School Internet ‘opt out’ not recommended

Schools in Oak Harbor have revised their Internet policies this fall, including an option for parents to “opt out” of their child’s Web use, rather than “opt in.”

The district’s Acceptable Use Policy for the Internet was originally written in the late 1990s and focused on the development of equipment.

“Our old policy is completely redacted,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said. “It’s a sign of how much technology has grown and changed. At one point, technology was an extra and today you can’t get away from it.”

The new policy will emphasize how the Web should be used, not a list of what users cannot do.

However, parents who choose for their child to “opt out” of the Internet next year could be at a disadvantage.

At the middle and high school level, the district is bringing in new textbooks for the math and reading programs which include online elements. Some textbooks include DVD’s, Web sites and online worksheets that accompany the curriculum.

The Internet has also become a standard expectation and a part of every class at all grade levels.

Students who are denied access by their parents will use print resources and non-electronic methods.

A memo by Bruce Roberts, director for Information Services, states in part, “If a parent wishes to deny their child access to the Internet, they will have to opt out annually and agree to provide resources so that the student can complete their school work as assigned.”

At last Monday’s school board meeting, board member Pete Hunt questioned the legality of this section.

“When we say students opt out and that parents are responsible for providing adequate resources, did we pass that legally? We’re putting a burden there that wasn’t there before,” Hunt said.

Roberts said it had, but he will look into the matter further. Roberts added that after a parent chooses to opt out, they initiate a face-to-face discussion about the school’s Internet policies.

“We do have filters and security,” Roberts said.

Only a few parents each year choose to deny their child access to the Internet, he said.

The new policy will apply to everyone using the network including staff, students, citizens and parents.

If students don’t follow the new Internet policy, they could have their computer privileges taken away or could be suspended or expelled.

For example, students and staff cannot download games, cyberbully, send hate mail, access explicit material, solicit, send viruses or hack computers.

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