Educators struggle with AUP enforcement

School districts create acceptable-use policies (AUPs) to define what is–and is not–acceptable behavior when using their computer resources. But at a time when computers and internet access are seen as increasingly important tools for instruction, many school leaders are struggling with how best to enforce these policies in the event that students transgress them.

Used to be, there was a simple answer: School leaders took away or restricted a student’s computer access. But a movement growing in schools today says taking away a student’s access to technology is akin to denying that student valuable learning opportunities–and so many school leaders are now searching for better alternatives.

Students are sophisticated technology users and often surpass the proficiency of teachers, said Jeanne Biddle, technology director for Kentucky’s Scott County Schools, which has 13 schools and about 8,000 students.

Biddle’s district has filtering systems in place to shield kids from inappropriate internet content, and its IT team works with students to help them understand how to keep safe online and practice responsible digital citizenship, she said.

Most students comply with the district’s AUP, but others view it as a challenge to their technical expertise and will try to violate the policy by finding ways around the district’s filtering systems, Biddle said.

Biddle and her team worked with the Kentucky School Boards Association to develop an AUP that demonstrates expectations for network use and what the consequences are if students use the district’s network inappropriately.

Still, there are some drawbacks to the AUP as it’s now written.

“One issue we have is that it has no teeth,” Biddle said. “If a student does something inappropriate, do we take away internet access? Would you take a book away from a student if the student wrote in it?”

Biddle said her district is considering other disciplinary measures to confront AUP violations, hoping to address the problem without restricting students’ access to learning materials.

Laura Ascione

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