Schools look at ethical use of technology

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos Public Schools Technology Coordinator Dean Obermeyer and his staff are working with central office officials to upgrade the district’s policy on the ethical use of technology.


“What we’re doing is bringing the policy to meet the New Mexico Administrative Code and procedures implemented in 2007,” Obermeyer said during his presentation at Tuesday night’s school board meeting in the district boardroom.


“These are the initial steps to make sure the district is in compliance.”


As technology becomes more sophisticated – so do all the rules and regulations governing it.


Assistant Superintendent Kate Thomas mentioned attending a meeting recently in which some 80 documents were identified that have different retention requirements.


New laws require that certain documents be retained for seven years while others are never to be destroyed but must be sent to the state archives. There are also drafts and other documents that don’t have to be retained at all.


Obermeyer discussed the rules regarding ethical use of technology by district employees and students.


He explained that computer users must sign an agreement before they are allowed to log on.


“We do ask everyone to re-sign the agreement every year and it becomes a teachable moment,” Obermeyer said.


The policy states that there is no expectation of privacy when it come to the school’s computers. For employees, the computers and computer accounts given to users are to assist them in the performance of their jobs and for education purposes.


E-mail users are responsible for managing their mail boxes, Obermeyer said, adding that according to the New Mexico Administrative Code, “When you send an e-mail, it becomes the property of the person who receives it.”


Board member Ken Johnson expressed his concern with blind copy e-mails, which he often receives and now rarely opens.


“Blind copying is an invasion of privacy,” he said. “I shouldn’t have that knowledge and I don’t want to receive it … I find it unethical.”


Board members Jody Benson and Alison Beckman expressed concern with some of the language in the modified agreement.


“I think this is more heavy-handed and we’re supposed to be guiding the students,” Beckman said in questioning some of the text. She suggested providing stand-alone computers to students who abused their privilege, to allow them to still do their homework.


Benson took exception with a rule prohibiting the sending or forwarding of jokes. “I think this is vital for morale,” she said.


Obermeyer said the rule is meant to keep people from sending too many, which would waste resources.


Benson also asked whether the “old Harmless” clause in the agreement was legally binding. Obermeyer obtained the template for the agreement from a law conference he attended in 2005 and said he would double check the legalities.


Superintendent Mary McLeod told the board the agreement will be worked on some more and brought back to a future meeting.