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Division of Program Support
NHEON > Office of Educational Technology > TECH PLAN GUIDE START

VI. POLICY & PROCEDURE:   A. Children's Internet Protection Act      B. Copyright & Fair Use     C. Acceptable Use Policy Kit

Acceptable Use Policy Kit

1. Why create an AUP
2. What to include in an AUP
3. Use of Facilities
4. Responsible Personnel

5. Network Access
6. Disciplinary Actions
7. Limitation of Liability
8. Bibliography

Use of Facilities

SAMPLE WORDING: XYZ District's Network system, XYZNet, has a limited educational purpose. Activities that are acceptable on XYZNet include classroom activities, career development, and high-quality personal research. You may not use XYZNet for entertainment purposes (except for those periods of time that the school has designated as "open access"). XYZNet is not a public access service or a public forum. XYZ District has the right to place reasonable restrictions on the material you access or post through the system. You are expected to follow the rules set forth in XYZ District's disciplinary code and the law in your use of XYZNet. You may not use XYZNet for commercial purposes. This means you may not offer, provide, or purchase products or services through XYZNet. You may use the system to communicate with elected representatives and to express your opinion on political issues, but not for political lobbying.

Commercial Purposes: A district system should not be used for commercial services (offering or providing products or services). Spell out appropriate restrictions on using the system for purchasing products or services. Put in a disclaimer for the district not to be responsible for financial obligations arising from unauthorized use.

Extracurricular organizations: Under the Equal Access Act, a Federal law, districts that allow extracurricular organizations may not discriminate on the basis of religious or political views in the creation of these organizations. If the district allows one organization to post information to a district Web site it will need to let them all.

Facilities: A district Internet/Network system may be comprised of a multitude of capabilities. A school district should provide an educational rational for those services it will provide. Some of the technology services school districts currently provide include applications software, Web access, email, newsgroups, Internet relay chat, FTP, and other educational portals. Also consider the resource demands required for these services. Some things to be mindful of are: computer crime, computer viruses, account security and demands in excess of the system resources.

Limited Educational Purpose: State that the Internet system is being established for a limited educational purpose. Failure to provide clear restrictions on use may result in the system being considered a public forum. In the case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 US 260 (1988), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of the protection under the First Amendment speech rights. The issue in the Hazelwood case involved the principal’s decision to remove several articles from publication in the school newspaper. Hazelwood specifically addresses student rights, but may be extended to other school personnel. Specific wording from Hazelwood includes:

"School facilities may be deemed to be public forums only if school authorities have ‘by policy or practice’ opened those facilities ‘for indiscriminate use by the general public, or by some segment of the public, such as student organizations.’ If the facilities have instead been reserved for other intended purposes, ‘communication or otherwise,’ then no public forum has been created, and school officials may impose reasonable restrictions of the speech of students, teachers, and other members of the school community."

"Educators are entitled to exercise greater control over [activities that may be characterized as part of the school curriculum] to assure that the participants learn whatever lessons the activity is designed to teach, that readers or listeners are not exposed to material that may be inappropriate for their level of maturity, and that the views of the individual speakers are not erroneously attributed to the school. Hence a school may ‘disassociate itself’ not only from speech that ‘would substantially interfere with its work or impinge upon the rights of other students but also from speech that is, for example, ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences. A school must be able to set high standards for student speech that is disseminated under its auspices."

If school districts make it clear to their constituents that the network system has been established for an educational purpose, it will probably be considered as a limited forum, similar to a school publication. The NH Department of Education does not advise restricting student use to specific class-related activities. Doing so would be an extreme measure, opening the door to the same variety of concerns that arise over filtering issues.

Political Issues: Public employees in New Hampshire are not prohibited from expressing opinions on legislative matters. However it may be acceptable for a district to deny employees use of the system for fund-raising or other political activity. Students have more freedom to engage in political lobbying. If the district has specifically described the educational purposes of the system as not embracing political lobbying, then it may be acceptable to prohibit students from using it for these purposes. The NH Department of Education encourages districts to be cautious when attempting to limit student use of the Internet in this regard. The analysis of legislative measures and communication with elected officials is an activity the Department strongly encourages.

Restrictions: Some restrictions appropriate for a district to impose:

  • Criminal speech and speech in the course of committing a crime. For example, threats to the President, instructions on breaking into computer systems, child pornography, drug dealing, purchase of alcohol, gang activities, etc.
  • Speech inappropriate in an educational setting or in violation of district rules: Obscene, profane, lewd, vulgar, rude disrespectful, threatening, or inflammatory language
  • Harassment: Personal attacks, including prejudicial or discriminatory attacks, false or defamatory material about a person or organization
  • Dangerous information: information that if acted upon could cause damage or present a danger of disruption
  • Violations of privacy
  • Abuse of resources: chain letters, "spamming"
  • Copyright infringement
  • Plagiarism
  • Revealing personal contact information or other violations of personal safety

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): The Federal Trade Commission has established a Web site for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The site gives parents and kids some insight into how the law works. COPPA which went into effect April 21, 2000 prohibits web sites from gathering personally identifiable data on children under age 13. The law is aimed at Internet operators who have web sites or use online data-gathering as a means to make money. In general the school would probably not be liable under COPPA if students provide personal information online using school computers. However, the Department recommends that a good Acceptable Use Policy help school children know not to give out too much information. The following Web site is a helpful place for those who have questions about the law:

The district may want to require that publications on the Web meet district standards. These standards may include:

  • Adequacy of research
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Appropriateness of material. The district may restrict school Web pages to related school and career preparation activities.
  • Students/Staff may be required to post a notice on personal Web pages that any opinions expressed are that of the student and not of the district.

Additional Restrictions to Consider:

  • Allow no Web pages for extracurricular organizations (See Extracurricular Activities above.)
  • Establish viewpoint neutral standards for the web pages that may reduce the presence of controversial material. For example, material must relate specifically to organization activities and programs, only student-produced material, no material produced by non-students and no pointers to other sites.
  • No restrictions other than the district communication rules and school rules for the Web site
  • A word of caution: A district needs to be careful if it intends to further limit the speech of staff and students. As an example:

In Connick v. Meyers, 461 US 138 (1983) the Court established a two step process for determining whether employee speech is entitled to constitutional protection. First, it must be determined whether the speech pertains to a "matter of public concern." Second, if it is a matter of public concern, it must be determined that the interests of the teacher in speaking as a citizen outweigh the state’s interest in promoting efficiency in the delivery of educational services in the schools. This may be an issue to discuss with district legal counsel.

Beussink v Woodland R-IV School District, 30 F. Supp. 2nd 1175 E.D. MO (1998) enjoined a 10-day suspension of a student for publishing a homepage on the Internet critical of his high school in vulgar language.

  • Restricting use to allow efficiency of a system may be used if it is applied equitably. Therefore, you may want to limit time using sites such as those with real time updates.



Last update: 10/9/04