The purposes of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is not only to protect students, as is required under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), but also to describe what behaviors are inappropriate. According to this act, schools receiving governmental “e-rate” funding must maintain an Internet safety policy that includes:
(a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
(b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
(c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
(d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
(e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.
Other organizations, such as the National Education Association (NEA), also suggest inclusion of specific sections in a district’s AUP:
- definition section
- policy statement
- acceptable uses section
- unacceptable uses section
- violation section
The suggested parts of an AUP make sense. The students and their parents need to know the background of the policy, as well as the terms used in the policy. When districts specify what the key words mean, as well as clarify what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable, then there is less subjectivity and uncertainty of what is appropriate. To also include the penalties give the students and their parents an idea of the severity of violating the policy.
Often an AUP requires parent and student signatures. Districts are not uniform in how often they update the policy or have students update their agreement.
Many AUPs tend to be of the don’t-do-this nature, mainly supplying the students with a series of behaviors to avoid. The emphasis tends to be on the safety of the student. Issues of safety include avoidance of obscenities, but also personal safety as well as bullying. Another topic typically found deals with ethics. Generally, to be ethical online, school districts’ AUPs state that there shall be no selling, threatening, hacking, impersonating, and the like. In addition, students are to use information ethically, i.e. avoid plagiarism.
As technology and the capabilities of those technologies change, the AUP should also reflect current changes.
Examples of school districts’ AUPs:
1. From Portland Public Schools in Portland, Washington:
Short, online form: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/departments/information-technology/1247.htm
Or the longer version: http://www.pps.k12.or.us/files/board/8_60_041_AD.pdf
2. From the Murray City School District in Murray, Utah:
3. Beals School Department in Washington County, Maine:
4. Albuquerque Public Schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. Education World. Retrieved June 20, 2014, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml
Guide Print Email. Children’s Internet Protection Act. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act