Securly at CHS
October 27, 2022
Seen this picture too many times? It is Securly’s trademark symbol for when a student goes on a school-blocked website.
The Prospector interviewed three CHS students, Assistant Principal George Bechara and Network Support Specialist Kyle Le to learn more about Securly’s intended and actual impact on the student body.
STUDENT CONCERNS & THOUGHTS:
What is your opinion on Tino’s implementation of Securly, and why?
Anonymous #1: My opinion on Securly is that it’s too intruding and it’s just too controlling. It just has too much access to your information.
What kind of websites has Securly blocked you from viewing?
Anonymous #2: As I said before, it’s more like, like on my phone for example, it’s not like I’m going to take out my computer every single time if I want to search up the law of cosines right […] And plus, for AP CS and stuff, we use Discord, and it doesn’t work on my phone and I get notifications on my phone. [My phone] doesn’t work on school wifi and then when I’m at lunch, if I want to watch some YouTube video or some sport that’s streaming, it doesn’t work either.
What do you wish could be changed about Securly?
Anonymous #1: The whole idea of it existing should change. We don’t need that much security. At a high school level, we’re pretty mature, like we don’t need that much intrusion.
Anonymous #2: Everything. But it’s more like, it should only access a certain web browser that you’re using on your computer or only when it’s on school wifi; if they’re not able to do that, then we should just not use it. Or they should connect it to your Google account, so whenever you’re on that Google account, it should only be activated then. Or like in this range of locations or something. Otherwise, if I go home or if I go back to India or something, if I’m on vacation, if Securly goes like “No no no!”, I’m like, bro.
If you dislike Securly, what do you propose or think would work better to address these school concerns?
Jai Nair (10): On school WiFi, I think teachers should be able to see at least what you’re doing on Safari. I think they should let you search the thing up, if it’s like [an inappropriate book title involving killing, for example]. But then if it says what website you’re going on, if it’s a website that actually teaches you to kill people then it should be flagged, but [if not, then let them through unflagged].
ADMIN/TECH TEAM RESPONSE:
What is the purpose of Securly / What does it do?
George Bechara: Securely is web-filtering software that we use to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act. The technology resources of the Fremont Union High School District are partially funded by federal government funds, which requires that we comply with CIPA since we are a school district and most of our students are minors. We also have the responsibility to ensure that students are protected from obscene, pornographic, threatening content that would be construed as harassment or disparaging based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Kyle Le: The purpose is for spam, because we get a lot of spam. […] When you download Securly, it’s just telling us that you’re a friend, and that it’s okay to let you through. If it finds something you shouldn’t be on, then it won’t let you through to see [that website].
Was Securly tested before its implementation? For how long?
George Bechara: I would have to check with our tech department and district office on that. But if you’re wondering like, do we trust that it works? Yes, we do. We do trust that it works. […] But are we worried that it’s not going to block something that shouldn’t be blocked? I haven’t heard about those worries, because I’m hearing that it works quite well to block what we need it to block.
Kyle Le: Yeah, they [tested] it at the district office first.
What problems or situations have occurred in past years that warranted for the use of Securly?
George Bechara: I’m not sure about specifics, but we’ve had issues with some websites that students can be visiting that are not school appropriate websites. So Securely, in that regard, ensures that these websites are blocked. And we can get the report about anything that students are trying to visit that they shouldn’t be visiting, as well. So that’s another thing that students should be aware of and we make that quite known when we do the school culture presentations at the beginning as school to let you guys know anything that you do on school computers, using school internet, it’s something that we can track.
Kyle Le: [Securly] is preventative, because if it gets to one school, our network is based in the district office. You can think of it like a spiderweb. So the middle of the spiderweb is our district, and the arms are the school sites, the five school sites. So if one of them gets infected, it goes back to the main one, and when it goes back to the main one, everybody is going to get infected.
What service was there for school internet safety before Securly?
George Bechara: We did have some firewalls for things, but I’m not exactly sure like the names of the products. But absolutely, there were things that were blocked. Certain extensions that were blocked that certain things that we knew were bad that were not school appropriate, we blocked things in the past. So this is not new for us, to block certain websites. But now we’re doing it on a much larger scale.
Kyle Le: We did, but that didn’t really work as well, because that was not on our devices. So […] if you [went] to a website or click[ed] something wrong it didn’t go through the filter.
What features are actively being used/monitored?
George Bechara: There will be reports that basically flag certain things. And then I don’t necessarily directly get the report, but I would receive reports if it’s something that is alarming enough for our tech department district office to alert us about and then we would follow up with students so there is a process.
Kyle Le: In terms of privacy, we don’t track anything. It doesn’t do anything else besides filtering what you browse. Say you’re doing research and [you’re clicking on a suggested page]. That page goes through a filter first to verify that this page or website is legit before letting you click on it. And if you do click on it, and it’s bad, there will be a pop-up that says this is not secure, please do not click on it, please close the page right away.
What kind of data is processed by Securly, and how does it determine what websites are school friendly/non-school friendly?
George Bechara: You know, those details I don’t exactly have but let’s say there are things that are phrases that are inappropriate. […] But let’s say things about self harm, harming others. If there’s words like, cheat, or how to, you know, do things that could get us some academic integrity issues. It would flag those like, “copy of paper”, for example. Things like that. It could trigger it and then we would eventually get a report about that.
Kyle Le: [For creating filters], the schools and district sit down and add specific filters also. Just like you were asking about flagging, say somebody is searching for suicide. That will flag right away. Or something about guns or mass shootings, that will be flagged. It will probably let you through, but will flag you. If it goes on for a couple days, it will let us know that [this student] is doing research on hanging [or another inappropriate topic], will flag it, and the district will contact us saying you need to find this student right now.
The filtering is just for blocking purposes. We don’t store, gather information about you or anything. That’s illegal. I don’t know [the specific laws] but I know we cannot gather information on you. […] We just want to make sure [if] there’s a website you shouldn’t be on, you know, according to law, because you guys are under 18, it won’t let you pass through. The district cannot gather information, just like Facebook or Tik Tok, they can’t gather information from you UNLESS you approve that.
Once you get a flag, can you trace it back to the student?
Kyle Le: Yes, so don’t search anything [you shouldn’t be searching].
What are the benefits of Securly compared to other website censoring systems? (Why was Securly, out of many other website censoring systems, chosen?)
George Bechara: I wish I had the answer for you. But if I were to guess, I would say that Securely, because of the way it’s installed, according to my understanding, it tracks. I understand that a lot of us don’t like being tracked online. However, this is a school, and part of our job is to track what students are doing to make sure that we’re educating people appropriately. It’s not necessarily, “we’re just tracking so that way, you know, we’re here to punish students.” That’s never the intent. The intent is to educate students about what they can and can’t be using. Now, certain things could lead to obviously different consequences. I’m not going to share any examples, but the idea behind it is that it’s embedded in our network for students. And if there’s something alarming, we wouldn’t know if it’s concerning, we would still know but it wouldn’t be as urgent. And the final piece of it is according to my understanding, again, it’s that because it’s embedded into our computers and network, it does a better job of filtering. And if you don’t have it, then it’s going to block you from accessing our internet resources as well. […] if somebody is hotspotting here on campus, like a personal hotspot on their phone, obviously, we’re not going to be able to Securely on that, because they’re using their own internet, but it’s falling under that federal funding category like I just explained, then we are responsible for what our students what our students are doing all. So we have to filter in that regard.
Is there any data that shows improvement/success with the technology implemented?
George Bechara: I do not have that. I mean, it’s something that we can look into. But when you’re saying successful data, that’s a pretty big statement for us. And a lot of times in schools things take time. There are always some changes that can change behavior quickly, but things take time. It takes us a while to research and talk to stakeholders to collect data. So to say that something is successful in four weeks, I would not. I would say it’s doing a good job at it but successful with data, I don’t quite have that answer.
Kyle Le: We blocked a lot [of sites] already. Flags […] you guys are pretty good, good students, so far no flags.
Have you received any student feedback about Securly, and what has the general consensus been?
George Bechara: I wouldn’t say I received direct feedback, but I’ve heard kids being irritated with it. Some kids were protesting it. Well, not protesting, protesting is a strong word, but like they’re irritated about it. Protesting as in like, “Why do we have this? Why can’t we get rid of it?” Not protesting as in like, hanging signs, no, not like that, but they’re not happy with it being around. Yes, and like I said, I am sensitive to like, “Wow, we’re being tracked,” but at the same time, kids know they’re being tracked when they’re on campus. I mean, your school email, all that stuff, we could access all that stuff. So it’s good to be aware of that stuff as well. Like if you’re on campus, we are monitoring what you’re doing. It’s our job.
Some students have had concerns about Securly tracking their internet activity and personal messages at home, what would you like to say to them?
George Bechara: I have not heard about anything tracking personal messages. I don’t have any data that we’re tracking personal messages at home. That would be a whole different story. Now, if you’re messaging on a school issued email, yes, that is trackable, regardless of where that’s happening. It could be happening in Australia, for example. I can still track it because it’s happening at your student.fuhsd.org. But once again, that’s different than using WhatsApp or LINE messages or just SMS. We can’t actually track that stuff. […] But that stuff is not designed to promote pornography, hate or anything like that. […] But like I said, I’m not aware of us tracking personal messages.
Kyle Le: It’s only at our sites. So if you have it on your [device], and you go home, it won’t work at home. There’s no tracking at home […], whatever you do at home is basically on you. But when you are on our school site, our network, any school site that you walk to, it will work.
Have you received any teacher feedback about Securly, and what has the general consensus been?
George Bechara: I have not heard anything from teachers.
Kyle Le: Some teachers didn’t understand what was the reason for the whole process and we explained to them and then that was the end of it, they understood.
What possible changes to Securly would the admin team consider implementing in the future?
George Bechara: I’m not sure right now. I’m not sure because we can make changes quite quickly to certain things like what to block or not to block, but for the time being? We blocked things that are reported to us too. We block, like I told you, things that from that primary statement is what we’re concerned with.
Kyle Le: I don’t think there are more add-ons to it […] they have everything they need. [If] society moves forward and something weird [surfaces], they probably will [update filters].
Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the implementation of Securly?
George Bechara: I have nothing further.
Kyle Le: [Not about Securly, but for the lunch line:] Bring your ID to school.