Firewalls | News

Mass Suspension at Pittsburgh School for Bypassing Filter

Dozens of students have been suspended for a day from a school district in Pittsburgh for using a program that allowed them to get around their school's Web filter. According to local news coverage, Brentwood Borough School District in Pennsylvania suspended at least 100 students after catching them using Ultrasurf, a free tool that allows users to bypass firewalls and make their online identities anonymous.

The school sent out letters informing parents about the suspension. Students also received 15 demerits and have been banned from using school computers for the next nine weeks.

Although school officials declined to comment to reporters, at least one parent was quoted in CBS affiliate reporting as blaming school personnel rather than her child for the infraction of the district's acceptable use policy. "Kids should not have been punished for this; they should have punished the person in charge of security; they should have been doing their job," she said.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one student, a senior and a member of the National Honor Society who was part of the reprimand, said, "I thought it was just a way to get my schoolwork done. I didn't know the severity or the consequences of using this."

According to district policy 815 regulating acceptable use of the Internet, disabling or bypassing the Internet blocking or filtering software without authorization is prohibited. Failure to comply shall result, the document states, "in usage restrictions, loss of access privileges, disciplinary action, and/or legal proceedings."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.