Wednesday, September 30, 2020

To raise awareness of the overly restrictive blocking of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools in schools and school libraries, The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day. On Wednesday, Sept. 30th, AASL asks school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning.

Usually the public thinks of censorship in relation to books, however there is a growing censorship issue in schools and school libraries – overly restrictive filtering of educational websites reaching far beyond the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Students, teachers, and school librarians in many schools are frustrated daily when they discover legitimate educational websites blocked by filtering software installed by their school.

Filtering websites does the next generation of digital citizens a disservice. Students must develop skills to evaluate information from all types of sources in multiple formats, including the Internet. Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information.

Over extensive filtering also extends to the use of online social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, etc. In order to make school more relevant to students and enhance their learning experiences, educators need to be able to incorporate those same social interactions that are successful outside of school into authentic assignments in the school setting. Unfortunately, filters implemented by school districts also block many of the social networking sites.

Activities

“Don’t Filter Me” High School Student Information Gathering Activity

Have high school students try to access selected web sites with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender related content to check whether their schools’ filters are blocking access to these sites.

The ACLU “Don’t Filter Me” project notes that blocking access to this content while still allowing access to anti-LGBT sites violates students’ First Amendment rights and, at schools that have gay-straight alliance clubs, the federal Equal Access Act which “requires equal access to school resources for extracurricular clubs, including gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups.” Information for checking websites is located at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/dont-filter-me/