School-issued Chromebooks come with web filtering software like Linewize installed to block inappropriate or distracting content. But students across the country have raised concerns about excessive restrictions impacting their education. Some have explored ways to bypass or disable Linewize in what they‘ve dubbed the "Save Our Schools March." As an education reform expert, I‘ve taken a deep look at Linewize and the broader debates around student internet access. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll cover both sides, provide tech workarounds, and outline the potential consequences students may face.
The Ongoing Tension Over Student Internet Access
Internet access in schools allows immense knowledge and opportunity, but also risks. School districts aim to balance educational value, student safety, and their own interests. Students desire access to information and resources without excessive surveillance. Debates have raged for years over where to draw the lines.
Recent surveys show 64% of students feel school internet filters block useful websites and create an "information gap." But 79% of school IT admins say filters improve student safety and focus. This tension underlies the outcry over restrictions imposed by solutions like Linewize.
On the surface, the "Save Our Schools March" portrays the conflict as students versus schools. But constructive solutions require recognizing the valid concerns on both sides and bringing all stakeholders together. Later in this guide, I‘ll explore balanced approaches. But first, let‘s dive into Linewize itself and what students are up against.
What is Linewize?
Linewize is a cloud-based suite of tools for managing and monitoring school device networks. It enables administrators to:
- Blacklist or whitelist websites and categories
- Set internet access schedules and time limits
- View detailed browsing histories and activity reports
- Suspend or control accounts
- And more…
The company positions their products as ways to create safe, controlled internet environments that reduce distractions and liability for schools. But students have increasingly pushed back against what they see as excessive blocking and surveillance.
To understand this backlash, we need to cover how deeply Linewize integrates with school-issued Chromebooks and networks at multiple levels:
- Device level – Apps are installed directly into the OS and can‘t be easily removed
- User level – Accounts are managed and controlled via Linewize dashboards
- Network level – All traffic is routed through Linewize servers and filters
This degree of control is precisely why fully disabling or removing Linewize poses a major challenge for students, as we‘ll cover next.
Can Students Bypass or Disable Linewize?
The simple answer is no, not without advanced technical skills and administrative access. Still, some methods can provide limited workarounds to briefly bypass filters. But each comes with downsides students should understand before attempting:
Using Incognito Mode
Chrome‘s Incognito mode prevents browsing history from being logged locally. This allows students to access sites that Linewize filters may block.
However, IT admins can disable incognito mode on managed Chromebooks. And browsing activity still passes through network filters where it can be logged and monitored. Students may face questioning about suspicious network traffic.
Connecting to a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) route traffic through remote servers, masking a device‘s real IP address and location. This can allow students to bypass geographic or IP-based filters.
However, many schools explicitly block known consumer VPNs and proxys. Paid VPN services with dedicated IPs can still work but cost money students may not be able to spend. Using consumer VPNs also slows network speeds significantly.
Switching to Linux
Students with advanced technical skills can install Linux operating systems on Chromebooks, bypassing builtin controls. But this requires unlocking the bootloader via Developer Mode, which wipes the local drive. And schools often employ network-level monitoring that will still detect and block forbidden activity.
As you can see, while some limited workarounds exist, fully removing Linewize poses major hurdles. Next we‘ll explore the bigger question – even if students could disable it, should they?
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Student Web Filters
Schools implement solutions like Linewize to regulate internet access for reasons that may be valid. But excessive blocking also carries educational and ethical risks. Evaluating both perspectives leads to more nuanced takes.
Potential Benefits of Limiting Student Web Access
|Improved Safety||Blocking sites with violent, extremist, or sexually explicit content reduces student exposure to dangers. A 2019 study found schools saw a 53% drop in visits to these sites after implementing Securly web filters.|
|Reduced Distractions||Limiting access to entertainment sites and social media during school hours helps students stay focused. A 2020 Linewize study reported 36% higher average weekly learning tool usage with filters in place.|
|Digital Citizenship||Restrictions teach students they don‘t have unfettered internet access and their actions are monitored, just as in workplace environments.|
|Teacher Control||Giving teachers the ability to control and monitor student devices in class aids classroom management.|
However, there are also drawbacks that spark student complaints:
Potential Drawbacks of Limiting Student Web Access
|Information Gaps||Overblocking educational sites and resources deprives students of access to knowledge. For example, LGBTQ support sites are commonly blocked.|
|Privacy Concerns||Deep traffic monitoring and extensive browsing histories stored create unease and distrust among students. There is a lack of transparency around how data is used.|
|Lack of Balance||Students are not learning balanced self-regulation. Excessive blocking teaches obedience rather than responsibility.|
|Inequitable Access||Reliance on filters masks underlying gaps in digital literacy education and equitable internet access outside of school.|
Finding the right balance between protection and freedom remains elusive. Later we‘ll explore approaches to address these issues. First, let‘s look at consequences students may face if they attempt to bypass Linewize.
Potential Consequences of Disabling Linewize
Technically adept students may be tempted to uninstall Linewize just to prove they can. But actions have consequences, both for their education and future. Many of my colleagues have consulted with students who faced severe outcomes:
Account suspension – Administrators can instantly revoke system access, crippling participation in classes. Students have been suspended over simple attempts to delete browser history.
Disciplinary action – Students face reprimands, detention, loss of privileges, or even suspension or expulsion per policy. In 2019, over 2,300 US students were suspended for “technology misuse.”
Police involvement – Tampering with school systems can potentially lead to criminal charges like computer trespassing or unlawful access, harming future prospects.
Increased surveillance – Tampering often leads to increased scrutiny and tracking, limiting all technology access further. Students describe feeling “always watched.”
Lack of support – IT staff won‘t provide support for tampered devices, leaving students unable to do classwork requiring computer access.
Disabling Linewize rarely leads to more freedom. Instead, students end up more restricted and face grave consequences. The risks clearly outweigh any perceived benefits.
Moving Towards Solutions
Rather than attempting to bypass or disable Linewize and other filtering systems, students should pursue proper channels to raise concerns and advocate change. Based on my experience, ideal solutions involve:
Whitelisting more sites – Schools can work with students to ensure access to legitimate research and support resources without allowing free-for-all internet access.
Publishing filter policies – Transparency builds trust. Clear guidelines for internet access helps students understand restrictions.
Teaching digital literacy – Classes focused on internet ethics, security, and self-regulation give students tools to manage their own use.
Student/teacher councils – Giving students a voice in determining web policies prevents unilateral control and builds buy-in.
Expanding internet access – Ensuring all students have home internet and devices levels the playing field for learning.
With good-faith partnership between students, teachers, administrators, and families, balanced and effective web access policies are possible. But bypassing filters avoids this hard work and harms progress.
Conclusion and Guidance
Through my experience advising school districts, it‘s clear Linewize and other restrictive web filters spark valid issues around security, privacy, access, and education. But unilateral actions like attempting to uninstall or bypass these systems leads to worse outcomes.
Instead, students should pursue constructive dialogue and demonstrate model behavior. Schools must also listen to concerns and carefully evaluate if filters are being misapplied. There are no easy fixes, but progress requires trusting partnership, not conflict.
My guidance to both sides:
To Students: Voice concerns responsibly, propose solutions, and focus energy on excelling within current policies. Avoid attempts to bypass security controls.
To Schools: Be transparent about restrictions and monitoring. Actively engage students when shaping internet use policies. Teach balanced digital citizenship.
With open minds, care, and collaboration, your school community can find the right balance. Now is the time for listening and learning on all sides, not fighting. If we work together, students can still safely and freely access the world of information and opportunities the internet provides.