Editorial – Barracuda Web Blocker

Mikey Capobianco, News Editor

Due to the pandemic and the long-standing desire for paperless classrooms, more and more elements of the school day are being switched to an online format.  As a result, students spend more time on computers now than ever before, with teachers implementing online articles, videos, and other forms of digital media in their daily lesson plans.  However, this emphasis on technology in the classroom has been made difficult by the Barracuda software placed on Portnet Google accounts, which blocks certain websites, restricting students’ access to many sources that they rely on for homework and other assignments.  The blocking software used by the school district had good intentions, but creates many issues for students and should ultimately be removed.

For instance, YouTube videos that teachers upload to Google Classroom for students to watch in class are blocked indiscriminately, even those that do not feature inappropriate content.  Since students cannot access these videos, they cannot participate in the lesson and are forced to wait until they get home to watch them. 

Another way the blocking software hinders students’ capabilities is by restricting certain websites that contain valuable information, which can help them successfully finish assignments.  Students who are confused by math, history, or science assignments, may try to look up supplementary information online, only to find the resources blocked, which causes unnecessary stress and wasted time.  

The superfluous blocking of websites was further exemplified by a week in Sept. when virtually every website was blocked by Barracuda.  Even the Portnet website has been blocked at times, which is highly ironic and a major inconvenience for students and teachers searching for information about news in the district.  If the Barracuda blocking software was removed or scaled back, Schreiber students would have an easier time completing assignments in class and a broader range of articles and videos to enrich their educational experiences with.

Opponents of this removal will rightly point out that safety and security are a priority when it comes to students using the Internet; there are risks of malicious viruses that can come with one click on a wrong website, and protection against these viruses is understandably important.  However, the reality is that current high school students have been using the Internet for years; as the Barracuda software only applies to a small window of students’ time online, Schreiber should emphasize instructing students to stay safe on their own, rather than blocking a large swath of harmless articles.

High school students will see better academic outcomes if they are given more opportunities online to research information and successfully do independent work in class. The Barracuda software has caused inconvenience and vexation for students, and it would be better for the student body if it was limited or removed altogether.