Why is the School District Blocking Websites?


Has the district been blocking too many websites? Why are they blocking so many?

Logan Rogers-Brysky, Writer

We have all tried going on a website and saw the “Web Page Blocked” screen. This happens because the Olathe Public Schools Technology has the ability to restrict our browsers and all settings for that matter. This is able to happen because of the district’s Virtual Private Network (VPN). This means that the school district can block a site on the VPN and the school has control over all the WiFi restrictions for the laptops.

Wikipedia has been blocked and unblocked numerous times. Gaming websites, including educational games are blocked as well. Even though they’re games, they make learning a much more fun experience. There is a design site that is sadly blocked: Canva. Many students use this for projects, and we use Canva to make our cover art for our stories, so this blocking is hard to get through, as we’re trying to find a quality replacement.

All of the online retail sites like Amazon and GameStop are blocked too, and the reason those are blocked is because your card information could get stolen, since credit/debit cards are what shopping sites need in order for you to purchase things. But even looking on the sites, without purchasing anything is blocked. Every year around Christmas time, I email my mom a list of things that I want for Christmas on my school account, and provide her with the links to the items on Amazon that way it’s easier for her. But for this year, I cannot. 

Music sites such as Soundcloud and Spotify are blocked. Most teachers allow students to listen to music in class while they work, and students use sites like this for music. It isn’t that much of a problem, because all students need to do is pull up music on their phones, but it would be nice to be able to do it from your computer as well

There was a restricted mode for YouTube that was forced onto our devices last year, which is completely understandable because they’re just doing it to protect us from watching some not-so-minor-friendly content, and teachers had to approve a video that was blocked. They technically still have restrictions on YouTube, just not the video restrictions. The comment section below a video and the recommended section to the right of a video are removed from the screen entirely.

The district can not only block sites, but can also block certain keywords when you search Google, which makes my research harder because I can’t search anything with the word “VPN.” It makes sense because when using a VPN, your IP (Internet Protocol) address cannot be tracked, because VPNs allow you to connect your PC to other networks’ internet, changing your IP. That might sound like a good thing, but when it comes to the school district, they need to track your laptop so they can see if you aren’t doing anything illegal.

The “GoGuardian” browser extension is one of the things the district uses to block sites. GoGuardian is the thing that shows the screen where it offers a “Bypass” button. You can click that button, but it requires you to log in. Only teachers and staff are able to log into it, and failed attempts are put into a log. A log is a list of every action that you do in an application, so your attempt to bypass the restriction is put into a log that the school can see. However, the GoGuardian extension monitors your screen, camera, microphone, and even the keyboard keys you’ve pressed. The monitoring still takes effect even after school hours. Not only that, but it can lock your computer entirely.

While it would be nice to have more freedom online, the main reason why the district blocks websites is because they’re just trying to protect you from getting your information stolen, keep you safe and keep you off sites that are inappropriate. These reasons mostly pop up when you try to go on websites with some kind of chatting feature where you are able to talk with random strangers. The district really just does this so they can keep you on task and not distracted from your work.