Acceptable Use Policies

If you teach, work, or attend any type of educational institution in the US, then you probably use some form of technology every day. In Scholastic’s Using Technology article, it is stated, “There are many benefits to using the Internet in elementary and intermediate education, but it is important for you to harness this powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use.” (“Why Have a Technology Policy,” n.d.) With the integration of technology into educational systems, it has become necessary for schools to write and implement an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a formal document outlining appropriate use and maintenance of school owned technology devices, personal computers, mobile devices, and the use of the Internet for school purposes. Common Sense Media explains, “Similar to a Terms of Service document, an AUP should define publicly what is deemed acceptable behavior from users of hardware and information systems such as the Internet and any applicable networks.” (1-to-1 Essentials,” n.d.) These policies can be found in parent/student handbooks, faculty handbooks, and on school or district websites.  Students, teachers, and staff are required to sign the document each year stating that they will abide by the school’s policies regarding technology. Many school districts have safety nets such as anti virus software and web filters, but these precautions can still have gaps.  Educational institutions have the responsibility to protect the personal safety and privacy of educators and students. That is why an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is so important.

Acceptable Use Policies can vary in content but most policies contain similar rules and guidelines. Some school’s AUPs may be only a few pages long, while other’s may encompass over 20 pages.  Regardless of the length, a thorough AUP should include:

  • The institution’s mission and philosophy statement
  • A definition of technology as it applies to the educational institution
  • The school’s level of responsibility in protecting personal devices (both hardware and software)
  • Both acceptable and unacceptable use of technology
  • Specific Internet usage guidelines
  • Rules on the use of social media
  • Guidelines on digital citizenship
  • Rules regarding cyberbullying
  • Rules regarding passwords and sharing of computer codes
  • Rules regarding copyright laws
  • Expectations of behavior regarding network accounts
  • Guidelines regarding the downloading and installation of software on school-owned devices
  • Consequences for not following the AUP

In addition, the educational institution should clearly define plagiarism and the consequences for representing any other work or idea as one’s own.  Not properly citing sources is a form of plagiarism.

Some examples of Acceptable Use Policies:

Calvary Christian Academy, Philadelphia, PA (p.21)

This is the AUP for the school where I teach. It is limited to one page in the handbook and while it contains most of the components of a good AUP, it is rather general in nature.  Our IT department is extremely protective and cautious when it comes to technology use at our school. Student access to the internet is limited and BYOD is only considered under special circumstances.  I expect our AUP to evolve over the next few years as technology use becomes a more regular and intentional part of our curriculum.

Neshaminy School District, Langhorne, PA

This is the AUP for the school district I attended for elementary school through high school.  It is a very detailed 23 page document.  Internet use is clearly discussed including a section defining key terms and specific laws and responsibilities are explained in detail. It is one of the most content specific AUPs that I found.

Lower Moreland School District, Huntington Valley, PA

For a rather large school district in my area, this is a rather brief AUP. Most components of a typical AUP are included, but no detail or explanation is included.  I did note below that they have a separate BYOD policy.

Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Bensalem, PA (p.52-54)

This AUP is from a local Catholic prep school. It is included in their student handbook. It is fairly brief but clearly covers all components of a typical AUP.  Consequences for misuse are clearly defined.

Delaware County Christian School, Delaware County, PA

This AUP is from a school similar is size and scope to my own.  The AUP clearly defines the school’s values when it comes to technology use.  I did find it interesting that they do not support student owned devices at this time. They make it clear that their policies on technology are still a work in progress.

Finally, with more and more schools implementing bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, some districts have added a BYOD document.  One example would be Lower Moreland School District in Pennsylvania.

LMSD BYOD Policy

Resources:

1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups

Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library? | Librarians | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm

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6 thoughts on “Acceptable Use Policies

  1. Your write-up was very detailed! I agree that most of the AUP I looked at were either very detailed or too summarized. One important aspect in this day and age is the cyber-bullying aspect of the AUP. Most schools I looked at didn’t directly talk about bullying, but detailed it more in the communication portion of the document. It is important for schools to be clear on the social expectations and definitions for the users. Nice job!

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  2. Hi Joanna,

    I’m glad you mentioned where AUPs can be found. It seems like a website is such an obvious answer, I never considered sending it home to parents. At our school, it is not required that students and staff sign an agreement, but I can see how that would be beneficial to the institution. I didn’t include the school’s mission statement/vision on my AUP requirements, but that’s a good idea because it ties everything together.

    You mention that AUPs can vary in length greatly. I think I prefer ones that are shorter rather than longer. People are probably more likely to actually read and absorb a precise bulleted list versus a long, stretched out legal document. Your school’s is exactly like that – short and precise, but general enough to cover a large breadth of possibilities. My wife teaches at a private Christian school also, and I actually forgot to ask her about the school’s AUP. I need to do that and see how it compares to your examples – mainly out of curiosity. You also mention the importance of I.T. departments. I work across the hall from my school’s I.T. area and I can attest to the hard work they have to do in order to keep students and staff safe.

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  3. Since our school is so behind with technology, it seems like a good first step would be to consider B.Y.O.D. I appreciate that you included a policy regarding that. It seems like a great option that is gaining popularity. I thought your blog was very detailed and was great. I like that you added cyber-bullying in your suggestions. It is something that is present and needs to be addressed. Great post!

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  4. I was amazed when I was reading various Acceptable Use policies at the differing length and voice. Some were quite legal sounding and others more student friendly. We just went to a 1:1 school this year and I do not think that our AUP was covered well with my students. I see lots of inappropriate use of school-issued iPads. We definitely need to spend more time going through appropriate use with our students.

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