K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 1

What is an Acceptable Use Policy? An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) (as applied to education) is a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions for using technology in a school district as well as personal technology used on the school property during school hours. This document should be signed annually by all active members of a school District including employees, students and parents. A model AUP is provided by the US Department of Justice at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/rules/acceptableUsePolicy.htm .

The AUP may include information on

• the instructional philosophies that will be supported through the incorporation of the Internet and technology within the school environment • benefits associated with the incorporation of technology • a code of conduct detailing expectations, consequences and safety with regards to the use of technology • Ways in which students can use technology in accordance with the stated regulations • roles and responsibilities of technology employees • a statement regarding legal compliance. • a place for signatures

Instructional philosophy In this section of the document, the District’s instructional philosophy should be included as well as information regarding how the incorporation of technology addresses this philosophy. A school’s instructional philosophy should be developed independent of the AUP but, within the AUP, the ways in which technology will enhance the instructional philosophy should be discussed.

Benefits Benefits associated with the incorporation of technology in a school District should be included in the AUP. Such benefits include anything that is created by or facilitated by the integration of technology including teaching or administrative tasks. These may include (but are not limited to) the perks of e-mail, the necessity of gaining information from the Internet, and the utilization of interactive whiteboards (Smartboards) and other curriculum-enhancing technology. Also included is the access and exchange of information; communications; and the organization, analysis and presentation of information.

The code of conduct

Within this section, there must be a detail of all expectations of technology use, consequences of misuse, and safety related to proper use. Forms of banned software, hardware and technology -based applications including websites must be detailed to insure that users utilize technology in accordance with the stated policy. If, for example, a policy includes the term “the access or transmission of materials using district technology resources which are inappropriate in the school environment is strictly prohibited” there must also be a list of offences which would be included in the definition of ”inappropriate in the school environment”. Without the explicit list, a debatable area may exist in regards to the definition which may defeat the purpose of creating an AUP. Expectations may include (but are not limited to)

• Students must respect and protect the privacy of others by not sharing passwords, by not accessing other’s accounts and by keeping private information private. • Students must respect and protect the intellectual property of others by not violating copyright laws and by not plagiarizing as well as “stealing” other’s digital property. • Students must respect and practice the principles of community by only communicating in an ethical manner, by reporting inappropriate material to an adult and by not utilizing material in an illegal manner or using illegal material. The above are examples of guidelines that may be present in an AUP. These come from the model AUP posted at the link above provided by the USDOJ.

Also included in this section, should be the need to address Internet filtering (see below), cyberethics and cybersafety (see below) as well as the penalties associated with the misuse of District technology or personal technology during school hours on school property. For each expectation there should be a consequence addressing non-compliance. Such consequences can range from loss of on campus technology privileges to penalties associated with breaking a Federal or State law. Sections on personal and system safety should address the need to ban the sharing of username/passwords, entering chat rooms, posting personal information and accessing inappropriate material such as pornography or violent content. Also, restrictions on accessing information that could harm a system such as spam or viruses with the intent to disrupt the network should be included in the AUP. Other information which addresses the breaches in Internet or Intranet security by members of the school community or by unrelated persons should be explicitly included as well. Also included in this document should be a description of security measures that currently exist as well as a plan to address the needed security with new technology. A description of data and network security is important. Many of these safety regulations could be included as part of the expectations. However, it is important to include security information as well as a verbal or written explanation of the reasons why the security guidelines are in place.

What is Internet filtering?

Internet filtering blocks users from accessing sites that may contain material deemed inappropriate. Twenty-one States have Internet-filtering laws that apply to public schools and libraries. These laws stem from the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which grants federal funds to public schools which abide by the outlined regulations. Such regulations require the School Board to adopt an Internet use policy (many create an AUP which covers Internet use) that limits and/or bans minors from gaining access to inappropriate materials such as explicit sexual content or other harmful sites.

To accomplish adequate filtering, some states require that the public schools install filtering software to insure that all explicit content is filtered. Filtering software blocks sites based on words, phrases or other criteria. Many users have found that certain words that may not refer to an explicit site resulted in a blocked search because of their sexual or harmful connotations. For example, creating a filter based on the word “breast” will block all sexually explicit content as well as potentially blocking chicken recipes, science-related topics and other content that may be useful for an educational environment. Additionally, some filtered software recognize a combination of letters and therefore may block searches that contain the same letters as an explicit term. Lastly, some filtering software has been known to block non offensive material such as information on certain religions and cultures.

Internet filtering software can also block specific websites such as YouTube. Often, such blocked sites may provide benefits to teachers. Districts may want to analyze the Internet filtering software that they are incorporating to allow different users access to different materials. For example, while YouTube as a lot of inappropriate material for students, it also has a plethora of video lessons and clips which can supplement a teacher’s lesson. Students have grown up in a technological environment which often means that they have learned how to surpass or to override certain barriers associated with the use of technology. Because of their familiarity with Internet filtering, many students are able to get around blocked websites by accessing them through different country codes or by using different search terms.

When purchasing and implementing Internet filtering software, school districts must research the best software for their particular needs. Taking into consideration terms and sites that may need to be blocked along with material that may not need to be restricted is important when implementing the correct software. Additionally, districts may consider providing a code for teachers or administrators to override certain restricted searches in case there is an exception. Science teachers may have many of the terms for certain units of study, like reproduction, blocked but, given a code, could filter the useful material from the sites that could be harmful.

What are cyberethics and cybersafety?

With the rise of Internet use comes the increase in potential danger. In a world of anonymity, children are faced with the threats of online bullying, predators and a plethora of inappropriate material. Without guidance, children can communicate with unknown users, share personal information and access sites that could provide potential dangerous information. In 2000, Janet Reno issued a letter to parents regarding the need to educate their children on appropriate Internet behavior as well as the ethics and responsibility associated with using the Internet. A website www.cybercitizenship.org was created to address these issues. Two years later, President George W. Bush announced efforts to promote online safety by encouraging parents to teach their children how to stay safe while online as well as by addressing the growing issue of child pornography. Through his efforts, many child pornography rings were disbanded, and many predators were prosecuted. Also through his initiative, many sites have been created to address the growing need to educate and to guide safe Internet use. Links to such sites can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberethics.htm

Student uses

The AUP may include a section which details the ways in which students can use technology in accordance with the AUP. These uses may be ones that fall in a grey area of technology use. These may include (but are not limited to)

• Design and post websites using school technologies and other materials that relate to school curriculum or events. Because websites, like MySpace and Facebook, may be banned, it is important for students to understand that they can create a website as long as it addresses a topic related to school like clubs, projects or community service. • Use communication software for school purposes with teacher permission. Instant messaging and other online chat software would not be in compliance with most AUPs. However, under certain circumstances, IM and other chat software may be necessary to fulfill a school purpose. Students must understand that there is a difference between personal and educational uses of such resources and therefore must receive permission to utilize such software on school grounds or during school hours. • Install software as long as it is within licensing agreements and with teacher permission. For example, certain movie or music software may have educational uses. iTunes and other digital media software may not be an appropriate installation on school computers unless there is a specific educational purpose. When a student as defined this purpose and received permission to download, he/she will no longer be in violation of stipulations laid out in the AUP.

Legal compliance

The AUP must include a statement that proves that the document complies with state and federal telecommunication regulations as well as a statement that details the need to comply with fair-use policies and copyright laws. Copyrighting and plagiarism may be addressed in other places, but the legal ramifications attached to these items should be explicitly stated. There have been many concerns that the AUP infringes on First Amendment Rights but the legal system has supported the need for such policies to ensure the safety of children.

Roles and responsibilities

This document may outline the roles and responsibilities of all members of the school community including District personal, parents, students and teachers. Within this section, the document should address the ongoing professional development for all members of the community. At the end of the document, there should be information on the process by which the District will reevaluate and modify the AUP. Additionally, a statement regarding supervision and monitoring on an administrative level. Many schools reserve the right to monitor Internet and technology use including e-mail and websites. A statement such as “Administrators reserve the right to examine, use, and disclose any data found on the school's information networks in order to further the health, safety, discipline, or security of any student or other person, or to protect property. They may also use this information in disciplinary actions, and will furnish evidence of crime to law enforcement”( taken from the USDOJ site linked above) to insure that all school users understand that information sent or received over a school district’s system is the property of the school district. This, again, may seem like a violation of privacy, but district’s technically own their computer systems and therefore all users are simply that, users of someone else’s system.


At the bottom of the document should be a place for the signatures of the students, teachers and parents to insure that the document has been read and reviewed by all. By signing the document, all users are agreeing to the terms and conditions stated in the AUP. He/she understands that the district may own all material on its computer system and each user must use all technology in compliance with the signed AUP. Without a signed AUP, a member of the school community may not be able to access school technology.

Why do schools need AUPs and how are they developed?

In order to keep the school environment safe, an Acceptable Use Policy is necessary to insure that only appropriate information is accessible to students. Additionally, an AUP is necessary to regulate and to standardize the appropriate uses of all technologies present on school grounds. With the development of new technologies, the guidelines present in the AUP should be continuously updated. A committee of users including teachers, students, parents and administrators should be included in developing and maintaining the district’s AUP. The AUP may be written based on guidelines set forth my State mandates or national recommendations and may need certain criteria for the district to qualify for State or Federal funding. Because different states have different requirements, committees should investigate such requirements before beginning the writing process to insure that the AUP is complete and accurate. There is a vast amount of information that can be included in the AUP. Therefore, the committee members must include regulations, expectations and consequences that they feel relate to their district. In a sense, the AUP must be personalized to each school district based on the technology, uses and community members of each district. Committee members and their responsibilities as well as the AUP updating process should be included under the roles and responsibilities section of the AUP.

Resources http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/AUP/home.shtml http://www.networksolutions.com/legal/aup.jsp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptable_use_policy http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/filterlaws.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_filter http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/cyberethics.htm http://www.isafe.org/imgs/pdf/education/AUPs.pdf

Link to AUP video http://youtube.com/watch?v=J4hu2K662hY