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TMCNet:  County schools overhaul tech policies

[February 21, 2013]

County schools overhaul tech policies

Feb 21, 2013 (The Cullman Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- As technology evolves at a rapid clip, the Cullman County Board of Education has overhauled some outdated acceptable use policies in an effort to keep up.


The board has updated the policies governing pagers and electronic communication devices; the student acceptable use policy for technology; the employee acceptable use of school technology policy and the student technology use agreement compliance form.

Many of the changes revolve around updating language to include new devices (i.e. tablets, smart phones, etc.) but the new rules also feature some changes to allow students to use their own equipment in class, as permitted.

"Technology has changed a lot since some of these were written," Superintendent Billy Coleman said. "We need to follow along as technology changes." As schools begin to pilot "Bring Your Own Device" programs, technology coordinator Bruce Ellard noted the policies should reflect the modern environment teachers and students are working in. From smart phones to tablets, Ellard noted students have numerous tools to access information now.

"We're required to review our technology policies on a regular basis, and these have actually been updated 4-5 times since 2001," he said. "We've tried our best to update the language to really be a reflection of what is going on in our schools." One major addition to the policy is a search and seizure clause, which allows school personnel to seize and search any device connected to the network with "probable cause or reasonable suspicion" that a regulation is being violated.

The new student acceptable use policy clarifies that chat rooms, social media sites, wikis and blogs are not permitted on any device connected to the school network, unless permitted.

Cyber bullying is also addressed, with a section forbidding students from engaging in any online activity that could jeopardize the safety of themselves or others. A section was also adjusted to make it against policy to violate the rights of another person online.

With bandwidth a hot topic for the county schools, a policy limiting uploads or downloads has also been adjusted to prevent users from taxing the system. The technology department is working to update bandwidth systemwide now, though the process could take some time to complete.

The policy also holds students and teachers accountable for the security of their own devices being used on the system network, noting the system cannot be held liable for any damages, loss or theft.

Trent Moore may be contacted at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or (256) 734-2131, ext. 220.

___ (c)2013 The Cullman Times (Cullman, Ala.) Visit The Cullman Times (Cullman, Ala.) at www.cullmantimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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