Ensuring proper use of district technology loaned to students and staff

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have required local educational agencies to find creative ways to implement distance learning districtwide and to address the needs of employees working from home. Districts are doing all they can to convert curriculum to an online or alternative platform, respond to the needs of students who do not have devices or internet access at home, develop multiple methods to reach students, and prepare teachers to deliver instruction remotely, all on very short notice.

A common challenge in implementing these strategies is the provision of district-owned technological equipment and resources to students and staff. Some districts have invested significant funds in a 1:1 program, with students and staff already having laptops or other equipment in their possession. Other districts collaborate to provide free or low-cost resources or internet service to students.

Districts have a responsibility to safeguard their property and ensure its responsible use. These concerns are addressed in two sample board policies available through CSBA: BP 6163.4 – Student Use of Technology and BP 4040 – Employee Use of Technology. Both policies are accompanied by exhibits showing examples of acceptable use agreements. The requirements and strategies in these policies apply to any use of district technology by students or employees, whether on campus or at home during a school closure. CSBA has reviewed these policies and does not believe that any revisions are required due to school closures at this time. Key provisions include:

• Requiring students/employees to sign an acceptable use agreement, which outlines their obligations and responsibilities related to the use of district technology, including, but not limited to, prohibitions against cyberbullying, accessing or posting harmful or inappropriate matter, installing unapproved software, intentionally creating a computer virus or engaging in other unethical behavior
• Ensuring that all district computers with internet access have a technology protection measure that protects against access to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors
• Training students/employees in the proper use and care of the equipment
• Notifying students/employees that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the use of district technology and that the district may access and monitor their use
• Informing students/employees of the consequences that may be imposed by the district for unauthorized or improper use of district technology

Unreliable technology is frustrating for both students and employees, and can discourage or even halt teaching and learning. Therefore, effective implementation of distance learning or employee remote work requires a plan for troubleshooting hardware and software problems and providing technical support to students and employees.

Districts are protected against loss, damage or theft of technology equipment to some extent by Education Code 48904, which states that parents/guardians are liable to the district for the costs of damages to school property caused by the willful misconduct of their minor children. The limit on parent/guardian liability is adjusted annually for inflation by the superintendent of public instruction and is $20,900 for 2020. Districts are not required to seek reimbursement and may want to consider potential ramifications of doing so during this crisis. Districts that do decide to seek reimbursement for damaged property should review BP/AR 3515.4 – Recovery for Property Loss or Damage for additional information.

The use of district technology by students and staff is also addressed in two new sample board policies issued by CSBA in a special release on April 15, 2020: BP 6157 – Distance Learning and BP 4113.5/4213.5/4313.5 – Working Remotely. While these policies would normally only be available to GAMUT Policy subscribers, CSBA has made them available to all members during this challenging time. These policies are applicable to situations when all students and staff are at home during an emergency, but are intended to be useful beyond COVID-19 for districts that choose to include distance learning and/or remote work as a regular district practice.