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 18. Electronic Communications

 

The use of computers in our public schools is a phenomenon that has radically affected how instruction is delivered to students. Student use of technology is now an essential element in a student’s curriculum at all grade levels. Students use computers to communicate with friends, create their own web pages, research, and do homework assignments.  Staff use of computers is an essential tool in the schools as well.  From lesson plans to emails regarding meetings, technology is necessary in today's schools.

Board members have also discovered that technology enhances their ability to acquire information and communicate among themselves and with school administrators. As a result, board members are becoming better informed on all issues, with a vast amount of information available just a mouse click away. However, with technology comes new legal issues with which board members and administrators need to be familiar.

This chapter will explore many of the legal concerns that affect school boards and school administrators who are using technology to assist in managing the local school district, process information and communicate among the decision makers in the district.

Questions
18. 1 May the school district lawfully purchase computers for members of the board of education to use for school purposes?
18. 2 May board members make personal use of computers the district has purchased?
18. 3 Do e-mail messages sent by board members to each other, the superintendent or other administrators become public record?
18. 4 If e-mail among board members is generated and resides on a server owned and maintained by the district, would all such e-mail then be considered public records?
18. 5 Must board members retain e-mail messages sent and received among themselves?
18. 6 Are personal notes created by board members within GSBA eBoard subject to an Open Records Act request?
18. 7 May the chair or superintendent poll the board members by e-mail as to their opinions on a particular matter?
18. 8 May a quorum of board members discuss board business in “chat rooms” or use “instant messages” or similar devices that are available on-line?
18. 9 Are school districts required to retain e-mail in a file on its server for any specific period of time?
18. 10 Is e-mail among board members, whether on the school district’s server or the board members’ personal computers, subject to subpoena?
18. 11 How may a board ensure that students do not have computer access to pornographic or other inappropriate materials?
18. 12 May teachers or other employees be disciplined or terminated for using school computers for their personal use or to obtain access to obscene or pornographic material?