The student news site of Jones College Prep High School

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The student news site of Jones College Prep High School

Blueprint

The student news site of Jones College Prep High School

Blueprint

SOPPA regulations restrict CPS

New SOPPA regulations leave students and teachers scrambling for resources
Image from Illinois Families for Public Schools
Image from Illinois Families for Public Schools

Following the return to school after the new year, many Jones students were met with concerning messages when they tried to access websites like Canva, The New York Times, and EBSCO among many other educational resources. 

Chicago Public Schools had not approved these websites for student use, so they have been unable to use them. 

SOPPA (Student Online Personal Protections Act) is a privacy law that regulates students’ personal information by schools and the Illinois State Board and regulates how certain online vendors, or services, can use and access student data.

“It’s definitely been a bit of an extra obstacle, trying to figure out how to navigate the barrier to make sure I can get to everything online,” said Laila Kersh ‘25, an AP Seminar student.

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Students in classes such as AP Seminar noted that they deem the new restrictions as unnecessary, as important sources of information are now blocked from being accessed.

“With the New York Times, that’s something that Jones usually provides for students.,” said Kersh.”They should take off restrictions for news sources, because that’s something that is a source for people to research and can inform people”.

The Chicago Public School district has implemented SOPPA in a unique way compared to other state districts, and teachers have taken notice. 

“I think that the district has a problematic perception of how SOPPA should be implemented and they added a lot of extra steps,” said English Department Chair and AP Research teacher, Caitlin Miller. “I think that they should look at other larger school districts in the state and adopt those models.”

The changes to SOPPA concerned many teachers, especially those in arts programs, due to the new limits on resources used by their students as references for their work.

“We use internet searches to find reference pictures, and so many of those websites now are blocked and we can’t [use them],” said Art Teacher Mx. Marra. “For example, if you wanted to see a picture of a dog yawning, all of the stock image sites are blocked.”

Teachers and students now must rely on their own knowledge of SOPPA guidelines to figure out what resources they can and cannot use for classwork.

“It seems that most of the work is put on teachers and students to find out what magically fits within these lines,” said Marra. 

Websites like Canva are now blocked on CPS accounts which has potential consequences for students, especially Digital Imaging students.

“I feel bad especially for Digital Imaging students because Canva is blocked. I feel like that’s a big mistake because Canva is a great educational resource for students,” said Marra. “It’s just a crazy obstacle to jump through to find reference photos.”

The new regulations not only have potential consequences for students but also for vendors who were previously approved for use by students.

CPS told teachers about SOPPA literally days before school began,” said Katie Fernandez, a former teacher at Phoenix Military Academy and Senior Program Coordinator for Teach for Chicago Journalism. “I immediately was concerned about The Phoenix Chronicle which was hosted by SNO Sites. SNO is a company that provides online support and web hosting services for high school and college news sites across the country.”

Restrictions on certain sources were communicated late in the process which was noted by some teachers to prevent their ability to work with these new restrictions.

“What was particularly frustrating to me was that teachers were told they could not use these sites/companies days before the new school year,” said Fernandez.” Teachers had created their curriculum with the impression that they could continue to work with their previous yearbook company or website host.”

Many teachers noted that they were left without options when finding a service to host websites such as school newspapers, and felt lost as to what to do about the issues SOPPA presented.

“Not only were we told the company we had been working with for years was no longer an option, we were told there were no other options,” said Fernandez.

Some teachers disagree with the implementation of SOPPA and hope to see it remedied by the district in the near future.

“I think that the district has a problematic perception of how SOPPA should be implemented and they added a lot of extra steps,” said Miller.

SOPPA has restricted Google sign-in on websites that have not completed all of their requirements. Some of these websites that have been blocked were frequently used for work in the AP Capstone program, such as JSTOR and EBSCO. 

“So that has meant that sites like EBSCO and other ones have been difficult to get into. The problem is, you don’t use Google to get into those because EPCSO is through the college board. And JSTOR we don’t use Google sign-in,” said Miller. 

With all of the problems that come along with SOPPA, there is still hope being mentioned for the websites we once had access to. 

“I had a meeting with the ED tech office and they did say that they will make sure our EBSCO access through the college board is no longer blocked,” said Miller.

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About the Contributors
Charlotte Quinn '25, Journalism II
Calvin Beckert '26, Journalism I

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