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Statewide content filtering system to better protect students online

 

Delaware families will be able to better protect their students’ online activity thanks to a new statewide content filtering and student safety system.

 

The system, a recommendation of the Delaware Council on Educational Technology, will provide services to all public school students beginning next school year. In addition to blocking student access to inappropriate content, the system also has the ability to detect student safety and self-harm concerns. It will work on school-owned devices regardless of location and on all devices using a school account and/or on school networks.

 

“Whether students are attending class in our school buildings or remotely, technology is an integral part of their learning. This is an important and necessary investment in student safety,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “Although some districts and charter schools have purchased their own limited programs in the past, this statewide system is more comprehensive and will provide all Delaware public school students strong protection while saving schools the local purchase costs.”

 

The Delaware Department of Education has contracted with GoGuardian, a leading education technology company helping K-12 schools maximize the learning potential of every student. Unlike traditional URL and keyword-based filters that sometimes indiscriminately block large portions of the internet from educators and students, Delaware's new filtering system will use advanced AI machine learning, which dynamically updates to help keep up with new and emerging content. The system’s scanning engine will continuously analyze content being created, viewed or shared on school-owned technology, helping to create a safer online experience.

 

Families and school leaders will be able to exert more control if desired. The system includes website categories in which thousands of websites can be instantly blocked by category or subcategory. There also is flexibility if, for example, additional content filtering is desired during certain hours of the day or for different user groups. For example, a school may restrict certain gaming sites during instructional hours only or a school may block some sites for 3rd graders that are permitted for 12th graders.

 

A parent/guardian app also gives families direct access to their students’ device activity and added controls in addition to the baseline policy. Families will have the ability to pause their children's internet access, block specific websites, and schedule internet availability on managed devices during non-school hours. They also have access to reports of student activity on school-managed devices.

 

The system can also alert adults if students are demonstrating at-risk behavior, such as visiting websites related to violence or self-harm. Advanced machine learning algorithms continuously monitor student behavior for inappropriate content or at-risk behavior by actively scanning web pages in real-time and categorizing content by any of the available categories.

 

Capital School District Chief Information Officer Ben Wells was part of a committee of district/charter and state leaders working on the project. Wells also tested the system.

 

“Meeting the needs of the whole child is a top priority within the Capital School District, so we make sure that students are the focus of everything we do. While we had a filtering and student safety system previously, GoGuardian offers many improvements to help address our students’ unique needs and we are looking forward to providing these enhancements to our students, families and staff,” he said.

 

GoGuardian's solutions are part of a $1.6 million content filtering and student safety project. This partnership of the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware Department of Information and Technology (DTI), is funded from Delaware’s federal Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund allocations as provided in the CARES Act.

 

“Whether students are learning online while physically in school or while attending remotely from home, making sure they can do so safely is a priority,” said DTI Chief Information Officer Jason Clarke. “This cloud-based solution will aid schools in serving students by using the modern tools and technologies necessary for learning today. This enterprise service is a cost-effective and scalable solution that makes the functionality available to all districts and charters.”

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006