Monday, February 17, 2014

Creating a Cellphone or BYOD policy for your school - what's the extent of your authority?

What is the limit of the policy’s scope as it relates to school-centric authority? 
As Parry Aftab has carefully outlined in other articles about the limited authority of schools to address off-premises, after-hours and not-school-related conduct of their students, schools cannot legally reach student conduct unrelated to school. 

While it is unclear whether these limitations also govern softer disciplinary actions, such as requiring peer counseling, or writing an essay on why cyberbullying hurts, expulsions, suspensions and removal from sports teams have been held to be outside of the school’s authority in after-hours, off-premises and not-school-related bullying and cyberbullying. 

Ask your district counsel to review the decisions governing your jurisdiction to see how far you may go and still stay within your constitutional authority. (Law school students can be very helpful on inventorying the relevant laws and cases.) 

The Florida Department of Education model policy provides:
The school district upholds that bullying or harassment of any student or school employee is prohibited:
a) During any education program or activity conducted by a public K-12 educational institution;
b) During any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity;
c) On a school bus of a public K-12 educational institution; or
d) Through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network of a public K-12 education institution.

Typically, the scope also includes “while on school grounds” and “through the use of school-provided equipment or communication networks or technology.”