Wake Ed

Wake County school board gives initial OK for tech use policy

The Wake County school system is poised to require parental consent before students can use technology in school and to authorize the superintendent to go after disruptive websites and social media accounts.

On June 16, the school board gave initial approval to a “technology responsible use” policy that sets expectations for how students will use school technology resources. For instance, the policy says “the superintendent may use any means available to request the removal of personal websites that substantially disrupt the school environment or that utilize school system or individual school names, logos, or trademarks without permission.”

The policy also warns that students may be disciplined if their online behavior during non-school hours “has a direct and immediate effect on school safety or maintaining order and discipline in the schools.”

The policy would cover social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter, maintained by staff as well as students.

The policy borrows heavily from the N.C. School Boards Association’s suggested wording for a tech use policy.

The new policy also flips the position the district has historically taken on consent for students to use technology.

Currently, students are assumed to have consent to go on the Internet unless parents deny that permission. But the new policy says parents and students “must consent to the student’s independent access to the Internet and to monitoring of the student’s Internet activity and e-mail communication by school personnel.”

School officials have said that they’ll likely only require consent to be given once as opposed to annually. But it would definitely require a lot of work in the first year to obtain consent from parents of more than 155,000 students.

In addition, this new policy discards wording from a prior draft that had wording that could have banned students from taking pictures of themselves and others in school without a teacher’s permission. School board members had questioned the enforceability of a selfie ban.

The result is that the version that was voted on last week has less of the “thou shalt not” language of the prior draft. The new version says students are to use technology in a way that is “ethical, respectful, academically honest, and supportive of student learning.”

“Thanks that we’re moving toward responsible use instead of focusing on what you can’t do,” school board member Jim Martin said at the policy’s initial adoption.

Second and final adoption before the policy goes into effect could come at the July 21 board meeting.