Board discusses changes to student Internet use policy
The Board of Education on Tuesday night discussed proposed changes to its student Internet use policy.
The revision entailed removing the first two paragraphs of the three-paragraph policy while adding four new paragraphs -- the last allowing the district to refuse access to the Internet through its network -- and eight new guidelines.
The board's Policy Committee recently made the revisions in response to changes in the state law regarding first-degree harassment in accordance with the Child Internet Protection Act, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Karen Parks said before the meeting. She said the changes are necessary for the school district to continue to receive federal "E-Rate" funding for Internet access.
The revised policy states the district tries to protect students from exposure to "harmful, inappropriate, or explicit" Internet materials by using filtering controls that meet federal standards established by the act. It also says, however, that parents and guardians are "ultimately" responsible for setting standards children should follow in using electronic media information resources.
It further states: "Digital storage and electronic devices used for school purposes whether district or personally owned, will be treated as district technology resources. Therefore, all students must be aware that they should have not any expectation of personal privacy in the use of these resources."
Board member Sue Brand asked if the revised policy addresses students using their own digital storage and electronic devices for Internet access.
The phrase "whether district or personally owned" was included to act as an umbrella to regard all such devices as "district technology resources," said Jennifer Kennelly, who sits on the committee with fellow board members Paul Fattibene and John Convertito.
"Part of how we'll sort out where the wording is going to work and where we're going to have to revisit it is when we actually have to deal with issues," she said. "But we felt this was a fairly aggressive start to covering what will the steps be that need to be taken by school administration."
The new guidelines prohibit various uses, including use of computing resources, to access, among other things, "pornographic or other inappropriate material" and cyber-bullying in chat rooms.
Board member Tim Kery asked if "other inappropriate material" would be at the discretion of administration or if the policy will define exactly what that is.
Kennelly said it would be left to the discretion of the schools' administration, which requires students to sign a policy concerning such material.
"This was allowing them latitude," she said. "What we didn't want to do is write something so specific that if something new cropped up, we didn't have wording to cover that."
Kery asked why one of the guidelines prohibited the students from using computing resources for "religious or political lobbying" by students.
In response, Parks said much of the wording in the guidelines came from the act to qualify for the "E-Rate" funding.
The guidelines may also hold students financially responsible for damage to network software, hardware, data and user accounts. The rules would also allow inspection of files stored on district-managed networks.
They also allow require that materials for electronic publication must be for educational purposes and school administrators, teachers and staff may monitor materials to ensure compliance with content standards.
The school board plans to vote on the revised policy at its next meeting slated for Sept. 27.
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