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The focus of an AUP should be on the responsible use of computer networks. Such networks include both the Internet (the World Wide Web, external e-mail, and so on) and any Intranets (classroom networks, communications between classes within a school or district, library catalogue and database access, etc.). According to the US Department of Education's online Alphabet Superhighway, AUPs should include:
In addition, an AUP should:
Some ministries of education and school boards have developed acceptable use guidelines for all stakeholders. An excellent model can be found on EdNet, the Web site for Nova Scotia's Department of Education and Culture (see right sidebar). It clearly defines the responsibilities of the ministry, school boards, schools, parents, teachers and students. However, responsibility for AUPs usually rests with school boards and individual schools.
A downside of AUPs is that because they emphasize surveillance and control rather than supervision and guidance, they imply an absence of trust in students. But when AUPs are properly designed and implemented, they respect the rights of both child and school - and are certainly less restrictive than filtering software.
However, AUPs are not a foolproof solution to issues of students' use of technology. Although some AUPs attempt to protect school boards from legal liability, the mere fact that schools or boards assume the role of "gatekeepers" may actually set them up for litigation if students are exposed to questionable material. In such an environment, administrators can understandably become edgy about topics that seem controversial - and this can lead them to restrict or deny students access to some information.
A parent asks: "If my child's school has Internet access but no AUP, who should I talk to?"
Contact your local school board to determine whether any guidelines have been established for Internet use. If neither school nor board has any such guidelines, you might consider contacting:
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