The Principal in Your Bedroom
Schools are meant to be safe places of learning. For the most part they are. In order to keep schools safe, every school has policies about what can be brought on campus, what types of electronic communication can be used at school and sometimes even what types of communication can be used off school grounds as well.
As a parent (or privacy conscious student) most of these policies are great. But any policy can be taken too far and school policies are no exception. Here’s some information you’ll want to know as school starts again…
Privacy and School Laptops:
As technology is increasingly incorporated into classrooms, some schools are equipping their students with computers. This is a great step forward for education, but it comes at a privacy price. Several schools have been caught monitoring students while they’re at home; occasionally with dire consequences. One student in Pennsylvania was filmed (unknowingly) eating Jelly Beans at home – which wouldn’t have been a problem – but the school thought that he was taking drugs and suspended him immediately. It took some time before his parents were able to figure out where the accusation stemmed from and were able to get it over turned.
The Jelly Bean incident was taken care of before permanent damage was done to the student’s record. But what about schools filming their students while getting undressed at night? Or filming sensitive conversations between a parent and child. Those are possible situations that couldn’t be fixed nearly as easily. The best intentions of schools, which led to the spying in the first place are having a hard time avoiding privacy issues.
All of this is to say that both on school grounds and off schools have a lot of power over students and it no longer stops at the school house doors. If you haven’t before, take a few minutes and read your school’s policies about what is and is not allowed on school grounds and pay extra attention to any policies about computer monitoring.
Cell Phones on School Property:
School policies about cell phones vary – a lot. Some schools allow them to be used between classes, others ban them from campus entirely. According the the ACLU, just in California school policies are different in almost every school. Many policies respect students privacy and focus on keeping the phones from being a distraction in class, but not all of them. Some schools are taking a more… proactive approach to cell phones and the issues that can arise with their use. Those schools will confiscate and search phones in the name of protecting children from themselves. For most students that won’t pose a problem. But for any child who stores a psychologists phone number in their phone, or who has text message reminders of doctors appointments or who has sexts on their phone the story is very different. The communication that was intended to be private has now been shared with school personnel who may, or may not keep it strictly to themselves.
Computers on School Property:
Computers on school property are great for research, for anything else the dangers probably far outweigh the benefits. School computers are monitored and filtered for the safety of students but still public portals that can get all sorts of spyware on them.
So long as you’re familiar with school polices on cell phones and loaned computers you’ll have what you need to keep your principal out of your electronic communications and out off the web cam in your bedroom.