Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy

Over the past several years, the Smyth County School System has made substantial investments in technology. Thanks to these investments, our students and staff now have access to networked multimedia computers with full-time connections to the Internet and Network Virginia (Virginiaís statewide data, voice, and video network). There are computers with network access in classrooms, media centers (libraries), and technology labs. We have provided this access because of the wealth of educational resources available on the Internet. Our investment in technology will also enable us to fulfill the mandates of Virginiaís Web-based SOL Technology Initiative.

The purpose of our Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy is to describe the appropriate uses of the Smyth County School Boardís computers, networks, Internet access, and other technology resources. It specifically addresses the issues described in the federal Childrenís Internet Protection Act (CIPA):

Internet Filtering and Monitoring

The Smyth County School Boardís computers, networks, and technology resources are for instructional and administrative usage. Specific approved usages include research, taking classes on the Internet, and use in academic classes. The Internet provides a wealth of material that supports our educational mission.

The Internet also contains pornographic material, Web sites run by hate groups, and information on how to commit crimes. To prevent this information from entering our schools, we use an Internet filtering program. This program has a database of pornographic and other objectionable Web sites. We have configured the filtering program to block access to these Web sites.

Although the filtering programís database is updated several times a week, there is always the possibility that a new pornographic or hate site will appear that has not been picked up by the program. For that reason, our teachers, librarians, and other staff members also monitor and supervise studentsí Internet access. Records of Internet access are also stored in computer log files, which we monitor periodically. These efforts help students learn how to use the Internet responsibly and avoid unsuitable sites. Students who deliberately attempt to access pornographic and other blocked sites are subject to disciplinary procedures. This includes using anonymous proxies and anonymizers to bypass the filtering system.

Although our filtering software and monitoring efforts are designed to make the Internet an educational and safe experience, they cannot completely eliminate the risk that students will be able to access inappropriate material. Therefore, parents may choose to opt their children out of accessing the Internet at school. There is a form provided at the end of this policy for this purpose.

Installing Software or Modifying Computer Systems

Students are not allowed to install or remove software on any computers belonging to the Smyth County School Board, unless they have the express permission of the school principal or the principalís designated staff member. This means that students may not bring games from home and install them on School Board computers, or download software from the Internet and install it on School Board computers.

Students are not allowed to modify the setup of computer systems belonging to the School Board. This means that students should not change any settings on a School Board computer, any Internet browser settings, or the names of any files on a School Board computer, except for files created by the student for academic use.

There are several reasons we restrict students from installing software or otherwise modifying computer systems:

  1. Some computer games have violent or sexual themes that are not appropriate for school.
  2. Some software is designed to enable users to ďhackĒ into computer systems that they are not authorized to access.
  3. Any software installation carries with it the possibility of making the computer malfunction. This is particularly true with some games that change the computerís system settings.
  4. Software downloaded from the Internet may be infected with a virus or a Trojan horse. (A Trojan horse is software that permits an intruder to secretly gain access to a computer.)
  5. Many different people use School Board computers. If we allow students to change the names of program icons, other users may not be able to find the programs they need.
  6. Modifying the system setup could cause a computer to malfunction or bypass the Internet filtering system.

Staff members should also consult with the School Boardís Technology Coordinator before installing software on school computers, to ensure that the software is properly licensed and compatible with the schoolís computers and networks.

E-Mail, Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms, and Social Networking Sites

Unauthorized e-mail, instant messaging, Internet chat rooms, and social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook consume network bandwidth that is needed for instructional and administrative use. They also expose students to harassing or threatening messages. Even friendly usage of these applications can distract students from school work, in the same manner as cellular telephones and pagers, which are also prohibited. Therefore, the Smyth County School Board will not allow students to use School Board computers to access e-mail, instant messaging programs, Internet chat rooms, or social networking sites unless those applications are required for a class the student is taking. The decision as to whether these applications are required for a specific academic purpose rests with the school principal.

As required by Virginia law, Smyth County schools also incorporate Internet safety instruction into their curriculum. The goal of this instruction is to make students aware of the risks of certain kinds of online behavior, such as posting personal or financial information online and violating copyright legislation by illegally sharing media files.

Parents should also be aware that people can use e-mail, instant messaging software, chat rooms, and social networking sites to threaten, harass, or entice their children. Some pornographic Web sites also solicit visitors through e-mail and instant messaging software, such as ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger. It can be extremely difficult to trace the source of these inappropriate messages. If you decide to allow your children to access e-mail, instant messaging software, or social networking sites at home, we suggest that you encourage your children to use ďhandles,Ē or pseudonyms for their online accounts. Your child should also not provide an address, phone number, or other personal information to anyone they meet through e-mail, instant messaging, or social networking.

If your child does receive a threatening or harassing e-mail or message, DO NOT ERASE the message. If you keep the original message, law enforcement authorities may be able to trace the message to its sender, even if the sender used a forged e-mail address.

Digital Music Files and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Software

Because the School Board has a fast, full-time Internet connection, students are tempted to download digital music files (MP3s) and movie clips to School Board computers, using peer-to-peer file sharing programs. This is prohibited for the following reasons:

  1. Downloading digital music files and movie clips uses up our network capacity, which slows or stops legitimate academic and administrative usage.
  2. Many of the digital music files available on the Internet are copyright violations; that is, the musician or record label that holds the copyright to the songs has not given permission for these songs to be distributed at no cost on the Internet. Part of our mission as educators is to promote the ethical use of technology. Using our computers to pirate music betrays that mission.
  3. Individual bands and the Recording Industry Association of America have brought lawsuits against academic institutions that have not taken steps to prevent their students from pirating music in this fashion.
  4. Peer-to-peer file sharing programs pose a security risk to our networks.

Hacking and Cracking

Students may not use School Board computers to access or attempt to access other computers or computer networks which they are not authorized to use. This activity is commonly called hacking or cracking. Examples of this activity include:

Some students who are curious about how computers work may be tempted to engage in hacking activities. You and your child should be aware that most hacking activities are now classified as crimes under federal or state law. Law enforcement officials have been zealous in prosecuting young hackers, even going so far as to seek jail terms.

Preventing Unauthorized Disclosure, Use, and Dissemination of Personal Information

Federal and state laws govern the disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding students and school board employees. Because much of that information is contained in computer databases, School Board employees must take precautions to ensure the integrity of that data.

Bandwidth Conservation

The Smyth County School Board offers distance learning opportunities, such as the A. Linwood Holton Governorís School. To ensure that students enrolled in distance learning classes have sufficient bandwidth to participate in their on-line classes, the School Board may implement a variety of bandwidth conservation measures. These measures include blocking Web sites that have no instructional or administrative value and reallocating network bandwidth at specific times during the day. Staff members and students should also not use Internet radio stations for casual listening or as background music during the school day, because these connections can consume large amounts of bandwidth.

Staff members should also check with the School Boardís Technology Coordinator before installing software on school computers, because some programs create persistent Internet connections that can siphon off our available bandwidth. This includes custom screen savers and mouse cursors such as Comet Cursor, as well as full-fledged programs.

Penalties for Violations of the Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy

Violations of the Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy will be handled by school staff in the same fashion as other disciplinary matters.

Summary

The Smyth County School Boardís technology investments are designed to provide a better education for your child. We have designed our Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy to promote educational and administrative usage of the network, without imposing undue restrictions on users. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding technology usage in Smyth County schools, please contact the School Boardís Technology Coordinator at 783-3791, extension 2228 or at terryh@scsb.org.

Annual Evaluation of This Policy

The School System's Director of Technology shall be responsible for collecting suggestions for improvements to this policy throughout the school year from teachers and other school board employees, students, parents, and community members. In addition, the Internet Safety/Technology Usage Policy and the Internet Safety Instruction curriculum will be a topic of discussion at regularly scheduled administrative staff meetings throughout the year. The Director of Technology will compile and present revisions to this policy to the Division Superintendent once a year. The Division Superintendent will present the revisions to the School Board for consideration prior to the beginning of each new school year.


Request to Opt Student Out of School Internet Access

As the parent or legal guardian of ______________________________, a minor, I wish to opt _________________________________________ out of accessing the Internet at school. I understand that in doing so, I may prevent my child from accessing the Internet-based instructional materials and activities that will be available to his classmates. The Smyth County School System will provide alternative activities for children whose parents do not wish them to access the Internet; however, the Smyth County School Board cannot ensure that these activities will provide the same richness and depth of experience that access to the Internet can provide. Please note that this opt-out form does not opt your child out of Smyth County's online SOL assessment program. Online SOL assessments are delivered across the Internet through special software that only allows the student to access the SOL test questions.

 

Signature                        Name (please print)                        Date

Please return this form to your childís school.