Springfield Public Schools Respond to “Misinformation Campaign”

Springfield Public Schools have released a statement about what they term a “misinformation campaign” aimed at the district by the citizen activist group “Citizens Concerned with Tech Disruption In Schools”.

The group has made a number of allegations aimed at the school district, many of which can be seen in an edited YouTube video.

Amino App Store page. Click to enlarge.

At least one claim in the video is demonstrably false, such as one claim that an app called “Amino” is “guised as a writing app for kids.” The app is actually a social networking app for users with interests ranging from anime to basketball to music; nothing on the app’s website mentions the app being for children.

Also, if you look at the App Store description for Amino (shown right), there is nothing mentioned about it being a writing app for children.

The district’s statement says that the false information being pushed on social media “only harm the important work on behalf of our students.”

The entire statement released by the district is below:

Dear SPS Community:

The district is aware of misinformation regarding cybersecurity that has been shared among staff, through social media, and in the community – specifically in regard to the use of the SPS Google Drive and web filtering of inappropriate content. We have thoroughly investigated each allegation brought to our attention by those who continue to raise questions, cooperated fully with law enforcement in its separate investigation, engaged with technology consultants who help maintain and enhance our information systems, and participated in numerous conversations to listen and to provide information. The result of that extensive work has led to a consistent, definitive conclusion:

  • SPS data systems remain safe and secure.
  • SPS web filtering is robust and consistent with other school districts. SPS contracts with Securly, the chosen filtering provider for more than 1,000 school districts across the country. With 30,000 devices utilized system-wide, the SPS Information Technology department averages two reports of concerning content per week and takes appropriate action immediately.
  • Web filtering must continually be updated to remain effective and feedback from parents and staff is critical. When issues are brought to our attention, they are immediately addressed with notification of resolution provided to the individuals affected.
  • SPS is not collecting personal information on our servers beyond the appropriate staff and student details provided to the district.
  • No data breach has been identified within the SPS system.
  • SPS has and will continue to support investigations into cybersecurity concerns.
  • SPS works to regularly monitor, evaluate and update our procedures and information systems.
  • SPS knows that ongoing training is essential to protecting the security of each individual and the district-at-large. Over the past three years, SPS has and will continue to train both staff and students regarding how to be responsible digital citizens.

We are disappointed that this misinformation campaign continues. Rumors and falsehoods only harm the important work on behalf of our students. We want to assure you: We believe in the integrity, safety and security of our information technology systems, and we will always be vigilant in protecting the best interests of SPS students and constituents. We are committed to ensuring the information of those we serve is safe and secure. Cybersecurity and digital citizenship have been an ongoing focus for SPS. That important work helps ensure a safe environment for both staff and students. In addition to those ongoing efforts, the following additional priorities have been identified:  

  • Information Security Officer: The district has an Information Security Officer position. There are two primary goals of this position: 1. To provide education to district staff about protecting digital identity and information security, and 2. To continuously monitor and implement best practices within the Information Technology department.
  • Ongoing Web Filtering: Web filtering is a requirement of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). To be eligible for federal E-Rate reimbursement, the district must utilize a CIPA compliant web filter that monitors the online activities of minors and blocks or filters access to content harmful to minors. As previously mentioned, all district devices are filtered 24/7 with Securly, used by more than 1,000 school districts nationwide. Regardless of what wireless network a student is connected to, their internet is filtered and monitored by Securly. This resource filters specific categories, such as pornography or violence, and allows SPS to block specific websites that have been identified by our staff as inappropriate.
  • Internal Phishing Campaign: Billions of spam emails are sent every day and phishing is a technique used to steal information. This school year, the Information Technology department has partnered with KnowBe4, a cybersecurity education company, to perform internal phishing campaigns to determine the baseline of how many staff members are prone to phishing attacks. Beginning this month, we will provide educational videos to our staff regarding the impact of phishing and ways they can prevent themselves and the system from exposure. You can learn more about phishing via this great list, compiled by KnowBe4 here.

Effective use of technology in education is a critical part of preparing students – both for a rapidly changing workforce and for a higher education experience. SPS will continue to provide safe and effective information technology resources to students in order to equip them to meet the educational and work demands of the 21st century. In fact, the work to provide technology to each student as part of their educational experience is not unique to SPS. There are many neighboring districts within our immediate region and across the state that also prioritize this learning strategy and millions of students nationwide use Chromebooks and iPads in the classroom, along with related technology. This work to prepare students requires us to cooperate as part of a community committed to quality education. As our partners in education, your input and ongoing feedback are key to ensuring that the best interests of our students are protected. Finally, we urge you to utilize these resources to help answer any additional questions:

  1. Security Checkup
  2. Privacy Checkup
  • Control, Protect & Secure Your Account, All in One Place: Google Account

Most importantly, we are committed to the safety and security of our students and staff. We are also committed to providing assistance and support in a timely manner. If you ever have a concern regarding technology, please report it immediately to our Information Technology Help Desk at helpdesk@spsmail.org.

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