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Ideas, News & Advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

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Written by Paget Hetherington
on September 25, 2020

Giving students access to technology and digital tools is an essential part of the modern classroom. Technology offers students greater opportunity for communicating with teachers and peers while expanding their skills and knowledge to allow for deeper learning. Personal devices and online learning have also been a helpful asset in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing students to continue their studies from home while keeping up connections with peers and teachers. While there are many benefits to using technology for learning, the use of these tools opens up students, educators, and schools to a myriad of risks, which then becomes a liability to districts and leaders.

It’s important to remember that the Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, sets out a series of requirements for districts that receive E-Rate funding. According to CIPA, these schools must install content filters on school computers. To comply with CIPA, these filters must prevent access to content that’s “harmful to minors.” This includes sexually explicit content involving minors and other obscene images and videos. Additionally, CIPA requires schools to monitor student computer use. In the classroom, teachers often fulfill this requirement by physically monitoring their students’ screens, but distance learning makes in-person monitoring impossible. However, it doesn’t stop a school’s responsibility for monitoring—nor does distance learning end a school’s liability to litigation as a result of a lapse in monitoring.

Students can experience a variety of dangerous situations when working online—in the classroom or in their living room—including cyberbullying, phishing, harmful content and images, and more. Many of these concerns are transmitted through students’ school-managed email and online file storage accounts, which makes these situations a direct liability to the district and creates a responsibility for the district to protect students from them. Plus, with recent transitions to distance and blended learning plans that take place almost exclusively online and through students’ personal devices, there is a greater chance of risk than ever—both to students and districts.

Although many school districts are installing filtering software and blocking devices, these rely on recognition of predetermined words or phrases and screens for those words or phrases. With this, there is the potential for the school blocking out appropriate educational material.

When it comes to technology use in schools, districts, district leaders, and Gaggle all have the same goal in mind: protecting students. Gaggle Safety Management directly supports districts’ responsibility to protect students by monitoring students’ school-issued accounts, flagging and blocking potentially harmful content, and notifying district-appointed contacts in the case of a severe or dangerous situation.

Want to learn more about digital student safety and district liability? Check out our Investing in Student Safety report to discover the various measures school districts across the country are taking to protect students and how educators measure the return on their safety investments.

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