Having a handle on 6,000 students’ Net use doesn’t seem to be that big a deal to Southwest Allen County Schools’ network administrator Mark East, even though he jokingly told the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette that’s about how many hackers there are on his network. The article provides insights into how some public schools are handling students’ online safety. Most of the districts in this part of Indiana block blogging and social-networking sites, but workarounds are found. For example, “senior Larry Buchanan, 17, said when he wants to access his Facebook account, he goes to the Web site ProxyKingz.com, which will bypass any blocks put on a site by the school system.” But countermeasures work both ways. “Computer lab supervisors keep track of which students are using which computers at a certain time and the Web sites they visit leave somewhat of a fingerprint…. East said if he notices a particular student doing inappropriate things on the computer three times, he’ll turn the evidence over to the principal, who must decide how to handle the situation.” One assistant principal told the Journal Gazette that’s happened 32 times at his school so far this year, and “punishments have ranged from suspension from computer class for one day to all-day in-school suspension.” Searching for pornography would spell “an out-of-school suspension, but that hasn’t happened this year.”
More important is monitoring the information students upload more than what they’re trying to download. One smart principal sent a letter to parents advising them to monitor their kids’ blogging and told the Journal Gazette he tries to do the same, sometimes going to a student’s profile with him or her in his office and talking about how much info s/he’s providing and who could be reading it. Now that would be a memorable encounter with one’s principal!