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CIPA Compliance – What Does It Mean?

written by paul bush posted on September 12, 2018

Schools and libraries applying for E-rate technology funding discounts must be CIPA Compliant. CIPA stands for the Children’s Internet Protection Act and mandates that if an institution is receiving a discount for network and network-adjacent services, then it must develop a protocol for use of these services by minors. Further, CIPA stipulates that the public must be notified that the district, school, or library is going to be developing an internet safety protocol, and offer a public hearing before developing the protocol (again with adequate notice to the public ahead of time).

CIPA Education

The E-Rate discount applies to:

  • Data Transmission Services and Internet Access
  • Voice Services
  • Internal Connections
  • Managed Internal Broadband Services
  • Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections

It does not apply to funding the actual computers, VoIP phones, software, or any other devices that use the above telecommunication services.

Eligible institutions or educational consortiums accepted into the program will receive need-based discounts of between 20-90% off of the costs for the above-mentioned services.

CIPA Compliance Overview

Before implementing an internet use policy, schools, and libraries have to provide reasonable notice to their learning communities that they’re going to be putting one together. Additionally, they must hold at least one public hearing where citizens may ask questions or register concerns.

Lastly, the policy must include two certification requirements: online protection of minors such as filters that can block out objectionable content, and they must include a plan to educate minors on internet safety, cyberbullying, “Netiquette” and more.

The 2011 update also notes that public libraries are not subject to CIPA compliance.

Additionally, schools and libraries have to put into their policy:

  • Education on safe direct-link contacts such as email or chat.
  • Unauthorized access like hacking perpetrated by minors and other unlawful acts committed by minors using school devices or using internet services on school property.
  • Unauthorized access, dissemination of, or use of minors’ personal information including grades, addresses, medical alerts, etc.
  • Restrict minor children’s ability to access potentially harmful material.

Here is an example of a CIPA Compliance Contractor used by Walled Lake Consolidated Schools in Walled Lake, Michigan.

Adults on Campus

Adults using the internet for appropriate, necessary means are permitted to remove filters blocking access to necessary websites and programs. Adults are also not subject to internet tracking.

Who Determines What Materials Are Appropriate?

Local and state authorities determine what content is appropriate or inappropriate. Further, the blocking of entire social networking sites such as Facebook is not required per CIPA, though individual instances of objectionable or mature content should be filtered out.

Important Additions to CIPA as of 2011

E-rate finding discount recipients must develop and implement a workable strategy for protecting minors and their information, and for educating minor students in how to properly present and protect themselves online.

Schools must provide lessons in “Netiquette” and direct communication (e.g., chat sessions, email) safety education for minors using the internet on school property or with school devices.

What About BYOT/BYOD?

The biggest wrench in the works after funding issues is the BYOD/BYOT phenomenon. It’s natural to allow students to bring in their own devices. It takes care of a few problems regarding access and funding. Plus it reduces the amount of class time needed to train students on an unfamiliar device since they are using their own devices. However, the problems that Bring Your Own Device programs include far outweigh the benefits.

What Is Due Diligence On The Educator’s Part?

Really, the same tried-and-true methods that caught kids with comics or Playboys behind their textbooks still work today. Move around the room as you would for any other group activity or quiet study time, and make your presence known.

Screen mirroring works too and has the added bonus of allowing you to pretend that you’re a TSA agent or mall security officer. It does not allow for classroom management best practices, however, since the instructor may be glued to the screen too closely. It also opens teachers up to liability regarding students’ privacy since a distracted teacher may leave a mirrored workspace screen unattended, giving someone else an opportunity to access student work.

Going back to BYOD, which almost certainly would not be mirrored, students may use a personal broadband or other mobile networks to get around filters. Of course, it would be a violation of not only CIPA-related policies but likely policies already on the books in just about every school district. The best protection is to have a clear, promulgated policy in place that spells out expectations as well as consequences for violations of the policy.

Personal use on a private network also does not currently fall under CIPA’s scope, nor is there any reason to think that it ever would, since CIPA compliance relates to use of school network services and devices. Making the access to restricted materials difficult, expensive, or extremely inconvenient will naturally cut down on the number of people trying to do so.

Last Word – “The Spirit Of CIPA”

Due to the nature of technological innovation today, there are going to be instances of uncertainty. If you “keep in the spirit of CIPA,” you should be all right. Districts developing their policies should make it clear that students and educators failing to make a good faith effort to remain in compliance put funding and the safety of minors at risk, therefore violations will have consequences. It should not be too difficult to uphold the spirit of the CIPA since CIPA guidelines line up faithfully with the goals of all educators: to provide a secure learning environment for students.

The next E-Rate training webinar is Wednesday September 19, 2018 and it takes educators through the invoicing process.


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