Thursday, April 30, 2009

School Technology Policies with Matt Carver

Matt Carver, director of legal services for School Administrators of Iowa, met with Heartland's technology coordinators at their April meeting and hit upon several issues in schools:

  • Overall, there is no "silver bullet" when it comes to technology policies. If a policy isn't working for a district, they should change it so that it fits their needs.
  • That said, he recommended every district have a policy that states a student needs permission from an administrator or his/her designee to capture images or video in school. Not to make classroom projects involving visual literacy more difficult (teachers can be the administrator's designee), but to guard against cyberbullying and trying to "trap" teachers.
  • He also recommends that schools post a reminder pop-up window when students log into a computer (as well as a physical sticker on the computer) that states schools have the right to monitor usage.
  • There is no law that states districts must keep every email made by employees. Email is like any other correspondence and can be discarded like any other correspondence (like throwing away hall-pass slips). What should be kept is an overall record of when people logged in to send/receive email.
  • When a district should keep all emails is when an event occurs that could possibly lead to future litigation. Carver mentioned the district would be expected to have communications that occurred after it became apparent to them that such an issue was serious that it could lead to litigation, not before. Moreover, it would be in a district's best interest to have those emails to squash unsubstantiated claims by other parties.
  • The district could put forward a policy for teachers to keep records of emails that fit into certain categories (i.e. communication with parents) for a length of time (5 years) and can delete other communication that doesn't fit into those categories.
  • All districts should have a conversation about what teacher-student electronic communication is appropriate. Friending in Facebook is a discussion starter for schools. He strongly urges all communication from teachers to students is done in an official form (static webpage) or via phone.
  • While schools do have quite a bit of leeway in search and seizure of student property, a cell phone accidentally going off is not reasonable suspicion that allows a faculty member to search through the phone.
  • Sexting is the new hot-button issue. Very important: all creating, possessing, or distributing of photos of a naked student is against the law. Administrators should never transfer a photo from a student's cell phone to their own computer as evidence in their investigation. They should instead have a like-gendered person document in writing the picture that was found, and then delete the picture. The phone should not go home with the picture still on it, regardless of the action the school takes in the situation.

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