IN LOCO PARENTIS: in the place of a parent <school officials acting in loco parentis>
Last week we gave a 30-second survey to our staff to help determine if we are over or under-blocking Internet resources. Above are the results. I am not sure that our filter can be considered fine-tuned when a third of our staff report that they or their students have found needed websites blocked*. We'll work on that...
Anywho, our filtering company gave a little seminar/sales pitch to a group of tech directors from the area last week. I will admit pitches from any filtering company usually rub me the wrong way, with their usual over-emphasis on how much they can block and how under-filtered Internet access (especially to social networks) will lead to mass bullying, suicides, and other inevitable outcomes of not buying their filter and cranking it up to the highest possible level.
One feature I had not heard of before in a filtering system is the ability to customize what is filtered down to the individual level. And one of the techies from a neighboring district said he used this feature when a parent requested that his/her child not have access to Facebook.
I had two immediate reactions.
First, does this person know what a can of worms he is opening by honoring this request? Does he have the time to manage filtering settings for each and every child in his district if all parents ask for customized filtering? What happens when the next parent wants all GBLT resources blocked for his child? Or the next parent doesn't want her kid going to the NRA website? or the Flying Spaghetti Monster site? or ... You get the idea.
The second reaction was - If the parents in the neighboring district tell parents in my district about honoring individual filtering request, we will look very bad if we say no to such requests.
The library world has long admitted that it can not and will not act in loco parentis by not allowing specific children access to specific materials when requested by specific parents. Nobody, but nobody, can keep track of such requests. I believe the no in loco parentis rule should be considered for access to Internet resources as well.
As I reflect on this, however, another option presents itself. What if the school did not have to act in loco parentis but the parents could control what their children could or could not access via the school network? Are we so far away technologically, with parent portals and such, that parents themselves could chose the level of access to the Internet their children would have through school networks? What would be the plusses and minuses of such a system? Hmmmmmm .....
* To be fair, most teachers reporting that their students could not access sites could not remember what locations these were. We will be asking teachers to report such occurrences immediately in the future.