Should Teacher E-Mails Be Private?
As an administrator, your feeling may be that teacher e-mails sent under a school account and during instructional time should be subject to the same scrutiny as messages sent in the corporate world, which courts have long held are not private. But a series of Supreme Court decisions in Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, and elsewhere have ruled that under state open-records laws, personal e-mails from teachers and other government employees are not part of the public record.
"It is consistent with the conduct of governmental business to allow public employees occasional personal use of government computers and e-mail accounts consistent with their work duties," the concurring justices said in the Wisconsin ruling.
While teachers unions have applauded the decisions, others are concerned about transparency and potential abuse. Several news organizations filed a brief in the Wisconsin case requesting the e-mails be made public. And Don Bubolz, the Wisconsin resident who originally petitioned for access to teacher correspondence, registered his disappointment with the decision. "I know it's going to make it difficult to come up with more information in the future," he said.
Parents' Online Fears Skewed
While cyberbullying has stormed the headlines, it is the primary online safety concern for only two percent of parents, says a new poll from Common Sense Media. In comparison, 72 percent felt sexual predators were their primary concern, despite its relative rarity. The survey also found that an overwhelming 92 percent of parents feared children are sharing too many personal details online. In particular, parents worry that social networking sites are passing on kids' information, and that concern may be justified. Another study by the Wall Street Journal found that contrary to the site's privacy policies, Facebook's top ten most popular apps share user information with third-party sites.
Houston Tracks Its Students
Administrators in two Houston-area school districts can always know the whereabouts of their students, thanks to radio-frequency chips in children's ID cards. The Spring Independent School District pioneered the program in December 2008, and the Santa Fe ISD followed suit this fall. While school officials point to benefits such as locating students in the event of an emergency, the ACLU has questioned the effort. "There's real questions about the security risks involved with these gadgets," Dotty Griffith, public education director for the ACLU of Texas told the Houston Chronicle. A spokeswoman for Santa Fe ISD responded, "It's a very secure system. There's no data to confirm that there's any health or safety risks."
IT Departments Get a Makeover
NBC's new reality show School Pride takes the Extreme Makeover concept to the schoolyard, and a major element of the televised renovations will be outfitting the schools with the latest technology, including asset and data protection systems from Absolute Software. Tune in on Friday nights at 8 p.m. to see IT security get the reality-show treatment.