District bans Discord from school networks

The District banned Discord from all school networks citing security concerns as the main reason.

Via TechCrunch

The District banned Discord from all school networks citing security concerns as the main reason.

The Mountain View–Los Altos School District banned the online platform Discord from all school networks in the District earlier this month, citing security violations due to privacy concerns. 

The District is acting in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, a law that all schools must follow to receive government funding. The law requires schools and libraries to implement internet filters and other safeguards to protect students from harmful online content.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that our students and staff use all digital tools safely,” Director of Information Systems Bob Fishtrom said. 

Because the District is responsible for securing the privacy of students, it requires that learning tools used by student accounts sign a contract created by the California Student Privacy Alliance (CSPA), a union of California school districts with similar concerns about student privacy. Any service the District uses has to agree all student data and privacy will remain safe and protected when used. Discord did not sign off on the agreement.

“The mere fact that students were using Discord with their MVLA accounts and Discord wouldn’t sign-off on the CSPA left the district no choice but to block it across the network,” Fishtrom said.

Discord granted students the ability to create and manage chat channels and servers as well as upload files with quicker processing speed. The District’s ban on Discord has impacted how some students at Los Altos High School communicate and organize their work. 

“It’s a lot harder to try to transfer files onto my computer, to look up information I have stored on [Discord], and also to just talk with friends,” frequent Discord user senior Darya Korepanova said. Many like Darya have a tough time finding alternatives to Discord 

“The elimination of Discord as an option has made it significantly harder to run my club,” Data Analysis Club president sophomore Daniel Chappell said. 

The Data Analysis Club used the platform to coordinate projects, broadcast announcements and save meeting notes, but now the club uses Slack, a communication platform similar to Discord that charges a fee to read previous conversations. While the club could communicate through email, Daniel doesn’t prefer it. 

“Most students are, sadly, unreliable when it comes to checking or replying to their email so this option just sucks,” Daniel said.

Despite student complaints, the District doesn’t plan on unrestricting Discord. 

“Because Discord would not sign-off on the CSPA agreement, we have no way of knowing what the company does with student data,” Fishtrom said. “That, in itself, is a red flag.”