INschools.net is an Internet management service that provides net access and web based services to many school districts in the state of Indiana. Like most school districts they implement a filtering policy to prevent access to inappropriate or harmful content using the school’s resources. These sorts of things usually include known sources of worms, tojans, and phishing attacks as well as P2P sites, porn sites, and other places that usually constitute the “dark side” of the web. That’s all well and good, and a reasonable thing for a school, corporation, or any private network provider to do. But Indiana has taken this to a whole new level with a policy that prevents access to a wide array of content, which to my interpretation, should include access to the school’s own website.
Some of the categories of blocked content include:
Alternate Spirituality or Belief which starts by explicitly blocking sites providing information on witchcraft, Satanism, or atheism. So no one at Indiana will be reading my blog, doing research on the Salem Witch Trials, or learning about Harry Potter. They then go on to exclude sites providing information on “any other form of mysticism”. You’d think a school might have looked up the meaning of that word as they just eliminated access to any and all religious sites.
Alternative Sexuality/Lifestyles which blocks access to any sites dealing with gay or lesbian issues. The wording is so general that they clearly block access to sites that might help gay teens struggling with their identity. Apparently if you’re gay in Indiana, keep it to yourself and deal with it.
Weapons which again is general enough that the History Channel and most sites providing military or war based information would be against school policy.
But my favorite is their wide sweeping ban on sites providing information on Violence/Hate/Racism. The policy states a prohibition against sites that, “denigrate an individual or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, or other involuntary characteristics.” Bingo Indiana. You just prohibited access to your own site where this clearly denigrating policy is found.