Internet Policy Pushes Ahead

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Internet usage at Fannin Schools is about to change. After a month of tabling various revisions to its existing Internet Acceptable Use Policy, the board of education approved changes to the policy last week at its March meeting. Technology Director Dr. Michael Gwatney called most of the changes ways of cleaning up the existing policy. However, some revisions proved more significant.

During his presentation, Gwatney reminded the board the changes to the policy were introduced at last month’s meeting and were tabled for public review of the revisions.

“It was necessary to make revisions to the policy,”

he said,

“because, as a recipient of E-Rate funds, our district is required to have an internet acceptable use policy.”

Part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, E-rate funds provide discounts to assist schools and libraries in the U.S. to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access, according to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) website. He explained the existing policy was approved in 2002, elaborating that the policy addressed the requirements of that time, which were essentially electronic filtering and monitoring of activity of the internet of the school district. According to Gwatney, while some areas were removed to “clean it up,” others were added to address some significant concerns.

Gwatney emphasized the most significant change to the policy is in section D. He explained that this section is a requirement from the FCC that, not only includes existing monitoring of the internet, but a pro-active education component, helping students learn appropriate internet practices and usage. Specifically, the section addresses appropriate on-line behavior while students interact with others on social networking websites, like Facebook, and chat rooms. It also looks at such issues as cyberbullying awareness and response and presents guidelines regarding supervisions. For instance, it states at the elementary level, group sessions with a counselor and resource officer will be provided. At the middle school level the topic for research will be provided by the counselor and resource officer and finally at the high school level, students will be required to complete a computer course on Internet and general safety. High School students will also receive advisements sessions addressing appropriate online behavior and response.

The omission of the Internet Network Access Agreement was another significant change to the policy. Gwatney requested this section be removed and made part of the administration regulation.

“This would afford us the ability to amend this agreement,”

he said,

“without going through the policy revision process.”

The board accepted these recommendations and unanimously approved the changes.

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