April 30, 2012

Portland high schools take byte out of laptop use at home

District adding filtering software to block social networking, video streaming sites.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Laptop controls

Should all Maine school districts install filtering software on district-issued laptops that controls content at students' homes as well as at school?

Yes

No

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click image to enlarge

Fathia Elmi, a senior at Portland High School, uses a friend’s netbook computer at the Portland Public Library.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Additional Photos Below

He said school districts have a fair degree of discretion regarding which sites to block.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Education recently issued guidelines explaining that it is acceptable to allow social networking sites and video streaming, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom.

While there is plenty of discussion about where school districts should draw the line, there is no debate that districts have the right to install filtering software on school equipment, she said.

The Portland school district is doing it without any discussion by the school board. Eglinton said many parents and teachers have told him they want the laptops to be filtered at home. It's an issue for teachers at Portland High School, he said, because students in certain parts of the building can get open Internet access from nearby businesses.

School board Chairwoman Kate Synder, the mother of a ninth-grader at Portland High, said that as a parent she favors the new restrictions, because they will help students stay focused on their schoolwork.

She said she never wanted her children to have television in their bedrooms. But thanks to streaming sites like Hulu and YouTube, laptop computers also function as television sets.

Snyder said the school district shouldn't give students equipment that makes it harder for parents to do their job, which is to help children stay focused on academics. She said the district has the right to filter the Internet.

"It's a school-issued laptop," she said. "If that's something that the student wants to do on their own time and on a family computer, that's OK."

The change's impact on students will depend on whether they have access to other computers at home. For many poor families, the school-issued laptop is the only computer in the house.

In interviews with Portland High students last week, those from middle-class families expressed various degrees of annoyance when told of the new filtering measures. A group of immigrant students reacted with anger.

"When we are at home, we need to have something else to look at besides homework," said Fatush Jama, a senior.

"Where can we go to share if we don't have Facebook?" asked Nateho Ahmen, a 17-year-old junior. "Who came up with this idea? We are going to have a long talk."

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Sean Bouchard, a senior at Portland High School, uses his school-issued netbook computer at the Portland Public Library. New restrictions will block access to social media and video streaming sites for users of the school equipment.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Fathia Elmi, left, a senior at Portland High School, uses a school-issued netbook computer while her friends, from left, Simane Ibrahim, Fatush Jama, Chantal Namuhoza and Linda Nag look at a website on Namuhoza’s personal laptop at the Portland Public Library on Thursday.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

 


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Laptop controls

Should all Maine school districts install filtering software on district-issued laptops that controls content at students' homes as well as at school?

Yes

No

View Results