Friday, October 02, 2009

Acceptable Use Policy - Yearly Email - 2009 Version

Each year I send out an legal review/acceptable use policy email to all staff. I hope this serves 3 purposes:

  1. Informs the staff about responsible technology use
  2. Prevents all of use from doing something irresponsible or illegal
  3. Provides legal protection for the district if someone does something irresponsible or illegal
Before sending this out I have our district administration and the Teacher's Union review the document. Once both the administration and the union say that it is a good email I send it out.

Here is what went out this morning:

Good Morning,
We mention this information each year, but new State and Federal laws and policies are constantly being developed as technology use is growing and changing. Our district also has policies about acceptable use of technology and internet resources. We have put together this email to help better inform you of how all of this relates to your technology use in Maine 207. Our hope is that by informing you of these policies we are better preparing you to navigate the digital world.
Opening this email is a record that you have been informed of these issues and understand the information below. Please contact [Assistant Superintendent's Name Removed] or I with any questions regarding acceptable technology use.
There have been several new laws passed regarding technology use, access to electronically recorded information, and other existing district policies that you should be aware of.
New Laws (effective January 1, 2010):
  • When driving a School Vehicle or your own vehicle while on school time (this would include traveling between schools) it is now illegal to
    • Compose, send, or read a text message or email
    • Use your phone (this includes your personal phone) in a school zone or a construction zone in any way that is not hands free
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): changes make it much easier for people to request documents from schools. Any recorded electronic communication is considered a document including voicemail, email, text messages, chat, etc...
The District's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) applies to staff, students, and anyone using district technology resources. You are responsible for understanding the AUP. The policy is available at this link:

The main ideas behind the AUP are summarized as:

The primary purpose of the District 207 electronic communications network (D207net) and technologies which attach to it is to support and enhance learning and teaching that prepares students for success in an information society. Users have no expectation of privacy in their use of D207net. D207 has the right to access, review, copy, delete, or disclose, as allowed by law, any digitally recorded information stored in, or passed through D207net, regardless of the initial intentions of the user. D207 has the right and responsibility to monitor the use of D207net by its users including tracking of internet, network, hardware, and software use. Employees should be aware that any digitally recorded information, even that of personal nature, can be subject to disclosure under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Users assume responsibility for understanding the policy and guidelines as a condition of using the network. Staff members are accountable to teach and use the network responsibly. Use of the network that is inconsistent with this policy may result in loss of access as well as other disciplinary or legal action (for staff members this includes termination).

In everyday English here is what that means:

1. Everything that passes across a network has the possibility of intentionally or unintentionally being recorded and retained forever. This includes our networks and all other networks (facebook, Ning, gmail, etc.). We are required by law to retain certain electronic documents (including emails) for a period of time that can exceed 10 years.

2. Anything that is on our network is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws that could result in this information being searched and becoming public - nothing you do electronically, on the website or otherwise, should ever be considered private in nature. This especially includes anything that references a student, or a school event, in your personal email or any social networking site. Do not use your school email for personal business - this is a violation of the AUP and your personal business can be discovered through a FOIA request. Do not use your personal email to conduct school related business - if you do, your personal email may be subject to a FOIA request.

3. Never do, write, or say anything electronically within the school walls or outside of school that you wouldn't want published on the front page of a newspaper. Anything that is done on a school computer or network could end up as public information. This is especially important when communicating about students or parents in email. There is a new wave of lawsuits where parents have used FOIA to obtain emails where teachers have made unprofessional comments about students or parents that are resulting in charges of defamation. The best way to communicate about any student is face-to-face or over the phone Any shared document that references a student (even their initials) can be considered a temporary or permanent record and must be turned over to parents if requested.

4. You are responsible for anything that happens to your account when logged into a computer, even if you are not in front of it, so remember to log off and to not share passwords.

5. Don't store any student records or information on your laptop, jumpdrive, or on anything that can be lost - use SIS to record all of this information.

6. Think before you hit send. Once you do send and email expect that what you wrote will last forever. Be careful when replying - especially when replying to all. This also holds true for any website, email account, social networking site, voicemail, text message, document, or anything in electronic format.

7. You are responsible for your use of copyrighted material. Refer to these websites if you are not sure how copyright applies to educators: or

These are common rules in all schools, and most workplaces, across the United States. Even Microsoft has such policies - they sum it up this way: "Exercise good judgement and Be Smart".

Once again, if you have any questions please contact [Assistant Superintendent's Name Removed] or I.


I would encourage everyone to craft something like this for their school or district.


Reggie Ryan said...

Hi Henry,

Thanks for the post. Please update when your lawyers have taken a look.

Henry Thiele said...


No plans to send it to our lawyers.