Laptop restrictions taking the ‘T’ out of STEM

School district’s harsh policy making it harder for students to use laptops


Yen Nguyen

Sophomore Isaiah-James Draculan tries to access YouTube on his laptop while doing work in his Mandarin 3 class on Oct. 27. Despite being a popular resource for students, the website is restricted on campus.

Mauricio Vasquez, Staff Reporter

Cleveland has supplied students with laptops since the 2009-10 school year, and each year, the security measures placed on the laptops have become increasingly restrictive. This year, the laptops have reached the point where many students see them as nothing more than typewriters that occasionally connect to the Internet.

As students first booted up their laptops in late September, they soon realized the school district had implemented harsher restrictions. Students couldn’t download the Google Chrome search engine or customize their backgrounds. Other sites like YouTube, The New York Times and other news sites were blocked, along with science-related sites and games.

“Not being able to use certain websites like YouTube is annoying,” complained Ethan Brown, a junior. “It’s just ‘Clean Search.’”

Brown said he used to use certain sites every day, but he’s in awe of how restricted the laptops are this year. Having the laptops restrictions follow students home is new to the experience.

Junior Duy Nguyen said the district could offer students a little more freedom and relax the rules a bit so students can customize their laptops.

“I feel oppressed when I use my laptop because I literally can’t do anything but use Google Doc.”

The laptops have become so restrictive that some students have decided to bring their own.

“Last year, I did have a laptop, but I bought a new laptop because I wasn’t able to do anything at home with my school laptop,” said Louis Lock, a sophomore.

Students who choose to use their own device are not given the same benefits as students who use the laptop provided by the school. They cannot receive tech support or insurance. They also run the risk of having their laptops stolen, for which the school is not liable.

Many students have wrongly blamed Patrick Yolian, Cleveland’s technology support specialist, for these changes, but as Yolian doesn’t make the rules. He only follows the guidelines handed down by Seattle Public Schools.

“I wish that the district wasn’t so strict on things that you guys can see on the Internet, like YouTube,” he said.

Yolian is working to fix certain restrictions, like allow students to change backgrounds, but the district implemented stronger security protocols over the summer that are hard to get around.

“All the laptops got re-imaged this year, which means every single laptop got updated to Windows 10, and the district … is being more strict with what students can and can’t do,” he said.

Yolian said allowing kids to change their background is one of the things he is working on, but he’s not in a hurry to do that just yet.

“It’s low on my priority right now [because] it’s not going to improve your performance,” Yolian said. “It’s mostly just a cosmetic thing.”

Yolian said changes likely won’t happen until the first break of the year when students are gone and he can test different features.

Students have claimed these new laptop restrictions are the reason there has been an influx of slow-running software, but Yolian said the problem can be fixed by students. If a student is experiencing a lag in software, they should go to the Software Center on their computer and delete unused files.

“When you log on to the Internet, you don’t directly connect to the Internet; you join a server that loads up everything you’ve done since middle school while you try to connect to the Internet,” Yolian said. He also explained that some lagging is to be expected in a school where nearly everyone uses the Internet at the same time.

For students or staff members who were having trouble using Firefox or Internet Explorer at home, the issue can be resolved by using Google Chrome. The web browser can be found in the Software Center, and students simply need to sign out then sign back in while on the CHS campus to fix the file access problem.

So, if Yolian isn’t in charge of the web filter, who is? Angie Martinez, an SPS network analyst and supervisor handles that.

Martinez explained that the sites that get blocked are determined based on the categorization of the site.

“A group of librarians and tech leaders meet to determine which categories should be blocked and allowed for different groups of people,” Martinez said. “Most often the categorization is accurate, but occasionally it’s not. In that case I contact the vendor to request re-categorization.”

When asked why YouTube, one of the most popular resources for students, was restricted, Martinez explained that it has to do with the YouTube channel categories, not the site itself.

“It has to do with how YouTube categorizes strict safe search content,” she said. “If it’s safe content, we allow it for students.”

Martinez said staff can request a site be opened regardless of categorization by creating a service ticket or by emailing [email protected]