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FCC Reviewing School Internet-Safety Rules

If you're among those who wonder how the powers that be come up with policies that don't seem to reflect the needs and challenges of educators and students, here's another chance to put in your two cents on critical ed-tech guidelines. The Federal Communications Commission is accepting comments on its proposed revisions to the E-rate program, which are intended to align current regulations with the Internet-safety provisions of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act.

The proposal calls for new certification requirements for elementary and secondary schools that have Internet access and receive E-rate discounts. Currently, schools and libraries participating in the E-rate program have to certify that they have Internet-safety policies in place and block pornography and other content that could be harmful to children. Local officials would be able to decide which materials need to be blocked.

The revised plan would also require that "a school's Internet-safety policy must include educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social-networking Web sites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response," according to the FCC's notice of proposed rule-making. Schools would also be required to enforce the provisions, and to allow materials to be unblocked for adult use for research and other lawful purposes.

The proposal also includes some clarification of the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, including definitions of terms like "Internet safety."

Comments can be filed electronically here or here over the next month.

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