Saturday, August 29, 2009

Acceptable Use Policy

and you thought you had computer problemsImage by mandyxclear via Flickr

This is sometimes an area that we K-12 CIOs don't always like to talk about, but there are times when issues have to be addressed. We all have our versions of what an Acceptable Use Policy (or AUP) looks like. (You can find the MCSD AUP here: click here)

AUPs are designed to provide guidelines on appropriate actions and behaviors, while setting the expectation for violating any of those terms. An AUP is designed to keep our users safe, while also securing our equipment is kept safe.

A few years ago we modified the terms and conditions of our AUP (we visit our AUP annually to review and make changes), specifically the consequences for violations and repeated violations. While the intent is not to detract from student learning, nor place the teacher or administration in any hardship - it is designed to keep equipment safe and secure, while teaching our users the safe and responsible use of school district owned equipment, computers and network resources.

The new terms provide a tiered approach to consequences for any AUP violations. They vary from one week's loss of Internet privileges all the way up to suspension of a network account for the remainder of the school year. The level of severity depends on previous offenses, and the severity of the current issue.

99% of the issues we deal with related to AUP terms being violated are inappropriate web use and result in the suspension of Internet rights only for one week. However, occasionally we come across a repeat offender who not only misuses the web, but attempts hacks, installs malicious software on district owned machines and shows a complete defiance for the rules set forth in the AUP. When you reach an issue at that level, inevitably you are forced to restrict total network privileges for an extended period of time. This turns into a student being unable to use a computer in their building, and if they are in a class or classes that require daily use - a burden on the teacher.

Again, I will emphasize our intent is not to burden the teacher by creating additional work for him/her. We convey the message that if the student has work that must be completed on a computer that the student either use their home computer, or if they do not have a computer at home - they go to the local public library where free computers and Internet access are available.

I don't have the golden rule for these situations - I do believe that forcing these students who are repeat offenders that there are consequences to their actions is a valuable life lesson. They must learn to live by and obey those rules - a lesson that is valuable far beyond their high school days.

Do you have similar issues in your school district or higher education environment? How do you handle habitual offenders? Do you follow / establish similar guidelines that my district does - or do you handle it differently? Please share your experiences.


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