Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are there guidelines for student publishing

Clarence Fisher is a teacher, Twitter correspondent, blog writer, and from what I can gather from reading his posts, someone who can generate interesting ideas to consider. Tonight, I read his latest entry, Of Opinions and Platforms, an article he wrote about freedom of speech and student writing within the context of school.

At one point in the article he notes:

Now, however, students have a global platform and the possibility of a global voice. What does this mean for students, teachers, and schools? While students are in our care, do they have the right to expect freedom of speech? Does the school have some ability to restrict this right if students are writing things that teachers or school administrator's don't agree with?

He raises a question that is not one highly applicable to our district, not because of the issues he relates to in his examples, but simply because we have so few actively blogging students or classes and the ones that are in place are, primarily in the elementary school where issues like abortion or suicide bombers seldom arise.

It did give me cause to look at our acceptable use policy for our students and examine where that written policy would stand in dealing with the examples in his article.

Keeping in mind that this policy statement is quite old and prior to Web 2.0 - it really should be amended - I can see some difficulties here.

The current policy reads:

1. The use of our system must be in support of education and research and consistent
with the educational objectives of School District #46.
2. Use of other organizations’ network or computing resources must comply with the
rules appropriate for that network.
3. Transmission of any material in violation of any national or provincial regulation is
prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to: copyrighted material, threatening or
obscene material, or material protected by trade secret.
4. Use of the system to access obscene or pornographic material is prohibited.
5. Sending material likely to be offensive or objectionable is prohibited.
6. Subscription to Listserv, bulletin boards and on-line services must be pre-approved
by the district.

I am thinking that it is #5 in this list that would be a discussion point for administrative staff if postings about abortion or suicide bombing were under discussion.

I think I need to review the policy in its entirety, and certainly have a discussion about our #5. I'm inclined to agree with Clarence ... if only our students were more prolific public writers from within the school walls.

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