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Reading "Dave's View" On the Job Might Violate Your AUP


Dave Arnold

If you are a school employee reading this while on the school's Internet, you might be violating the school district's Acceptable User Policy (AUP).


My UniServ Director, Marcus Albrecht, tells me that violating AUP is the number one cause of school employee reprimands and dismissals. So, we need to be careful.

User Guidelines

  • Every school district has rules established regulating the use of their Internet, computers, fax machines, and technology.
  • Although every state's board of education has certain guidelines, no two school district policies are exactly the same; each school board determines them.
  • The policy governs the method and time the computers and Internet are used by students, staff, and the public.
  • The policy is included in and is part of the board policy, but it may also be referenced in a separate policy manual.
  • The Internet AUP will detail who, when and why someone may use the Internet.
  • Usage may differ from one employee to the next, such as from teachers to support staff, or from students and the public.

Marcus' 10 points On Computer Usage

  • Read the AUP, then re-read it during the year. Ask for training in areas you don't understand.
  • Assume you have no privacy regarding e-mail you send and receive on your employer-sponsored system. Only send e-mails that you would feel comfortable reading on the front page of your local newspaper. For more information on privacy issues, visit the  Center for Democracy and Technology.
  • Do not share your password, and change it often. Turn off or lock out your computer when you leave your work area.
  • What you post on blogs and personal Web sites may be accessed by many people and could result in sanctions by your employer under certain circumstances.
  • Some states have statues prohibiting the tape recording of conversations unless all parties to the conversation consent; and the Federal Wiretapping Act prohibits the interception of electronic communications, possibly including stored voicemail messages.
  • A "deleted" computer file, including e-mail, can often be accessed by experienced investigators.
  • There is a trail on the computer you are using showing what Internet sites you access.
  • NEA.org also has information about technology issues in education.

Busted

Even if you abide by the Internet policy at school, you must remember that your activities can be tracked. Marcus mentioned one incident that caused an education support professional (ESP) to be reprimanded for his activities. A custodian was using the Internet during his dinner break on an evening shift. His employer stated that it showed he had habitually used the Internet for no less than 40 minutes each evening, but his contract only allowed for a 30-minute break.

I witnessed a case involving a teacher being dismissed for extensive e-mail conversations with a friend when she was supposed to be teaching at that time.

Mom is Watching

Schools are required to make their board policy available to anyone who requests it. School district officials are required to advise their employees that they must abide by AUP. If you are ever in doubt, use common sense and don't do anything that you wouldn't be comfortable doing while your boss or mother were watching.

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at dparnold@csuol.com.)

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.


Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --