Looking into popular blocked websites

     Many students at Stow-Munroe Falls High School become frustrated over the wifi and why they cannot use their favorite apps and go on certain websites. These students go through the constant struggle of having to get on and off wifi to use these apps.

    The person who updates the web filter for the high school is Sean Fitch, and he works for the school district’s tech department.

    Some students realize some of their favorite apps on their devices are blocked and want to know what other websites and apps are blocked, and why they are blocked.

    “The website we block generally speaking fall into two categories things that are inappropriate and things that are a distraction. Things that are considered inappropriate would be porn, blood and gore, online gambling, information on weapons, and other things of an R-rated nature that is not considered educational. Things that are a distraction would be online games, social media and video search engines; however, there are exceptions such as youtube [that] is unblocked due to the large amounts of educational content available,” Fitch said.

    The technicians that work for the school district update the websites as often as they get a request.

    “We get more requests to unblock sites than to block them,” Fitch said.

    The filter is setup by an outside company called neonet. The filter system has categories and terms it chooses what to block based on what the company decided is irrelevant for students.

    “Beyond what the program decides is inappropriate for students, teachers, principals, and administrative staff can ask us to block or unblock sites that the filter missed or blocked on a faulty premise. If we are unsure if a request is reasonable, it will get escalated up the chain of command,” Fitch said.

    The technicians have the capability to block sites themselves as well as the ability to block search terms.

    “The three of us techs do it by ourselves. Whoever gets the ticket first does it unless they feel the need to ask whether a site should be blocked or not. If we have to escalate the request it goes to our boss the temp Tech Director Jim Gotshall, he can escalate it to his boss Mr. Fritz who is a business manager, and finally if all of us are unsure the request will go to the superintendent; however, this has only happened once, and it was for unblocking a site,” Fitch said.

    Sometimes problems arise, and it can be difficult to block and unblock things online.

    “Sometimes we have issues getting a site blocked or unblocked if this happens then we can send a request to Neonet for help.  The issues have a lot to do with the way websites are programmed,” Fitch said.

     Working with the web filter has been part of Fitch’s job since he started back in August (2015).

    “My job is to handle all technology issues with few exceptions, as such the web filtering was given to me as it is a technology issue,” Fitch said.

    As far as working with technology in general, Fitch has been fascinated by machines since he was a child.

    “I always wanted to work with some sort of technology. I started doing IT for KSU while I was a student there, and this is my first job out of college. As far as doing the filtering, I like working on sites that are difficult and don’t want to be blocked or unblocked. I find the challenge fun,” Fitch said.

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