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 is a web-filter program implemented in the school’s Internet, intended to protect students from inappropriate web content. While the system proves sufficient for these purposes, it has become a grievance among students—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 searches such as “Roe vs. Wade,” the infamous Supreme Court ruling on abortion, and Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders,” the nickname of the first United States Volunteer Cavalry, due to “violent content.” Searches such as these 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 can promote ignorance among students. Due to Smoothwall restrictions, students miss out on the global controversies present on the Internet. Students are not able to create their own opinions and take stances on the topics of the world, becoming ill-equipped future members of society. Smoothwall creates a contradiction, as school environments are supposed to prepare students for their future involvement in the world. Along with this, Smoothwall allows for the undermining of 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 birth control options. This block threatens 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 the teens’ lives.
The Smoothwall system also blatantly disregards rights provided by the first amendment through censorship. By limiting Internet access, Smoothwall is controlling the flow and spread of ideas, 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 a matter of protecting 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 hindering Calabasas students.
—Grace Papish. Photo by Benny Goodman