The National Education Association has outlined 6 key elements that make an effective Acceptable Use Policy. Reading through several AUPs, I found that most had these elements. Though online, my school doesn’t provide a distinct AUP online, there are a great number of them from other schools, which as a whole I would liked to briefly discuss. Majority speaking, by each having 6 elements I would say that they have effective AUP. Most include a disclaimer to legally protect the district. Although it is a strong document, it could be organized in a more effective manner.
The first element of most of the districts is the preamble. The preamble presents the district’s rationale for student use of Internet and electronic communications. It relates back to purpose and links to standards and 21st century skills. In addition, it is clear districts will take steps to help protect students from information that may be harmful, but they indicate that students also share the responsibility to avoid that material. The districts are wise to state they “shall take reasonable steps to protect students from accessing information that is illegal, obscene, pornographic, or otherwise intentionally harmful to students,” but do not assure parents that this content will never be discovered.
Without clearly stating that there is a definitions section. This section is meant to ensure parent and student comprehension. This section could be better developed by including terms such as educational objectives/purposes and expanding on other educational expressions.
There are components of the different school documents that relate to a policy statement. However, one must piece together information and different sections to form a clear cut policy statement. The section that outlines the steps that must be taken be for a user account is activated would meet the purpose of a policy statement. Specifically, personal consent to monitor is required. This means the district will have the right to monitor, inspect, copy, review or store all usage, which is very effective.
Another section of the different schools documents combines the acceptable and unacceptable uses of district technology and the Internet. Through those, I believe the disclaimer that “examples of unacceptable uses include, but are not limited to, the following” indicates that each situation will be handled on a case-to-case basis. I personally applaud the schools that show the section combines the acceptable and unacceptable uses into one concise section. Parents and students will be able to comprehend this section and are much more likely to actually read the contents than if it was an exhaustive and extensive list.
Later in most of the documents, is another part of the policy statement. Although some were out of place, they do specify that the administrators, teachers and staff “have a professional responsibility to work together to monitor students’ use of the Internet and electronic communications, help students develop the intellectual skills needed to discriminate among information sources, to identify information to their age and developmental levels and to evaluate and use information to meet their educational goals.” It’s clear that students will receive instruction on how to use the Internet and electronic communications. However, the district is generic enough that this statement can apply to all schools and grade levels.
There is a violations/sanctions section as outlined in the NEA parameters for an effective AUP. It is clear that students may lose privileges, be charged, suspended or expelled depending on the breach of agreement. This is a small section of the document and may be a strategic way to focus on the positive steps students will take to meet the agreement.
Students and parents sign the district’s Acceptable Use Agreement annually. In regards to my school, there is a hard copy document that all students and parents are required to sign at registration, which I wish we had online.
A majority of the schools online had AUP’s that have all 6 key elements as indicated by NEA. However, I believe NEA could be more student friendly with titles for each of the sections and use first person phrasing. Specifically, the parts related to the policy statement could be organized so they were all go in order. Currently, these components are visible throughout the document and scattered between other key elements. I believe the content is relevant and protects each district while also ensuring parents and students understand technology use is a serious endeavor. It is important that technology skills precede student use and that students must agree to the terms annually. I believe this document could be used and adapted by even more districts creating an Acceptable User Policy. One last thing I would like to add in regards to my school, is that consistency and accountability of technology use would go a long way in eliminating all the problems we have been having as well as any other school experiencing the same. Until those two key cogs are handled, districts will have a huge problem on their hands as we do with ours.