Possible Suspension for Student Who Created Proxy Site

This is an interesting story that brings up important questions around school jurisdiction on student activities and on the rights and responsibilities of students. This American student writes that he is facing possible suspension from his school for creating a web proxy service (as part of his job/business) that was used by other students at his school to get around school network restrictions. He is allegedly accused of “violating (his) rights as a student, and intentionally attempting to disturb the learning environment of students in (his) school.”

Worst part is that now I’m tagged as being a ‘computer hacker’ and a ‘potential threat’ to the school system. A mass email was sent out from the administrator who accused me of this to all the teachers, administrators, librarians, etc in the entire school, which basically says I’m a criminal and I need to be watched when getting within a 10-foot radius of a computer.

I find it unfair that Fairfax County Public Schools feels they can impose this kind of totalitarianism on me, I’m now a criminal for making proxies. For making a website. A legal website. On my private server. Outside of school. Great.

Read the article to get a better sense of this situation. Thoughts?

  • An interesting debate, punishing a student for something he did outside of school time, and unrelated to the school itself. I’ve recently learned about this way of getting around school filters. There are a lot of them out there, redirect sites. I’ve actually tested some on our own restricted server. They do work. What I don’t understand is how the school can single out this student as the sole cause of other students getting around restrcited sites? Is it not likely to assume that they could have found out from other students or by themselves? It brings to question why these students are unattended on computers? As I’ve said before, there is no better filter than a teacher. If they are engaged in their assignments then they will work. Yes, I acknowledge there will always be those that will be off-task and try to go to websites that are inappropriate. Diligence on the part of the teacher and a good set of consequences for inappropriate use of the computer are important. Suspend? I don’t think that is the answer. Learning cannot happen this way. I guess if they can’t use the computer properly then there always should be a paper alternative. Print out an needed web materials, etc.

    Students will always try and figure out a way around roadblocks. But to blame one student for something is in abundance on the internet just seems like a excuse to go after the student for other reasons.

    Maybe I’m wrong and I’m not seeing the big picture as I come from a small rural center. Somehow I don’t think the problem will go away by suspending the student. If they are going to prosecute the student for the proxy, they better go after all the other ones as well.

  • I’ll assume there was an Acceptable Use Policy forbidding the use of a proxy and that the students had agreed (even reluctantly) to abide by the policy in order to use the computers at school. (Was the student, himself, using the proxy at school?)
    I guess, then, the most difficult layer to uncover in this incident is intent. Was the proxy set-up and address distributed for the purpose of bypassing school filters? If intent could not be established, then I personally think the principal may have been out of line by sending the email. The treatment of the student establishing the proxy should be no different than the that of the other students using the proxy (if indeed they were violating AUP).
    While I certainly understand the frustration of operating behind restrictive filters , (see blogpost http://openteachertalk.blogspot.com ), as a teacher, I have resisted setting up a proxy server myself because of the message it might send to my students.

  • Can you check the link Alec? It seems to be bad. Perhaps it’s the connection from here. I tried at school and no dice, from home now and no connection.



  • Cindy Seibel

    This story has the makings of an excellent case study for technology leadership. In addition to exploring the “filter or not” question, the various action strategies can be explored and discussed, along with the role of the teacher.

  • Sapere Aude

    Just thought I’d share an anecdote… At my school we have a very very good filter, if something is blocked there is almost no way around it except a teacher override but that takes about 20 minutes and never quite works properly. So since the computers are completely locked down, no execution of new programs by anyone but the IT guy you would think we were completely ‘safe’ inside are bubble, right? Not quite, the two largest ISPs in the area set up huge wireless networks that canvas most of the school grounds that their customers can access for free, and uncensored. Now think about it, which group of people at the school all have WiFi enabled cell phones and don’t have their own computers at school, and therefore bring their own. Ding Ding Ding that’s right, the students. So now we have blocking software that is so restrictive you can’t look up anything at all, and costs several grand a year to subscribe to, for the teachers and those less fortunate kids who don’t have their own laptops, everyone else just uses their own. It just shows that there is no such thing as truly blocking and even the stupid internet usage forms are useless since we are neither on their computers nor using their internet…