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School board discusses internet access

Xavier Smith • Apr 4, 2017 at 3:35 PM

The Wilson County school board discussed the recently eliminated public Wi-Fi access throughout schools Monday, which has caused headache for many parents due to data overage charges.

The board discussed several aspects of student internet access, which included security, oversight and usage.

“As fast as we think we have our arms around protection for kids, we also find that kids are staying two to three steps ahead of us, as far as knowing what’s out there that they can access,” Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright said.

Wright said board member Wayne McNeese relayed concerns highlighted by a concerned parent about the district’s ability to monitor inappropriate material in schools.

Wright also highlighted a recent incident involving a student who attempted – and was nearly successful – to penetrate the district’s open servers and retrieve personal records and information of students and faculty.

She used Mt. Juliet High School, which has 2,200 students, as an example for another issue – bandwidth usage.

“They were picking up Wi-Fi immediately coming into the school and literally draining the bandwidth,” said Wright, who said the district also had no control on material or social media used on students’ personal devices.

Wright said the district made the decision to cut off public Wi-Fi access for students throughout schools.

“Parents immediately became upset because instead of students being on our Wi-Fi to access social media or whatever, they were now having to turn their data plans on and running up charges on their parents’ bill,” she said.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said students could still access district-provided devices, such as ChromeBooks, and schools have enough bandwidth to sustain the devices.

However, she said issues rise when so many students are using personal devices to access the servers at the same time.

Many parents said teachers have asked students to use their own personal data for school assignments, which Johnson and Wright said should never happen and they would investigate any cases of that situation.

“They shouldn’t be requiring it. The schools have the devices and that’s where they should be doing the research,” Wright said.

“We’ve had conversations with our school principals. We did have teachers that did make that request to their class and we’re having a meeting Thursday with our principals to make sure we’re not requiring anything that we cannot have take place in the classroom or so unique they have to use their phones,” she said. 

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