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WCCS: Internet safety a priority

January 8, 2012

COLUMBIA CITY – The committee in charge of reviewing bylaws and policies for Whitley County Consolidated Schools received proposed revisions from NEOLA, a consulting firm which provides school districts with a complete service for developing and updating board bylaws and policies, administrative guidelines, forms, staff handbooks and student/parent handbooks in both electronic and printed format. According to Dr. Pat O’Connor, three of the most important revisions pertain to technology use in schools.

“These are very important policies for school corporations to use these days,” O’Connor said at Tuesday’s Whitley County Consolidated School Board of Trustees meeting.

The first policy revision emphasizes requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) regarding training for students about online behavior, safety and security. The policy provides options for schools to address the access and use of social media through the school’s network.

The second revision clarifies CIPA requirements and also reflects the current state of the law, as it pertains to students. Staff acceptable use and safety is the third revision being proposed to the bylaws and policies. The revision clarifies the responsibilities that staff-members have to educate students regarding online safety and security while accessing network features such as e-mail, chat rooms, social networking sites and other forms of electronic communications.

“We want Internet usage that is approved for educational purposes,” said O’Connor. “It’s all about student safety.”

Per state law, the disclosure of personally identifiable information about students online is prohibited.

Other proposed revisions for consideration include board members compensation, how the school board votes, the use of tobacco by administrators and staff, and requirements from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) pertaining to attendance at school events.

Per the firm’s website, NEOLA retains law firms in each state to provide legal reviews of published materials and to consult on continuing updates. Each manual is based on templates that have been thoughtfully prepared by NEOLA’s school law firm from that state and are customized for the district it is working with through choices made by the school board and policy committee.

Some of the revisions are suggestions which are not required to be added while others are required updates to reflect state law, according to O’Connor.

The board will have the first reading of the proposed updates and revisions at its Jan. 16 meeting and should be up for approval at the following session.

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