New policies patronize

Updates to school, district damage more than defend
Wouldnt you like to know what we made for this feature image? Me too. Seriously, this is the icon students see when an image is blocked under school Wi-Fi. Graphic by Sophie Leung-Lieu.
Wouldn’t you like to know what we made for this feature image? Me too. Seriously, this is the icon students see when an image is blocked under school Wi-Fi. Graphic by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

The notion that our school has become increasingly more crowded is a well-documented one; student population records and the observable discomfort of navigating the halls during the passing period are indicative of this issue. However, what seems to have gone unnoticed by the majority of the campus’ population is how claustrophobic things are getting in other ways, outside of the main thoroughfare. 

These lurking concerns follow two avenues for inspection, namely the restrictions imposed by the recently installed fence on the Southern side of campus and the image censorship implemented on school computers, respectively. While they provide the illusion of servicing the student body, their true effects lie with their unintended deception, their proverbial tentacles slowly coiling around our throats with our knowing consent.

Approving a tall, imposing, pseudo-gothic fence such as the one we now find ourselves with makes our school, which I believe intends to present itself as a positive, welcoming, environment, appear to be much more menacing than many would presumably like. 

To begin with the fence-shaped elephant in the room (or rather, surrounding it), we must understand the initial purpose of the installation’s construction. Presumably, the motive behind the development was to prevent intruders from entering school grounds. Regardless, this explanation raises more questions than answers.

Given the fence project is to be expanded upon following the collective campus modernization effort included on the famous AISD bond, then why not hold off on implementing the entire fence until this change is finished? The area where the fencing is mainly concentrated is under no unique threat of trespassing as far as I, and undoubtedly many others, are aware. What was so pressing about that single stretch of campus that drove such an urgent, premature security update? Even if it was able to be done without interfering with future construction, that’s hardly a reason to split what would have been one job into two. Without a formal heads-up, this peculiar placement has created confusion that could easily have been avoided with more intuitive planning.

Needless to say, even if vandals and other dour individuals were intent on getting onto the campus, there are still readily visible areas where they can do so, such as the walkways that lead from the street to the band and athletics buildings and the one which leads to the 130-hallway and the middle courtyard, not to mention the massive gap in the fence itself between the portables and the English wing. 

Also, approving a tall, imposing, pseudo-gothic fence such as the one we now find ourselves with makes our school, which I believe intends to present itself as a positive, welcoming, environment, appear to be much more menacing than many would presumably like. 

The fence’s existence is additionally somewhat of a silent admission of defeat, as it is effectively a monument to the failure of whatever security precautions were in place previously, as they clearly were not deemed sufficient. What’s more, on top of all of this, this security addition may, on the contrary, be more likely to harm the people it has been designed to protect.

Those who participated in September’s evacuation drill on the Southern end of campus may have noticed a concerning detail regarding the new so-called “security measure:” the aforementioned gap in the gate that serves as an access point to the campus creates a physical bottleneck, where it took somewhere between five and ten minutes for the cluster of several hundred students, which I myself was a part of, to reach the gate, let alone exit through it. Had this been an actual emergency, such as a fire, dozens could have been injured, or worse–killed in the blockage, that is, if a stampede doesn’t arise, in which case the potential casualties could be even higher.

Currently this issue only exists on one end of the school, but considering administrative plans to soon create more fencing of this type, I must strongly recommend that they reconsider their campus defense strategy.

Currently this issue only exists on one end of the school, but considering administrative plans to soon create more fencing of this type, I must strongly recommend that they reconsider their campus defense strategy. There’s little excuse for such oversights other than negligence of these issues during the design phase, conjuring an irony almost palpable.

However, violations of student freedom don’t end there; since about the beginning of the school year, it would appear as though school computers’ software has been updated to include online security measures regarding images. In other words, if you look up a topic, pictures that fall into certain blacklisted categories will be censored by a circular “no” sign superimposed over a dreary gray rectangle.

And this is where my frustration becomes several degrees more acute.

While the implementation of the new fencing around campus contains several notable contradictions to the school’s goals, they are fairly intangible; it’s not like a fire or other threat is constantly bearing down our necks. But in a learning environment, which over the past couple decades has been slowly becoming more and more reliant on the internet for both research and general workplace function, having free access to information is paramount.

Now sure, most forms of social media have always been blocked, even when on one’s own personal device, when connected to the school Wi-Fi network. While this is no doubt considered an unfair policy by some, it is rarely a hindrance to learning and can always be circumvented with a cellular connection anyways.

Images, on the other hand, if normally available on Google, are posted with the intent to be freely provided to all internet users, or at least as a preview with some sites. The district’s censorship, inversely, shows a distrust with students, that they do not believe we are suited to view certain things they deem inappropriate for the school environment, even if the search engine’s official moderators say otherwise. As someone who will be old enough to vote in the next election, I find this especially insulting. 

In a learning environment, which over the past couple decades has been slowly becoming more and more reliant on the internet for both research and general workplace function, having free access to information is paramount.

Say I want to research a contentious topic that will play a key role in my decision of political candidates in 2024, and I just happen to only have access to a device that is property of AISD. Inevitably, I’m met with a picture that people who I’ve never met have decided is unsuitable for me. It’s ridiculous, not quite a violation of my civil liberties, but insulting to my maturity nonetheless. 

If I’m old enough to be tried as an adult in court, I’d like to be treated like one. It’s understandable to censor obscene or controversial images to elementary and middle schoolers, but I’d like to think I’ve been around long enough to decide my own limits. It makes no sense at all why computers provided to high schools cannot have separate rules regarding censorship than those offered to lower levels of education. And circling back to the fence, a less perilsome and subtle one, or perhaps even upgrades to the actual building entrances, would have sufficed, say administering student IDs that are the only way unlock the doors from both sides, like many teachers possess to some extent, although not only am I not a logistics expert who can realistically determine the cost of such a thing, but it seems this is a ship that has sailed already anyway.

It’s difficult to argue against restrictions based on our age without coming off with an irksomely angsty “I’m not a kid, anymore, Mom,” vibe, but there is an awfully condescending tone to all of this. Having some figure or group of figures spontaneously decide what I can and cannot see or do is beyond uncalled for, and such regulations should be left to the actual children, who would benefit from such a thing. As it stands right now, though, I’ve got to make a request: administrators, if you’re gonna be this difficult, at least be discrete about it.

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  • P

    Pablo ArteagaJan 16, 2024 at 3:42 pm

    It’s not just images that are getting censored- it seems that JavaScript and CSS gets disabled on some websites, completely breaking them, and some sites are just blocked entirely. This happens to sites that have nothing wrong with them and have never been flagged before, and hinders school assignments that require research and sources. This AI filter was completely unnecessary, especially for high schoolers. I’ve never experienced this level of censorship until this.

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  • E

    EzJan 11, 2024 at 2:28 pm

    I remember watching a steam by failboat, it was kirby, but to hit anything you had to get a ai to identify said enime, If a ai cant tell the differnece between waddle dee and Purple squirtle, how can it tell what is “to mature”. Part of me just thinks it’s a show mostly random, just to keep the district paying

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  • R

    RowanDec 13, 2023 at 1:35 pm

    I have also been curious about why the fence is up. It doesn’t make a lot of sense why the fence is up in that place. It might be to make it look like there is more security than there actually is. But overall it does nothing and is unnecessary. It just causes confusion.

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  • A

    Avi ZeifmanDec 13, 2023 at 8:38 am

    The image censorship is high school is what gets me. Teachers are able to speak about less and less as new restrictions are placed. Now more than ever, students should be able to explore to world on their own. I feel grateful to have my own devices and access to internet separate from that of AISD’s. Changing things just to change them doesn’t mean anything. It feels so heartless. You worded this so well.

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  • A

    ABDec 12, 2023 at 5:17 pm

    super duper well written and insightful!! fully agree with everything you said!

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