Monday, February 17, 2014

Step-by-step walk thru on creating a cellphone or byod policy for your school

A Step-By-Step Walk Through on Creating a Comprehensive Cellphone or BYOD Policy

Florida has created a very comprehensive cyberbullying and cyberharassment policy, covering all aspects of best practices and policies. Parry Aftab walks you through the various steps in coming to something this complete and helps guide you at the decision points to make it fit your local needs.

Start with your mission statement or legal obligation. It can be as long or short as you like, but is the beginning of your message. Why are you doing this? Is it because of a new law requiring you to adopt and implement a cyberbullying or digital device policy? If so, say so. If it is for the general purpose of helping create a safer school environment, say that. If it is to ensure that during school the students feel safe and can focus on school and learning objectives, say that. 

You may fine tune it after the policy has been developed, but writing it first when everyone is fresh helps you remember the goal and stick to it. The Florida Department of Education’s model policy’s statement provides: 
It is the policy of the _____________ School District that all of its students and school employees have an educational setting that is safe, secure, and free from harassment and bullying of any kind. The district will not tolerate bullying and harassment of any type.
If that sounds pretty much like your objective, use it. If you had something else in mind, this is the time to articulate it.
Make sure everyone understands what is covered – Define your terms! As you define your objectives, it is crucial that you define the scope of activity that is covered by the policy. In this case, you have to start by defining  “bullying” or “harassment.”  Too often it is defined by “you’ll know it when you see it.” But when legal policies and directives are involved, precision rules. Over-breadth or vagueness are grounds for overturning laws and policies with the force of law (such as district policies allowing for disciplinary action against students), so take your time here.
You inclination may be to cover everything from rudeness to mean words, as well as criticism of teachers or the school administration. That may work for some schools, but could be overwhelming for others. Pick your battles and set standards that are reasonable, measurable and enforceable.
At the district level, especially with large school districts, you may want to provide flexibility at a school by school basis, as long as the minimum objectives are covered. It is recommended that models of other policies adding additional objectives or broader scope are made available to help schools when drafting their own version of the policy. The Florida Department of Education’s model policy’s statement provides:
Districts have the flexibility to add additional specific categories of students to which bullying and harassment is prohibited in excess of what is listed. Example(s) of approved district policies with additional categories will be available at
Whom Does It Cover? In defining the conduct covered by this policy, decide whether only student to student conduct is covered or whether conduct between or among students and administration, teachers and support staff is covered as well. Then define prohibited conduct. Getting a WiredSafety School Team together, including students, is crucial to doing this right. They understand cyberbullying and ways in which students bully and harass others and can help define the scope of activities that constitutes “cyberbullying” and “cyberharassment” for the purposes of the policy.
The Florida Department of Education’s model policy’s statement also covers both students and adults, and all school employees. It also covers sexual, religious and racial harassment, following the federal model. It does not expressly cover sexual preferences or ethnic-based harassment or bullying. Before you expand your policy to expressly include those vulnerable groups, check with your board counsel to see if you can legally do so. If you cannot, there are other ways of dealing with these and other higher-risk student groups.
The Florida Department of Education’s model policy defines bullying and harassment as follows:
Conduct that constitutes bullying and harassment, as defined herein, is prohibited.
b. Definition of bullying and a definition of harassment:
Bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by a student or adult, that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation; and may involve but is not limited to:
1. Teasing
2. Social Exclusion
3. Threats
4. Intimidation
5. Stalking
6. Physical violence
7. Theft
8. Sexual, religious, or racial harassment
9. Public humiliation
10. Destruction of property
Harassment means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:
1. Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property
2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits
3. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school
Bullying and harassment also encompasses:
1. Retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment. Reporting an act of bullying or harassment that is not made in good faith is considered retaliation.
2. Perpetuation of conduct listed in the definition of bullying or harassment by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause emotional or physical harm to a student or school employee by:
a. Incitement or coercion
b. Accessing or knowingly and willingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the district school system

c. Acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment