CIPA: Its Impact on Schools

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The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) came into effect in 2000 and is focused on preventing children’s access to harmful or obscene content over the internet. This act imposes specific requirements on schools that receive discounts for internet access through the E-rate program. Its guidelines are centered on internet filtering and internet safety policy. The CIPA requires the following:

  • Filtering must be provided for all computers used by staff, patrons and students.
  • Filtering will be disabled only for lawful purposes, such as bona fide research.
  • Minors will be educated, supervised and monitored with reference to safe online activities. This includes instant messaging, chat rooms and email.
  • Unauthorized online access is prohibited.
  • Dissemination of personal identification information is prohibited.
  • The school’s internet safety policy must be adopted with notice and one public hearing.

Solutions for CIPA Compliance

CIPA

In order to comply with CIPA, school districts must implement a device or software to block child pornography, obscene images and visual depictions that are harmful to minors. The law is clear that technology protection measures must be applied to all computers. For compliance with CIPA, schools can install web-filtering software to filter internet access to inappropriate content and images, monitor students’ online activities and address safety concerns when minors use chat rooms and email. Firewallsoftware helps thwart hacking and the leakage of personal information.

CIPA does not mandate the type of web content filter that must be implemented. This is left to the discretion of the school or library. It can be hardware, software or cloud-based. And if a school has Wi-Fi, using cloud services is a good solution. It offers no restriction on the number of devices that can access the internet, there are no needed software installations and has central management of the web content filter. It’s a scalable solution for schools of all sizes. CIPA does not stipulate the type of software or strategy used for compliance, so it’s up to the districts’ administrators. Every year, CIPA-covered educational institutions must prove they are compliant and must be able to certify that they have Internet filtering solutions in place for all internet-enabled computers.

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