Private companies have wrestled with their employees’ personal, on-site use of eMail for several years, and now school districts are quickly becoming aware that they must address how staff and students are using electronic messaging capabilities. Children’s immaturity adds greatly to the need for school administrators to set clear policies, communicate them to teachers and other staff, and effectively monitor compliance.

Some districts, most notably in California, have created policies defining acceptable use of electronic resources, and they require students and staff to sign waivers before having access to machines at school. Essentially, these are contracts that describe in detail to teachers, students, and parents how a student may use online resources.

According to the National School Boards Association, which published a book called “Legal Issues and Education Technology,” an effective acceptable use policy should:

1. Include ground rules on how and when eMail and the internet can be used.

2. Require annually signed approval by parents and students.

3. Alert parents and students that computer activity may be monitored.

4. Specifically identify prohibited activities, such as searching for pornography or writing obscene or threatening messages.

5. Include positive examples of proper conduct on the internet and through eMail.

6. State that schools and districts will not be responsible for any costs created by student actions.

7. State that schools and districts are not responsible for the accuracy of information that students locate on the web.

8. Define penalties for breaking rules.

Providing the above information in an easy-to-follow format that does not use legalistic language is also crucial to communicating the key issues to students. Teachers can support the correct use of computer resources by reading the code of conduct and discussing it with their classes, the author says.

The author also provides a list of a few model acceptable use policies:

http://www.rice.edu/armadillo/acceptable.html

http://www.nmusd.k12.ca.us/resources/policie s.html

http://www.csba.org/ps/samintro.htm