Wi-fi block disconnects students

Rio Popper and Lauren Stevens


“The wi-fi block allowed me to accidentally come across pornography, but stopped me from looking at Pinterest for art,” senior Ellis Spickermann said.

Wi-fi is a centralizing force in most students’ lives. It makes sense, then, that many students would be bitter about the district monitoring and controlling what they access on the internet.
Spickermann’s experience isn’t unique. While marijuana-delivery and Ku-Klux Klan sites are not blocked, certain news sites are.

“We try to catch everything,” said Robert Fishstrom, Director of Educational Technology for the Sequoia High School district. “But some things will always get through the firewall, [the technology used to block sites], which blocks websites [containing] certain words. We can also block and unblock sites by hand, of course, but there will always be sites that should be blocked that we just don’t know about yet.”

The wi-fi block censors a number of legitimate news sources, is easy to circumvent and is essentially arbitrary

— Michael Yu, senior

The firewall also notes which students search ‘flagged’ terms, like weed, breast, bomb or suicide. Essentially, whenever they are searched, the searcher’s student ID number is recorded, and, if it is particularly worrying, the student is called in. This is meant to keep students safe. There are some problems, though: Students looking up these things for school projects are occasionally flagged as well.
Though many students believe the wi-fi block is controlled by the principal, the block is entirely controlled by the District, which acts under the Child Internet Protection Act, a law that requires schools to put these blocks in place. A prevalent misconceptions is that Snapchat was blocked because authorities didn’t want students using it while at school. This is not true: Snapchat was blocked because it, along with Instagram, which was recently unblocked on school wi-fi, was using one third of the server’s bandwidth.

“[The block] is annoying because it just means we pay more for data,” said junior Tom Woodward, who logs off the wi-fi to access sites. “They’re not stopping anyone from accessing anything.”

Though the wi-fi block is intended to improve wi-fi speed and protect students, some still find that it has problems.

“The wi-fi block censors a number of legitimate news sources, is easy to circumvent and is essentially arbitrary,” senior Michael Yu said.