Time and time again, Calabasas High students are faced with the inconvenience of having an innocent Google search blocked by the infringing Smoothwall system. Smoothwall, a web-filter program embedded into the school’s Internet, has been implemeneted to protect students from inappropriate web content. But while the system proves sufficient for these purposes, it has become a grievance among students—and not just due to the block on recreational sites. The Smoothwall system hinders educational access, promotes ignorance and defies first-amendment rights.
Students consistently have issues accessing educational information due to the Smoothwall filter. The filter blocks controversial searches such as “Roe vs. Wade,” the infamous Supreme Court ruling on abortion, but also blocks google searches of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders,” the nickname for the first United States Volunteer Cavalry, due to “violent content”. Searches such as these ones are for the purpose of education, and the students behind these searches deserve access to the full educational benefits. By blocking access to information, the Smoothwall system contradicts the purpose of a school environment, as students should be able to receive the highest potential level of education.
“Classes can become difficult with the Smoothwall,” said junior Samantha Marmet. “It prevents the research of what is deemed inappropriate for the student audience, but is necessary for a class.”
Blocked Internet access also promotes ignorance among students. Due to Smoothwall restrictions, students miss out on the global controversies present on the Internet and are therefore unable to create their own opinions and take stances on the topics of the world; students then become ill-equipped future members of society. Smoothwall once again creates a contradiction: school environments are supposed to prepare students for their future involvement in the world, not block them from it. Along with this, Smoothwall undermines student health needs by blocking birth control options under the Planned Parenthood website, a health organization dedicated to providing sexual-transmitted disease tests, general checkups and reproductive health services. This block could threaten the health of the young men and women at CHS, as the filtered information could ultimately protect them from harm or provide quality information relevant to their lives.
The Smoothwall system is also blatantly disregarding the rights provided by the first amendment by promoting censorship. By limiting Internet access, Smoothwall is controlling the flow and spread of ideas, ultimately infringing on freedom of speech. Both those who post on the Internet and those who read content on the Internet are affected by Smoothwall, proving that the web filter is not only utilized to protect students from harm on the Internet. Although the implementation of the Smoothwall system is that of good intentions, the negatives of Smoothwall outweigh the positives. Smoothwall blocks access to education, promotes student ignorance and neglects students’ first amendment rights. The system should either be revised or removed in order to stop the hindering of Calabasas students.
–Grace Papish. Photo by Benny Goodman.