Schools address Internet safety following Waukesha stabbings

Internet filter blocks certain websites at area schools

Following an incident out of Waukesha County, where two 12-year-olds stabbed another girl in the name of an online character, Internet safety is under some serious scrutiny.

Internet use in the La Crosse School District is widespread and even encouraged for students. Kids use iPads on a daily basis, and a lot of their school projects are done online. But teachers draw a firm line when it comes to certain websites and kids’ access to them.

All schools in the district keep their computers locked down with an Internet filter that blocks certain sites as soon as they’re typed in.

“Your extremely violent or extremely sexualized sites would be of course blocked,” said Melissa Murray, principal at Lincoln Middle School. “Some things that would be more current in the news, we can add to our filtering system.” 

The filter is subject to change as it takes current events into account, including the stabbing in Waukesha County – since then, the website that allegedly inspired the suspects to stab the 12-year-old girl has been added to the block list at Logan Middle.

“It’s not something that we start at the beginning of the year and it’s exactly the same at the end of the year,” Murray said. “”The system is constantly changing and improving.”

The security system even goes a step further and warns teachers when a student tries to access a blocked site. School administration receives an automated email as soon as a student searches for something they shouldn’t be, and teachers immediately follow up with the issue.

The La Crosse School District teaches all its students which sites are appropriate to use at school, and which aren’t. Teachers also hold a parent education session at the beginning of each school year to help kids make smart choices online when they’re at home.

Federal law requires schools to have some sort of child protection lock on computers. Funding for technology can be withheld if schools don’t use those security measures.