FCPS online filter receive mixed comments

Students and staff face effects of Lightspeed filter

FCPS+online+filter+receive+mixed+comments

Dua Mobin and Marina Qu

Many students may recall experiencing frustration when trying to access various websites especially when students need to access such sites for to meet their educational purposes.

While many students encountered the problem recently, FCPS has been blocking websites through WiFi and school computers for 20 years. 

“The only new piece is making sure the content filtering extends to our student laptops when they are not connected to our FCPS network,” said Assistant Superintendent, Informational Technology Maribeth Luftglass.

FCPS has implemented a software on all FCPSOn devices called Lightspeed, which bans all websites that are classified as harmful, malicious, or inappropriate for students. Intended to protect students; however, it has caused learning problems for students.  . 

“For my networking class, I was unable to access certain articles about the cyber attacks that happened around the globe because the websites was not mainstreamed as “credible” such as New York Times,” junior Lily Can said. “I was unable to complete my assignment for class because of this setback.”

What is surprising, though, is that the search engine Google is blocked in other languages. 

“We’re doing this whole class on countries and how to talk about countries in French. I wanted, [but] I couldn’t find a good map that’s labeled in French, [because the French google is blocked]” French teacher Isabelle Brazelle said. 

Not only does the system complicates teaching, but it also limits students’ creativity and learning productivity, as students are unable to access websites as simple as Pinterest and Reddit. 

“Pinterest can be really helpful for classes like Journalism and Yearbook to come up with ideas for formatting,” senior Emily Chopra said. “So, that is logical to have access to a website that the school blocks and students should be able to use it.”

When we talk about responsibility, we mean both an ethical one and a legal one,” Luftglass said. “The federal government requires online safety measures for children via the Children’s Internet Protection Act, so we need to make sure we are in compliance with that law.”

— Maribeth Luftglass, FCPS Assistant Superintendent, Informational Technology

However, the actions taken to ensure the safety of students and to foster a positive learning environment were necessary despite the flaws evident in the firewalls.

Although staff and students are not able to access certain useful websites, teachers have the ability to request to get a website to be unblocked through an appeal process. 

“Anyone who wants a site to be unblocked should share that request with the principal. If the principal supports the request, he or she will submit the request to IT for review,” Luftglass said. 

However, the actions taken to ensure the safety of students and to foster a positive learning environment were necessary despite the flaws evident in the firewalls.

“FCPS is responsible for protecting the safety and security of students, of staff, and of data and information. As you know, we have rules for who can come into our school buildings and when 

they can come in, in order to protect student safety,” Luftglass said.

Some also suggested that Fairfax County has an obligation to protect what students are viewing and ensure restrictions are applied for the online safety of students according to the law. 

“When we talk about responsibility, we mean both an ethical one and a legal one,” Luftglass said. “The federal government requires online safety measures for children via the Children’s Internet Protection Act, so we need to make sure we are in compliance with that law.”