School blocking system overly restrictive

Monica Reida/Staff Writer
Like a good journalist, I always research my articles before writing them. But one day, I went searching for information for an article on upcoming plays in Eastern Iowa, and I typed in the address for Theatre Cedar Rapids and received a screen telling me the website was blocked. I typed it in again with the same result.
I then went to the website for the Black Hawk Children’s Theatre only to receive the same result.
My anger had climaxed. Earlier, I had suffered the same frustrations with Twitter and several blogs suddenly being blocked. Although I could understand Twitter being blocked due to it’s frequent classification as a “social networking site”(despite the number of CFHS students using the website), the other websites baffled me. For example, the arts blog written primarily by Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout was blocked.
This is an unrealistic action by the Cedar Falls Community School District and AEA 267, not just for journalism students but for all of the students.
I can understand the blocking of Facebook and MySpace; personal information is frequently shared and both can be sources of bullying, explicit content and time wasters. But while blogs and Twitter are frequently considered to be social networking websites, they are ultimately a class all their own. Many blogs, mainly those on Blogspot, Typepad and WordPress, are a source of discussion or a prompt for the discussion of current events. Many blogs will have news and are ultimately harmless.
To liken Twitter to its rogue counterparts is extreme. All Twitter is is a listing of short thoughts by the user and other users. Maybe a short bio, a link to the user’s website and a userpic. There are no phone numbers, no home addresses, no lewd pictures. Just words.
News sources have taken to using Twitter. The New York Times, Variety, BBC World News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch are all using Twitter for short newsfeeds. Individual journalists even use it. In fact, when the plane went down in the Hudson River, Twitter updates were up quicker than a story on the New York Times’ website.
Blogs are being kept by professional journalists and are frequently linked from the websites for the newspapers or television stations they work for. From the major newspapers to even tiny newspapers such as the Waterloo Courier, there are journalists writing even tiny news briefs on a blog.
Blogging and Twitter have just become the latest phase in the evolution of journalism, and the blocking of Twitter, un-obscene blogs and websites is a totalitarian move on the part of the Cedar Falls Community School District and AEA 267. Not only does it make the jobs of the Tiger Hi-Line staff harder, but it also keeps the students from knowing the news.
What is an even better question is why isn’t YouTube blocked? I’m sure that there is actual content on there that parents would object to.
It is one thing to block a website due to perverse content, which has a different definition in everyone’s mind. It is a different thing to block informative, intelligent websites. Such an act borders on censorship.
If anything, the district needs to change this for the journalism department to make the job of the Hi-Line staff easier.
It would be nice if they also made this even throughout the high school. It would be also nice if the websites were consistantly blocked or unblocked. But the school district is probably too busy to be consistant.

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