An Eye on the Wifi
Assistant Principal Joe Schaller discusses how the school wifi is monitored.
Q: Can you tell me about how students are monitored on the school wifi?
A: Basically what occurs it that there are certain keywords when searched, like through Google, (or) I assume through any other search engine. If someone were to search these keywords, an alert is sent to our central office that says this was searched. Examples of that would be (if) somebody was looking up suicide, depression, those sort of things. If that happens, then that’s forwarded to, depending on what the situation would be and depending on what was searched, either to the counseling department—because if it’s an issue of suicide or depression, then we would have the counselors go talk to the students and see what the concern is—(or) if it was something of how to make a bomb or whatever, then it would be more of the student services and the assistant principals going to check on the situation. It doesn’t mean that a student has done anything wrong. I know we had one or two last week where depression and suicide were searched; the counselors went and talked to the students, and they were doing a project for English. Usually it’s nothing, but it’s those keywords that are possibly a concern. We have had situations in the past where I don’t know that the students were necessarily contemplating suicide or whatever, but they were unhappy, and by the counselor reaching out to them and saying, ‘Hey, what are you looking up?’ and those sort of things, the student then opened up, and the counselors were able to help. Hopefully it’s a preventative measure.
Q: What websites are blocked on the school wifi and why?
A: The reason (Spotify) is blocked is that it has something to do with the amount of streaming and the data that it takes away from the school’s overall data. That one’s due to the amount of strain that it puts on the network.
There are others that I’m sure are (blocked due to content). If there was a pornography site or something like that, then that’s a more obvious reason and that would be a content issue.
Q: How important, in your opinion, is it for our wifi to be monitored like that?
A: If we allow Spotify and it’s taking away from people to be able to use (the wifi) for educational purposes, then I think it is important. As far as keyword searches, I think it’s useful. As we’ve talked about already, there have been situations in the past where students have felt more comfortable opening up and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been struggling.’ We have had students that I believe have done searches on rape and have met with the counselors. Very important discussions have come from those things, so I do think it’s a very useful thing for our school to have.
Q: What do you think could happen if that kind of thing wasn’t monitored?
A: Things would go on. It wouldn’t create a huge problem, but the issue then would be that we wouldn’t maybe reach students who could use help. In the past, if you go back 10 years ago, we didn’t have that, and so I think it’s important. It helps us to reach kids, but if we didn’t have it, then life would go on; we just unfortunately wouldn’t be able to reach some of the students that could use it.
Q: Who do you think is the most affected by the policies about the wifi?
A: It would affect anyone who does those searches. Obviously anyone who searches those things are the ones who are affected the most, but technically anyone who’s going to use the wifi (is affected).
Q: Who makes the decisions concerning the wifi?
A: That’s more of the central office. We have 11 or 14 buildings that are in the district, and those monitors are in place, I believe, in all the buildings. It’s not something that we necessarily decide. We’ll decide how we address (issues) when they pop up, whether we send a counselor or whether we send student services, so we handle it from that point of view, but the central office is who has contracted out and put this into place.
Q: What is your opinion on all of this?
A: I think it’s good that we’re able to find students who are in a lot of need. If we go talk to a student and they’re doing research, it didn’t hurt that we checked on them. Even that sometimes is good for students to know that there are people who care about you (and) there are people who are going to check on you and make sure that everything is okay.
Q: Is there anything else you think I should know?
A: I think it’s just an evolving thing. In five years it may be different, just like five years ago it was a little different. I think it’s important for our technology department to stay on top of it, but other than that, I think it’s just changing. Technology is always changing.
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