web sites using special county forms.
Wong also said that the issues with sites that should be blocked are also being resolved. According to Wong, the software company "updates the sites daily" to ensure the list of blocked sites remains fresh.
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Branden Buehler. Branden Buehler is a senior in the magnet program. When he is not doing schoolwork, work for Silver Chips Online, or swimming for the Blair swim team, he could possibly be found playing foosball or playing his guitar and recording songs in a futile attempt … More »