Searching for my district’s acceptable use policy (AUP), I discovered we do not have just one policy. We have policies for electronic mail, the Internet, network connections, and copyright compliance. After speaking to a couple of people in the district for my field experience, I found out there is a policy that is being created for social media. For this discussion, I am going to focus on the Internet policy. The district Internet policy is the same for students as well as teachers.
The National Education Association lists six key elements that an effective AUP must have. The elements are: A preamble, a definition section, a policy statement, an acceptable uses section, an unacceptable uses section, and a violations/sanctions section. My district’s AUP begins with a preamble that discusses the district’s network and the opportunities users have. Searching the document some of the parts that makes an effective AUP are located further down in the document (middle and bottom). There is information on why the policy was created, that the policy applies to students, and its goals. There is no information about the development of the policy or why it is needed.
There is a definition section that lists six definitions. The terms that are defined within the section are illegal activities, obscene activities, inappropriate use, system administrators, dangerous information, and compromising personal safety. The definition for Internet is found in the first paragraph within the preamble. The term network is also mentioned in the preamble and that it is in-district and worldwide. There is no definition for educational purpose.
A policy statement is not given in the AUP. There is a little blurb about educating the district’s students about appropriate online behavior but no outline about how that will happen. There is also no mention about acceptable uses in the document. It is stated that users must use the Internet correctly but no examples are given about what that looks like or entails.
The district’s AUP has a large section about unacceptable uses. They give many examples of “inappropriate behavior” when using the Internet. Vandalizing the network is also listed and includes viruses, malware, or trying to alter data. Violating copyrights, licensing agreements, or plagiarizing are not acceptable. Giving out passwords or personal information is also prohibited. There is no information about specific sites being off limits (I know Facebook and Youtube are blocked but teachers can access these sites through their staff log-ins). Social networking and chat rooms are mentioned further in the document but it just states that users should be educated in using these sites.
Finally, there is not a specific violations/sanctions section. Throughout the document, termination of access, denial of future access and possible disciplinary action is mentioned if the policy is violated. There is nothing mentioned about what to do to report violations. The district mentions that district staff can “review and inspect directories or messages.” Students and parents are expected to sign an Internet authorization form every school year that states they read the policy and will use it for educational use only. If they violate the policy they can have their access revoked or disciplinary action can take place.
Thinking about the key elements that make an effective AUP in the eyes of the National Education Association, my district is missing a lot of them! The last time the policy was revised was in June of 2012 so it is still very recent.
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