The Union R-XI Board is working to iron out some wrinkles in a proposed policy that would allow high school students to use personal electronic devices in the classroom.
BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is a program in the works by Union High School teachers, the technology department and administration that would allow students to bring laptops, tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices to the classroom and use them for assignments and research projects.
Director of Curriculum and Support Services Justin Tarte said the students would use the school’s network and be closely monitored by teachers.
Discussion among board members at the Wednesday, June 12, board meeting included concerns about laws pertaining to confiscation of the device if a student used it inappropriately.
School attorney Christi Coleman-Flaherty with Mickes Goldman O’Toole, LLC, said she would work with the board to develop a stringent, clear policy, but was concerned that by instituting the program, the district could open itself up to certain liabilities.
“I think you need to understand that any time a child uses your network, you are responsible for every bit of information they send or receive over that network,” she told the board. “So any time you allow a child to bring their own instrument and access your Internet, it is a huge liability.”
Coleman-Flaherty said it isn’t easy to tell a student to turn over their device if something inappropriate is suspected.
“A child bringing in an iPad or Google pad or whatever, should be no different than a child bringing in a (spiral) notebook,” she said. “That notebook is a tool to help implement your curriculum and if it is not being used as a tool, then it should not be out.”
Coleman-Flaherty said there would need to be a means to track what students are looking at on their devices.
“They need to understand even if they are on their own device if they are on your network, they have no expectation of privacy,” she said. “That means if I walk up to you and you are on your IPad, and I say that I want to see the iPad, you have to turn it over to me.”
Coleman-Flaherty said students would have to adhere to the school’s acceptable use policy while on their own device at school.
“The key is at the teacher level because they are going to have to monitor 25 (devices) in the classroom at the same time,” she said.
Board member Ron Sohn asked Coleman-Flaherty how that would differ from teachers monitoring students on school computers?
“The difference is (school computers) are your property and you can take them any time you want to,” she said. “You have a kid who brings in an iPad and (you take it), you are going to have a parent in your office up in arms because you took that kid’s iPad.”
Sohn pointed out that the school already confiscates phones and other devices when they are being used inappropriately or at inappropriate times.
Coleman-Flaherty said the policy would need to clearly address when and where the devices could be used.
Students would still have to follow current policy in place concerning electronic devices, Tarte said, meaning, for example, students couldn’t text or talk on devices in class or in the hallways.
Assistant Superintendent Judy Stivers said there has been some discussion among administrators to allow high school students to use devices during lunch in the cafeteria, however.
“Research suggests that discipline goes down and noise levels go down,” she said, “because their communication style is their instruments.”
Board members opted not to vote on the policy, but tabled it until more stringent guidelines could be added.
Some schools in the St. Louis metropolitan area, including Richmond Heights and Maplewood, have implemented similar programs with success, Tarte said.