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DEVELOPING ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY
Michael D. King
Tech N Tuit
DEVELOPING ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY By Michael D. King
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. In Exhibit 1 A Checklist for Planning, Developing and Evaluating an AUP, the authors have developed a checklist for the planning, development and evaluation of an Acceptable Use Policy.
Exhibit 1 A CHECK LIST 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 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 Exhibit 2 for Example of AUP Preamble)
Exhibit 2 EXAMPLE OF AUP PREAMBLE ______________________________________________________________________________
In a free and democratic society, access to information is a fundamental right of citizenship. Electronic information research skills are now necessary to prepare students for the future. The Board expects that the staff will integrate such information throughout the curriculum, as well as provide guidance and instruction to students regarding the appropriate use of such resources. The staff is responsible for consulting the guidelines for instructional materials contained with, and as an employee, will honor the goals for selection of instructional materials contained therein.
School employees and students are responsible for appropriate conduct on school computer networks just as they would be in any democracy. Since any information on the network can be viewed by others at all times, general school rules for behavior and communications apply. The network is provided for school employees and students to conduct research and to communicate, as it relates to school business and learning. School employees and students must sign a documentation of agreement before they will be granted access to the school’s network services. Students (under the age of 18) must submit parent permission forms before they will be allowed to use the school’s network services.
example of AUP preamble continued Access to telecommunications is a privilege that will enable school employees and students to explore information sources such as libraries, databases, and bulletin boards while communicating with others. Woodville High School ultimately believes parents and guardians are responsible promoting the positive standards individuals should follow when using information sources. Therefore, the Woodville High School allows each family or individual the privilege to decide whether or not to apply for network access.
Source: Author 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 Exhibit 3 for Sample Policy Statement) 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. Exhibit 3 SAMPLE POLICY STATEMENT ________________________________________________________________________ So that electronic resources will adequately complement the curriculum, school personnel will review information resources so that they may offer resources that comply with board guidelines regarding educational and instructional materials. The school’s staff will be instructed to offer developmentally appropriate guidance to students when they us electronic information resources, such as the Internet. Teachers will inform students of their rights as they pertain to the network, before students are allowed to access the district’s network. Although most resources will have already been screened, students may be able to access materials which have not been previously viewed by school personnel. Students will be given a list of rules and resources that will apply when surfing outside predetermined screened areas. Students may access information from the network, only if they have signed parental permission forms in their cumulative file. Permission is not transferable and may not be shared.
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 Exhibit 4 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 WebPages.
EXAMPLE OF ACCEPTABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE INTERNET USE
________________________________________________________________________ Using the school’s network and computer systems is a privilege and not a right. Students may have this right revoked at anytime if they are found exhibiting behaviors that violate the district’s AUP or other board policies.
Students should use good judgment, as well as exhibit responsible behavior, while using the school’s network and computer resources. In addition, they are expected to honor the district’s technology use agreement as signed. Network administrators reserve the right to review any materials viewed, created or transferred by students.
The following are considered inappropriate uses of technology and are not permitted: Using the network to participate in unlawful or unethical activity or to post unlawful or unethical materials or information Violating copyright laws and regulations while using the network Using the network for non-educational purposes Destroying or changing computer equipment or network files or resources Disrupting or vandalizing the work of another user Using limited resources in a wasteful manner Using the network to invade the privacy of another person. Using offensive language on the network Gaining access to unauthorized resources or sites, also known as “hacking” Using the network to post anonymous messages or messages of another without proper consent Using the system to send viruses or messages that may cause the receiver to lose data or cause damage to the receiver’s system or equipment Sending chain letter messages to others that may cause congestion on the network, also known as “spamming” Using the network to access materials that may be considered damaging or obscene, using legal or ethical standards as set by the community and/or state. ________________________________________________________________________ Source: Author
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 in Exhibit 5 Sample Violation Policy, should be handled in accordance with the school's general student disciplinary code.
Exhibit 5 SAMPLE VIOLATION POLICY ________________________________________________________________________ Violation of the Internet/Computer Network Acceptable Use Policy will result in forfeiture of all user privileges. Violators shall also be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Pending investigation into a student/staff complaint of inappropriate use of the networks, user privileges will be suspended. The district shall not be liable for users' inappropriate use of electronic communication resources or violations of copyright restrictions, users' mistakes or negligence, or costs incurred by users. The district shall not be responsible for ensuring the accuracy or usability of any information found on the Internet. SANCTIONS 1. Violations may result in a loss of access. 2. Additional disciplinary action may be determined at the building level in line with existing practice regarding inappropriate language or behavior. 3. When applicable, law enforcement agencies may be involved. Source: Author 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. In Exhibit 6 Parent Permission Letter & Internet Permission Form, the authors have provided an example of a parent permission form that could be used to grant students electronic communication access privileges. (See also Appendix 9-2A Parent Permission Letter & Internet Permission Form)
Exhibit 6 PARENT PERMISSION LETTER & INTERNET PERMISSION FORM ________________________________________________________________________ Woodville High School will be offering students access to the district computer network for the Internet. To gain such access, students under the age of 18 will be required to obtain parental permission. The following form must be signed and returned to Mike King, Principal. Students 18 and older may sign their own forms. Using to the school’s network will allow students to access many educational resources such as libraries, databases, and bulletin boards, as well as to communicate with others. School officials intend for computer and network use to be for educational use only.
However, the Internet does include some information and materials that are illegal or considered offensive to others. Despite all efforts by the district to avoid such incidents, students may find a way to access this type of information. The school believes that the advantages of using the Internet, as a resource and communication tool, far outweigh any disadvantages it may bring. Woodville High School ultimately believes parents and guardians are responsible promoting the positive standards individuals should follow when using information sources. Therefore, Woodville High School allows each family or individual the privilege to decide whether or not to apply for network access.
Exhibit 6 continued District Internet and Rules Using the school’s network and computer systems is a privilege and not a right. Students may have this right revoked at anytime if they are found exhibiting behaviors that violate the district’s AUP or other board policies.
Students should to use good judgment, as well as exhibit responsible behavior, while using the school’s network and computer resources. In addition, they are expected to honor the district’s technology use agreement as signed. Network administrators reserve the right to review any materials viewed, created or transferred by students.
The following are considered inappropriate uses of technology and are not permitted: Using the network to participate in unlawful or unethical activity or to post unlawful or unethical materials or information Violating copyright laws and regulations while using the network Using the network for computer use Destroying or changing computer equipment or network files or resources Disrupting or vandalizing the work of another user Using limited resources in a wasteful manner Using the network to invade the privacy of another person. Using offensive language on the network Gaining access to unauthorized resources or sites, also known as “hacking” Using the network to post anonymous messages or messages of another without proper consent Using the system to send viruses or messages that may cause the receiver to lose data or cause damage to the receiver’s system or equipment Sending chain letter messages to others that may cause congestion on the network, also known as “spamming” Using the network to access materials that may be considered damaging or obscene, using legal or ethical standards as set by the community and/or state.
User Agreement and Parent Permission Form – 2012 I hereby agree to comply with the above rules, as stated by Woodville High School. When using the network I will act responsible, following all relevant laws and restrictions.
Student Signature ____________________________________________________
As the parent or legal guardian of above student, I grant permission for my son or daughter to access networked computer services such as the Internet. I understand that individuals and families may be held liable for violations of school policy as they apply to Internet and network use. I understand that some materials on the Internet may be inappropriate or offensive, but I accept responsibility for teaching my child the proper standards to follow when selecting, sharing or exploring information via electronic communication resources.
Parent Signature ________________ Date ____Name of Student _______________
School _________________Grade __ Soc. Sec.#______________ Birth Date _________
Street Address _______________________ Home Telephone _____________________
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