Appropriate Use/Internet Safety Policy
Through this week’s assignments, I was introduced to the Children’s Internet Safety Act, or CIPA. This act has been established to help protect children from accessing inappropriate or obscene content on the internet. In Maryland, CIPA only applies to libraries, however my school district has taken steps to establish their own similar policies.
My school district, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, has an Acceptable Use Policy (available here), which is a rather generic policy. It explains the importance of using technology for curriculum-related assignments, and also outlines students’ roles and responsibilities when accessing the internet at school. This list of roles and responsibilities is a bit more inclusive than CIPA, as it is more specifically geared towards the school setting. It is not only geared towards the type of material that students access online, but also towards general computer use. For example, it is stated that students may not remove or damage computer parts. So while CIPA is an internet safety policy, AACPS has general technology guidelines.
While the AACPS Acceptable Use Policy generally addresses computer usage, I found it to be lacking in information. As we are a school district of approximately 78,000 students, I would expect that we would have a very specific policy in place to help make students and parents more aware of appropriate computer use. Earlier this week, I reached out to the AACPS Office of Instructional Technology. I asked them if we had any other policies in place, and was told that we do not. Many policies have been proposed to the Board of Education, however they have not been able to agree on a final product as of yet. I was told, however, to expect one by the start of next school year. AACPS is planning on changing the filters, and websites such as YouTube and Twitter will now be available for use. According to the Office of Instructional Technology, they do not want to make these changes without having a more concrete Acceptable Use Policy in place. They want to include things such as social media, and cyber bullying in more specific terms.
Although not stated in the Acceptable Use Policy, there is a system allowing for teachers to override filters. If a teacher wants to use a website that is blocked by the filter, they must fill out an MOI (Materials of Instruction) form, which requires three additional teachers’ signatures verifying that the website is appropriate for instructional use. Once that form is filled out, teachers then bring it to the principal, who can provide the teacher with an override code, as long as they find the website valid for instruction. That code, however, only lasts a day. Since the process to override the filters is so involved, many teachers do not bother, and therefore are not able to use websites that may assist with instruction. I am hopeful that, with the upcoming filter changes and policy changes, teachers will have access to a wider variety of instructional materials. There is a wealth of information online, and current policies prohibit teachers from accessing many valuable materials. AACPS is a school district that strongly values the use of technology in the classroom, and I would like to see new policies that allow teachers to use technologies to their full potentials.
FCC. (2013). Children's internet protection act. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act
NCSL. (2013, March 15). Children and the internet. Laws relating to filtering, blocking and usage policies in schools and libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/state-internet-filtering-laws.aspx
Anne Arundel County Public Schools. (2013). Internet acceptable use policy. Retrieved from http://www.aacps.org/html/Parents/internet_accept.asp