The National Education Association made a suggested list of key elements for an effective Acceptable Use Policy. The following is a breakdown of each element and how well my school district has enacted these guidelines.
Preamble: It is recommended that an AUP begin with an opening statement containing an explanation of why the policy is necessary, what its goals are, and how the policy was developed. My school district’s AUP has an extensive preamble with a clear explanation of why the policy is necessary and what its goal are. The district is promoting the development of information and digital literacy for all students, while still providing a safe environment for these students. The district also intends to use the network as a means to keep the community involved in the district’s actions. The AUP, however, does not explain how the policy was developed.
Definition Section: In this area, key words used in the AUP are defined and explained in order to develop clarity for those expected to follow the policy. My school district’s policy does not contain a section defining key words. This could be an issue in a legal sense for those who might violate portions of the AUP while not understanding elements of it.
Policy Statement: This section explains what computer services are covered by the AUP and specifies the circumstances for student computer usage. In a sense, my district’s AUP explains the computer services that are covered: basically email, network, and hardware usage. These are also to be used only for educational purposes. However, these policies are found in the acceptable/unacceptable uses section and can be difficult for readers to find.
Acceptable Uses: This element of the AUP should clearly define the appropriate student usage of the computer network. The majority of my school district’s AUP is focused on acceptable and unacceptable uses. There are not many specifics in acceptable uses other than the promotion of digital citizenship and the use of the network, Internet, email, and hardware as a means of promoting research and educational communication.
Unacceptable Uses: On the other hand, this section must provide clear and specific examples of what is unacceptable, including certain websites, types of information sending/posting, and inappropriate behavior. There are many specific unacceptable uses in my district AUP including: inappropriate language, personal information posting/sending, usage for personal financial benefit, destruction of data, uploading of viruses, installing or removing software/hardware, violating copyright laws, usage of chat rooms or instant messaging, and usage of any non-teacher initiated games or social networking sites. The list is very extensive.
Violations/Sanctions: The last area of the AUP should explain how students report violations and whom to ask questions about its usage. My district’s AUP expresses that students may lose computer and/or network privileges for up to one year and may be subjected to loss of privacy in emails and other digital information systems on the network. The AUP does not, however, explain to students how to report violations or whom to ask questions to. These are certainly important considerations for students to be able to follow the AUP effectively and fairly.
The school district’s AUP is an interesting read with many clear examples of how it may be violated. It is difficult to imagine students being able to keep up with the list though. The policy would benefit from an update and a streamlined list containing a definition section for clarity.