The Internet offers students limitless opportunities to obtain information and educational resources to improve teaching and learning through research, collaboration, dissemination, and use of materials and resources. Unfortunately, the Internet also harbors inappropriate content and provides opportunities for interaction with people with malicious intent. Preventing juveniles from gaining access to unsafe material is the key to providing a secure online environment for students.
In 2006, the Virginia General Assembly amended Section § 22.1-70.2 of the Code of Virginia to require that Virginia public school systems integrate Internet safety into their instructional programs and their acceptable use policies. Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) has included Internet safety into elementary, intermediate, middle, and high school curriculums to promote education and awareness while becoming digital citizens. These programs focus on online safety and security, interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response. The current Digital Citizenship Program with Internet Safety outline is available here.
Listed below are some of the additional steps MCPS has taken to protect students online:
1. All students and employees are prohibited from participating in any illegal activity using school equipment and communication services through the Division's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). As detailed, usage of the MCPS network constitutes the user's acceptance that all content may be monitored in order to distinguish and moderate issues and prevent inappropriate content. There should also be no expectation of privacy by the user when employing Division equipment and services, accessing network resources and the Internet, and interfacing with any other MCPS system.
2. In accordance with the Virginia code and the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), all Internet traffic from the MCPS network passes through content filtering software that allows blocking of offensive material. MCPS employs both on-premise and cloud-based filtering solutions which block web-based content on a group policy basis, and can also be used to prevent websites individually as necessary. Internet content filtering solutions operate through a system of categories in which companies update regularly to place specific websites into. The Department of Information Technology Services has the ability to override pages which have been classified erroneously and are needed to support instruction.
3. The Instructional Technology Training Specialist (ITTS) in each building helps to support and facilitate the Internet safety environment for all stakeholders. For student stakeholders, MCPS conducts Internet safety education for all K-12 students, in an age-appropriate manner. This occurs in technology lab classes at the preK-4 levels, in keyboarding and computer classes at the intermediate level, an ITTS-lead instruction program provided at the middle school level, and in several business and technology courses at the high school level. The ITTS team also offers all teachers several resources in order to incorporate Internet safety into daily lesson plans. For adult stakeholders, we provide an Internet safety blended learning course offered through the MCPS learning management system, in which a certificate of completion can be earned.
Internet Safety Resources for Parents
Listed below are additional resources for parents related to a variety of Internet safety topics. Information on such matters as cyberbullying, file sharing, identity theft, instant messaging, and social networking can be found through these resources.