Wake Ed

Parental consent needed to use Wake County school technology

The Wake County school board gave final approval Tuesday to a policy that will require parental consent before students can use technology in school and also authorizes the superintendent to go after disruptive websites and social media accounts.

The new “technology responsible use” policy means parents will be required to sign a form that expressly allows their children to have access to technology in the classroom or no access at all, beginning with the 2015-16 school year. Previously, consent was assumed unless parents opted out.

Students whose parents opt out would be unable to use of any kind of computer, including desktops, laptops or any digital device such as tablets or cell phones. It also includes Internet access.

“This is an ‘all or none’ policy,” said Marlo Gaddis, Wake’s senior director of instructional technology and library media services, in a district press release. “It is important for parents to know that they must sign the form indicating whether or not they give permission for technology access, knowing that to deny it could present some challenges in the future as students prepare for the use of technology in college and careers.”

School officials say that, where possible, educators would make accommodations for students whose parents deny the use of technology and digital resources. But certain technology-centric courses (e.g., Computer Assisted Design, Gaming Design, Computer Science) will not be available to those who opt out.

The updated policy also says students are to use technology in a way that’s “ethical, respectful, academically honest, and supportive of student learning.” When students cross the line, “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.

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.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui