The Williamson County School District (WCSD) recently came under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding the district’s current policy governing student’s use of social media and electronic devices. The current policy is designed to monitor and curb student’s usages of social media by allowing school officials to search through any electronic devices utilized on school property, including students’ personal devices. Students and parents at WCSD institutions have been asked to sign and comply with the district’s “Acceptable Use, Media Release and Internet Safety” guidelines contract as part of the “Bring Your Own Technology” program.
As written, the policy allows staff members to seize and search students’ digital devices “at any time”, regardless of whether or not those officials have a distinct suspicion of wrongdoing. Schools are also allowed to monitor all communications sent through or stored on the school’s server as well as control what students are and are not allowed to post on social media websites and profiles. For example, per the contract students are not permitted to post photographs of other students or WCSD employees, taken within or outside of the school context, without permission from a teacher or administrator. The policy is only designed to address students using devices at designated times with teacher permission and supervision, the district has separate rules for technology used inappropriately during school.
The ACUL claims that the contract violates students’ First and Fourth Amendment rights because students are required to adhere to these guidelines to participate in fundamental class activities. The group also takes issue with the fact that the regulations are vague and broadly defined. Opponents of the policy feel that these guidelines can be taken to the extreme, because terms such as “inappropriate” and “unauthorized” are not explicitly defined within the context of the policy. Whether or not the contract will be revised is still up for debate among board members, however reports indicate that the district’s lawyers are reviewing the ACLU’s request.
While technology is undoubtedly an essential element of modern education, Tennessee educators can easily find themselves caught between embracing technology in the class room and maintain a safe and productive learning environment. Crafting a social media and digital technology policy is no easy task. There are countless risk and liability exposures any educational facility can face when it comes to integrating new technology.
Chattanooga educational institutions need the proper risk management strategies and insurance solutions to help mitigate the countless loss and liability exposures they face on a daily basis. At Barnes Insurance Agency, we work with top-quality insurers to provide insurance programs for Eastern Tennessee’s educational sector. Our educational institution insurance specialists can help secure the property, liability and specialty coverage that school-boards, districts, and education establishments need. We can help secure coverage for public and private grade schools as well as non-profit endeavor, boarding schools, two-year colleges, four-year colleges and universities, trade and vocational schools. To learn more about our Chattanooga educational liability insurance and our operation, give us a call today at (866) 733-5424.