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Students and Teachers Protest Limits on Web Access

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 07:25 AM

The New York City public schools are closed Thursday, to allow staff members and students time to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. L'Shana Tova to all.

In the news:

Students and teachers at Junior High School 127 in the Bronx sent more than 60 e-mails to the Department of Education on Wednesday to protest a block on personal blogs and social media sites.

The protest was related to the first Banned Websites Awareness Day, a new twist on Banned Books Week, that annual protest of censorship mounted by the American Association of School Librarians. An article by Winnie Hu in The New York Times looks at other student protests across the country.

Carl Harvey, the librarian association’s president, said that as more schools have embraced online technologies, there has been growing concern over schools that block too much of the Internet. Deven Black, a librarian at J.H.S. 127, said that filters had also blocked a range of useful Web sites.

“Our job is to teach students the safe use of the Internet. And it’s hard to do that if we can’t get to the sites,” Mr. Black said.

But some school leaders and education advocates have argued that the Internet can be a distraction in the classroom, and that blocking social media is also a way to protect students from bullying and harassment at school.

What do you think? Respond to our query below.

Also in the news:

The issue of school buses for middle school students, which has incited parents on Staten Island, has now erupted in Queens. Parents in northeastern Queens are angry that they were not informed about a change in busing that left some students at J.H.S. 194 William Carr stranded, The Queens Gazette reports.

With the help of City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, parents have been trying to obtain variances for their children to ride city buses. The article says:

In transit-underserved northeast Queens, the lack of a school bus has forced many kids to take three M.T.A. buses to travel just over a mile from College Point to Whitestone. A ride that takes only a few minutes via school bus turns into an hour-and-a-half-long trek.

"We can't expect junior high school students to make two bus transfers to get to school every morning," Halloran said. "It's not safe, and it's not fair to them. These are 11-year old kids."

Mr. Halloran wants a change in state law that would require New York City to provide school buses for all third to eighth graders who live more than a mile from their school.

Also in Queens, a member of a parent council quit in disgust, complaining that the councils are just "window dressing" that provide no real voice for parents to influence Department of Education policies, Gotham Schools reports.

The parent, Brian Rafferty, a member of the Community Education Council for District 24, wrote a letter of protest to Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. The Gotham Schools post includes the letter of resignation.

And if you are looking for a college bargain for your high school student, The Times reports that Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., is offering its top applicants two-thirds off the price of tuition which amounts to a $21,000 discount.

Speaking of college, President Obama offered some words of encouragement to high school students in Washington on Wednesday.

“I want all of you to set a goal to continue your education after you graduate,” Mr. Obama said to students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington. “And if that means college for you, just getting into college isn’t enough. You also have to graduate.

“Our country used to have the world’s highest proportion of young people with a college degree,” the president said. “We now rank 16th. I don’t like being 16th; I like being No. 1.”

Looking ahead:

Inside Schools has a reminder that now is the time to sign up your kindergarten through third grader for testing for the city's gifted and talented programs. The post includes important dates, advice on the application process and a calendar of information sessions.

In response to the accusations that seven students at Great Neck North High School on Long Island cheated on their SATs , the Learning Network has this question for students:

Do You Know People Who Cheat on High-Stakes Tests?

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