Acceptable Use Policy

by Michael D. King For more information on technology planning visit: Tech N Tuit With the current push for computer technology in the classroom, many schools are facing a greater liability regarding technology and online learning. Schools can help defuse these problems by adopting an Acceptable Use Policy, or AUP, for the Internet. The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is one of the most important documents a school will produce, as it will outline rules regarding Internet use on school property. Creating a workable AUP requires thoughtful research and strategy. The document must address a number of issues including personal safety, illegal activities, system security, privacy, plagiarism, copyright infringement and access to inappropriate materials. In addition, it should unequivocally rule the school’s technology property for educational purposes only. Student’s rights, such as free speech, access to information and due process, should be outlined in the document, as should the consequences for violating the Acceptable Use Policy. Below is A Checklist for Planning, Developing and Evaluating an AUP. Does the school’s Acceptable Use Policy:  Protect students from objectionable or questionable material?  Protect students from contact with questionable persons who may exhibit deviant or objectionable behavior?  Protect students from materials that encourage students to participate in destructive behavior?  Provide consideration for privacy and access rights for students?  Ensure that the Internet and related school equipment be used for educational uses only? Procedures for Developing an Acceptable Use Policy To achieve the maximum level for the school’s cyber security, it will be important to develop faculty and community involvement. This involvement would include procedures for communicating with school employees and key community members. Formal involvement will include communication strategies that allow for the identification and analysis of issues surrounding cyber security implementation, specifically issues that address policy development, and safety and ethical instruction of students. There are three important goals the committee will meet: studying the issues of cyber security, analyzing the effects an AUP will have on individuals using information technology, and making content decisions regarding the AUP. When the committee studies cyber security issues, they should set goals in order to address these issues. Committee members should formulate program goals in terms of expected results, such as what the school wishes to achieve when implementing the cyber security plan. Schools usually address these goals in the preamble of the AUP document. As the second level of their involvement, committee members should analyze the cause and effect that the acceptable use policy will have on individuals who will be subject to its regulations. Since any strategic planning requires knowledge of the community’s make-up, the best way to ascertain information is to survey the present level of practice regarding cyber security. This type of assessment (See Cyber Security Assessment Survey) is valuable because it informs school officials what type of regulatory and protective Internet policy members of the community are likely to accept for their children. Identifying the present level of cyber security practices will help set the boundaries and acceptance of the AUP’s implementation, as well as help in the development of future planning.

As the third level of their involvement, committee members should help develop and organize the content that will be included in the school’s AUP. They would be responsible for describing why the policy is necessary, defining specific examples of what constitutes unacceptable use, and addressing what consequences will occur when individuals violate cyber security policies. The authors have outlined four critical components that committee members should include when formulating the content of the AUP. The four necessary components of AUP  a preamble,  a policy statement,  an acceptable and unacceptable uses section, and  a violations/sanctions section. The Preamble The first step in developing an AUP is to address the purpose it will serve in guiding the school toward its mission regarding the limited use of the Internet. The preamble or philosophy statement should describe why the policy is necessary, communicate the intent of the policy as well as outline the goals the policy will achieve. This section should describe the school’s overall code of conduct as it applies to student online activity. (See Example of AUP Preamble)  Example of AUP Preamble The AUP Policy Statement The second component of an Acceptable Use Policy includes a policy statement, which should describe what limited computer services are covered by the AUP and the situations under which students can use computer services. (See Sample Policy Statement Below) Most AUP address multiple issues as the policy statements try to meet all possible scenarios and concerns. One method for constructing acceptable use statements are to review other school districts AUP’s and analyze them to fit your individual schools needs.  Sample AUP Policy Statement Defining Acceptable Use The acceptable uses section of this policy should define appropriate student use of the computer network. The acceptable use section should define how students will use Internet for “educational purposes.” In the unacceptable uses section, the AUP should give clear, specific examples of what constitutes unacceptable student use. (See Below Example of Acceptable and Unacceptable Use) The following represents guidelines committee members should include in the policy in order to describe what constitutes unacceptable uses:  “what kind of computer network sites, if any, should be off limits to students;  what kind of student sending, forwarding, or posting of information, if any, should be prohibited, and  what kind of student behavior will be destructive to the computer network services and should, therefore, be restricted.” Additionally, the policy will prohibit students from using online term paper vendors or will place restrictions on certain chat rooms. AUPs place strong restrictions on students sending, forwarding, or posting sexually explicit messages, profanity, and harassing or violent messages. In fact, district officials must decide whether students will have any type of access to electronic mail or student webpage’s.  Example of Acceptable and Unacceptable Internet Use Policy

Violations Unfortunately, at times there will be cases where students violate the AUP. The violations/sanctions section of the policy should address what the consequences will be when this occurs. The AUP should tell students how to report violations of the policy or whom to question about its application. Violations, as illustrated Below in Sample Violation Policy, should be handled in accordance with the school’s general student disciplinary code.  Sample AUP Violation Policy The Importance Of Parent Permission To ensure AUP practices, it is highly recommended that there be a provision within the policy of written agreement. The agreement should be outlined as a written contract between two parties: the individual and the school. The school should clearly specify the rules for usage and the consequences involving violations of the agreement. School officials should require individuals wishing to use electronic communication systems belonging to the school to sign the agreement. Officials should then file the document for reference in the individual’s cumulative file. In order to be effective, the governing agency must require the specific monitoring of individuals who use electronic information retrieval systems and make no exceptions for the lack of an assigned agreement. It is highly recommend that school officials distribute all forms of the agreement at the start of each school year and that parents are made aware of the permission forms. The permission form agreement should address electronic mail restrictions, as well as ethical conduct required of individuals using electronic communication resources. The Parent Permission Letter & Internet Permission Form, provided below is an example of a parent permission form that could be used to grant students electronic communication access privileges.  Parent Permission Letter & Internet Permission Form Additional Resources  Becta Schools E-Safety and Acceptable Use Policy

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