School Notes: Silver Spring Student Argues Blocking Facebook Highlights Income Gaps

Plus: MCPS asks website users for input; officials recognize scholarship recipients


From MCPS website

A Silver Spring high schooler is making the case that blocking students’ wireless access to Facebook and Instagram is more than just a social setback.

If you ask Nathaniel Tinbite, the policy is compounding economic disparities.

“This policy only hurts those students who cannot afford expensive data plans,” Tinbite said during a school board meeting Monday night. “If an individual student has a data plan, they can afford to use their phone’s 3G network to access social media instead of using the WiFi. Therefore, these restrictions only hurt disadvantaged students.”

Students can use the wireless network and computers at school, but the system shuts them out of social media sites. Tinbite said that in the past, school technology has given students from less-privileged backgrounds the chance to get on Facebook, like peers with cellphone plans can.

Tinbite, a rising sophomore at John F. Kennedy High School, offered the example of a friend whose mother can’t afford a home computer. During lunch breaks at school, the student used to log onto Facebook to stay updated on his book club. Since the internet blocks went into effect at school last year, the student has lost access to the group chats, he said.

Tinbite asked school board members to consider opening the wireless networks to restore student access to the social sites.

“I fully understand that this is not an enormous, big-picture issue, but that’s exactly why I believe we should address it,” he said.

The point seemed to catch board member Rebecca Smondrowski’s attention; she said she’d been under the impression that students couldn’t get on Facebook or Instagram at school.

Superintendent Jack Smith confirmed that students can reach the sites using their cellphone data.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” Smondrowski told Tinbite.


School system website might get a new look

MCPS is asking for honest opinions on its website.

The office of communications has launched an online survey to help it redesign the home page and other parts of the site. The office is interested in how often people are visiting the page, why they check it and how easy the site is to navigate.

The office also is looking for feedback on the school system’s social media activity.

Here’s a link to the survey.


MCPS seniors rack up more National Merit Scholarships

The MCPS Class of 2017 netted another 22 National Merit Scholarships in the latest round of awards, according to a press release last week.

Altogether, the school system had 66 National Merit Scholarship recipients this year and reported that students earned $350.9 million in college scholarships as of June.

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