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Students Sign New Tech Discipline Procedures Without Consent

I took this photo with Pro HDR for the iPhone!

If you are having issues downloading the documents from the district’s site (I’ve heard that some are), you may download them directly from this website as well. These are Word Documents, and there are three separate files. The first is “code of student conduct FEB FINAL“. This file contains all of the student conduct information found in the 2012-2013 Student-Parent Handbook plus the new additions of the discipline procedures for technology infractions.

The second document is “technology infractions final“. This contains just the three additional pages that have been added to the Code of Student Conduct. I have also posted the entire contents of this file below.

The final document is “Homeroom Signature Form – technology“. This is the roll sheet that students are being told that they must sign.

These files were downloaded from the district’s website just before noon on February 26, 2013.

Starting at least as early as Thursday, February 21, 2013, the district distributed to the schools a new computer use policy, and they began asking teachers to read this policy to students in their classes. Students as young as five-years old were then asked to sign a roll sheet that states:

Students: (Have students read)

By signing below, I acknowledge I have received, read, and discussed the Huntsville City Schools Technology Discipline Procedures for the 2012/2013 school year.

Students are then told that they must write their name and sign their name stating that they have “received, read, and discussed” the new technology discipline procedures.

New Tech Discipline Procedures

By itself, this is a bit disturbing. As I wrote last week, they are once again changing the ground rules that the students and parents are expected to play by. The problem here is that the district is implementing this new policy, and requiring students to sign it without parental notification or consent.

That’s right, students at least as young as five years old are being asked to sign a notice that they have “received, read, and discussed” these new discipline procedures without getting parents involved. In fact, they are planning to do a robocall about this new policy in the near future, but they are specifically waiting until after the students have “received, read, and discussed” this policy before calling parents.

If a student refuses to sign this roll sheet, they will not be allowed to take his or her computer home with them in the future.

And guess what? By having your child sign a document as a roll sheet, they’ve made it impossible for you as a single parent to ask to see the document, as it contains the names and signatures of up to 30 other students as well. Wardynski has read his Kafka, I presume.

Updated Code of Conduct

The updated code of conduct is 27 pages long. It is basically the Official Student-Parent Handbook that was sent home at the beginning of school with students with three additional pages. You may download just the updated Discipline Procedures for Technology Infractions if you prefer. These pages read:

Huntsville City Schools

Discipline Procedures for Technology Infractions

This is a companion document for Huntsville City Schools Code of Student Conduct.  Refer to the Board Policy and the Code of Student Conduct for additional information.

Technology offenses will be handled as set forth below.  Technology discipline offenses will also result in the restricted use of personal mobile computing devices while on school grounds.

Class I – Minor Offenses 1.19 Technology Infraction (a – e)

a)Unauthorized or inappropriate written/oral communication, use of E-mail, websites, apps, games, messaging services, chat rooms, or other non-school related activity.

School personnel may authorize educational use of the above applications during school hours or otherwise when school is not in session.

b)Use of non-directed profane, inflammatory, or abusive language.

c)Downloading, loading, storing, creating, unauthorized files, images, video, music, apps, data, or programs that do not result in damages to person or property.

d)Unauthorized transmission of personal information over the internet.

e)Activity that may be disruptive to the school environment

Consequences

•Classroom warning

•Possible loss of device access

•Temporary loss of device access

•Parent contact

•Referral to administrator

•Before or after school detention

•In-school suspension not to exceed three (3) days.

Class II – Intermediate Offenses 2.36 Technology Infraction (a – l)

a)Negligent care of or vandalism such as malicious attempt to harm or destroy any HCS device resulting in damage less than $200.

b)Changing software/hardware configurations.

c)Downloading, loading, storing, or creating unauthorized files, images, video, music, apps, data, programs, or viruses resulting in damages to any HCS device.

d)Taking pictures, audio, and/or video without subject’s or school’s permission.

e)Use of unauthorized anonymous and/or false communications such as, but not limited to Google Chat, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger.

f)Unauthorized change of program settings or any behavior or activity that damages or disrupts network performance on school devices.

g)Sending, transmitting, accessing, uploading, downloading, or distributing inappropriate, obscene, offensive, profane, threatening, harassing, pornographic, or sexually explicit materials intended to harm or demean staff or students.

h)Deletion, examination, copying, or modifying of files/data/device settings belonging to other users including staff, students, and district to include sharing, using, or modifying usernames and/or passwords.

i)By-passing the HCS Web filter through a Web Proxy.

j)Cheating (refer to HCS Code of Student Conduct, Section II, 2.33)

k)Subsequent offenses that may be disruptive to the school environment.

l)Action violating existing board policy

Consequences

•Temporary loss of device access

•Parent contact

•Referral to administrator

•Before or after school detention

•In-school suspension

•Out of school suspension not to exceed five (5) days

•Possible referral to law enforcement

•Restitution in vandalism instances for actual loss, damage, or repair

•Indemnification – HCS may be indemnified for any losses, costs, or damages including reasonable attorney fees incurred by the district relating to any breach of the Acceptable Use Policy

Class III – Major Offenses 3.25 Technology Infraction (a – h)

a)Any activity that voids the device, service agreement, software license or warranty such as, but not limited to jailbreaking or rooting (process of hacking a device to bypass digital rights management software).

b)Unauthorized entry to program files/hacking.

c)Harassment (refer to HCS Code of Student Conduct, Section III, 3.24)

d)Vandalism such as any malicious attempt to harm or destroy a HCS owned device resulting in damages in excess of $200.

e)Sending, transmitting, accessing, uploading, downloading, distributing, or publishing obscene, offensive, profane, threatening, harassing, pornographic, or sexually explicit materials that result in personal injury to staff or students.

f)Use of school/district’s Internet or email accounts for financial gain or personal gain, or any illegal activity.

g)Offenses on multiple occasions that may be disruptive to the school environment.

h)Any use that violates local, state and/or federal laws or regulations

Consequences

•Loss of device access

•Parent contact

•Referral to administrator

•Before or after school detention

•In-school suspension

•Out of school suspension not to exceed ten (10) days

•Suspension and/or recommendation for Superintendent Level Probation or expulsion and forfeiture of device.

•Restitution in vandalism instances for actual loss, damage, or repair

•Indemnification – HCS may be indemnified for any losses, costs, or damages including reasonable attorney fees incurred by the district relating to any breach of the Acceptable Use Policy

How many five-year olds do you think understand a single word of that change? How many seventeen-year olds? Honestly, how many parents, even?

But wait, there’s more.

$750.00 Fines

In addition to these changes, there’s also the new statement on the splash screen that I wrote about last week.

New Splash Screen

Thanks to a close reader for pointing out that my interpretation of this splash screen wasn’t actually correct. When I first read this, I believed that they were raising the fee to repair/replace a device from either $250 for the netbooks or $600 for the laptops to $750.00.

However, what this screen actually states is that:

“Intentional misuse of this device (including destruction, defacement, installation of unauthorized software, or download of unauthorized programs) may result in disciplinary action including expulsion and a fine of up to $750.00)” (sic)

What I believe (I could be wrong) that this means is that if a student misuses the laptop, in addition to the “Consequences” listed above there may be a fine of up to $750.00.

If the computer is damaged and “misused” then the district could send you a bill of up to $1,350.00. ($600.00 replacement fee for the laptop and a $750.00 fine.)

This fine is covered under the Consequences for Class II and Class III offenses which state:

Indemnification — HCS may be indemnified for any losses, costs, or damages including reasonable attorney fees incurred by the district relating to any breach of the Acceptable Use Policy.

That’s right. Your five year old has been forced by Huntsville City Schools to sign a document that states that she has “received, read, and discussed” the steps by which she could be expelled from school and charged up to $1,350.00 without your knowledge or consent.

Not Legally Binding Without Consent

Now, clearly this isn’t legally binding. A minor cannot enter into a binding contract of this sort without parental consent. They would be laughed out of any court that they tried to take this to.

So why are they doing it, and why are they doing it without getting parental consent first?

The only reasons that make sense to me are:

  1. They’re trying to intimidate the kids.
  2. They’re trying to intimidate the parents who don’t know better.
  3. They’re hoping to lessen the blowback from the community about these changes by keeping them quiet until the students have already signed off on them in the hopes that they can then say, “Look, your child has already agreed to this, so there’s no need to complain.”
  4. They’re just that convinced that they can do whatever they want in our schools.

Honestly, does anyone in their right mind think that these laptops are a good idea now? It’s time to return these netbooks and laptops to the schools and leave them there.

Just make sure that you ask for a receipt when you do.

 
Russell
"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.

29 Comments

  1. I am trying to figure out on what authority HCS thinks it can assess these fines. In states where parents are fined because their kids are truant, that is because there is a legal requirement that children below a certain age to be present in school. Failure to see that your child attends school constitutes a breach of the law, so it is within the state’s authority to impose financial sanctions for violations.

    Given that the replacement price for the laptops has already been identified at $600, it’s not like this fine is supposed to represent restitution for damaged computers; it seems to be purely punitive in nature, and the maximum possible seems rather random. AND it’s entirely discretionary? Looks ripe for abuse.

    I think it’s also really interesting that while HCS policy is that you have the right to due process for discipline issues, this new policy also tells you that if they bring in a lawyer to defend their position, the system wants the student’s family to pay for THEIR attorney. So you have all the rights that you can afford to exercise.

    BTW, my son’s homeroom teacher told the kids to sign the sheet, but never read them the policy — they “ran out of time.” He has signed it, unfortunately.

    HCS can have their computers back, as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Now it looks like they’ve removed the documents from the HCS website. I can’t find them, and your links don’t get me there anymore.

      1. I have saved copies of the new documents, but I was trying to find their location on the HCS website. Had an older version of the site in my cache, so the new stuff wasn’t there. Then, for whatever reason, I kept getting a broken link message when I tried to click to the WHOLE policy manual. Now it’s fine.

        1. Their updated website is intentionally difficult to navigate.

          Go to http://www.hsv-k12.org

          Once there, click on “Departments,” then select “Pupil Services.”
          Next choose “Downloads.”

          The relevant files are under the folder labeled “Discipline Procedures for Technology Infractions.”

          Here’s a direct link if it will work:

          http://www.hsv-k12.org/Default.asp?PN=DocumentUploads&L=2&DivisionID=11142&DepartmentID=11320&LMID=470001&ToggleSideNav=

    1. I’ve updated the post with links to the documents that you can download from my site. I will attempt to keep them updated, should the district change them (as they often do).

  3. I turned in my daughter’s netbook the third week of school. It never did what it was supposed to do and was a constant source of frustration to her. Talking to the school’s tech person and talking to various people at Pearson did not help. Besides, we were never comfortable with the idea of her carrying the computer on the bus and being responsible for it at school when other people were using it while she wasn’t in the room.

    It really wasn’t a big deal at all to turn it in. The principal gave us a letter that stated that we were released from all liability. We agreed that she could use the netbook at school if the teacher wished, but she was not to bring it home. We would bear no more responsibility for the netbook than we would a computer that she used at the computer lab. We were fortunate to have a computer at home that she could use for homework, which worked much better than the netbook ever did anyway. After we turned our computer in, 2 other children in her class did the same thing, and there wasn’t any trouble for them either.

  4. It’s worth noting that turning in the school computer DOES NOT totally insulate pupils from the effects of this new policy. Only certain elements of the policy are limited to use/misuse of the school-issued computers. Other elements would still apply even if you were to use YOUR OWN device, and even if you use YOUR OWN bandwidth. Note that the very first part of the tech policy includes the following : “Technology discipline offenses will also result in the restricted use of personal mobile computing devices while on school grounds.”

    Taken to the extreme (and why not assume the worst?) some of these rules could be used to apply school discipline even if the technology usage (“Use of non-directed profane, inflammatory, or abusive language,” for example) occurred in a thoroughly extracurricular setting. Other school districts have done so when students complained of online harassment by classmates. I’m not prepared to give HCS that kind of authority over my children. I lend my kids to them for education, not to supplant my role as a parent.

    I take issue with virtually all of this document. Here’s a big concern: having given themselves the power to extract money for indiscipline, why would they do anything else? I mean, there’s no explicit tie between certain infractions and a definite punishment. If HCS has the latitude to choose from anything along the spectrum (which is what I see in their vagueness), isn’t there a tremendous incentive to employ a punishment that actually nets them a profit? Particularly since that same policy affords them the ability to allot the cost of YOUR due process to YOU? They can’t lose.

    So here’s my question: OR WHAT? Sign this document OR WHAT? No HCS computer? Fine. But that doesn’t mean you are absolved of a responsibility to educate my child — so then WHAT HAPPENS? Or is this more make-it-up-as-we-go-along?

  5. I think you have had a major impact. Policy on the website has been revised and the $750 fine has disappeared. Calls received tonight indicated that students had the policies read and explained in school today and that the policy was being sent home to be read and reviewed by parents who were asked to review and discuss them with their children. Parents have been asked to sign and return the acknowledgement of receiving a copy of the new policy. However, my children did not have the policy read to or explained to them in any class today nor did they receive a copy or acknowledgement to bring home. We will see if and when they do.

    1. My high school student was given the document yesterday and told to sign PRIOR to being given an explanation of what was going on. The teacher then started to read the new policy, but the bell rang and they ran out of time. The policy was not covered today, but the school has all of the kids’ signatures indicating that the new policy had been read to them and that they received/discussed it. My middle school student was asked to sign the form today, but he declined (per my instructions). We are returning his laptop tomorrow.

      1. They don’t have all the students signatures. My kids won’t sign it. My daughter says they can keep her laptop. The way they have blocked so much, she can’t use it anyway.

  6. My kids were talked to earlier this week. Both (in elementary school) were upset about being “forced” to sign. Part of this was because we have always stressed to them that they should never sign anything they don’t understand, and should never sign anything without discussing it with us. We are trying to instill good habits and thoughtful consideration of agreements.

    I had emailed the school this week to ask about the new policies and to ask for a copy of them. I was told that it was a reiteration of the same policy – that nothing had changed. I understand, from my kids and other parents, that there have been a number of instances of software being downloaded and of viruses that have spread through the network (which shocks me, given all the reassurance that we have had). So…

    I don’t think I am going to sign the new policy. And I am going to read the new manual with a careful eye–a code of conduct for parents? Who are they to tell me what my ethics should be?

    If there are infractions (and I am sure there are) then have they been addressed? How many? Why do we have to punish everyone?

  7. My two cents for what it is worth. I would not sign the document as a parent and I would not allow my child to sign. Like Kelli said “Then What”. The Digital Curriculum was not thought through it was just done and here we are changing the policies because of all of the problems. Uhh…there aren’t any problems….stacks of un-repaired laptops, unauthorized software installed, visiting inappropriate websites, computer company charging more for repairs and the list goes on. Its a mess for those in charge to figure out. For anyone to take responsibility for $750 to replace a damaged laptop. I can buy two for that cost. Seems to me someone is making out like a “FAT RAT” if I am gullible enough to fall for this nonsense. It is a lame excuse for the system to say they are just reviewing the policy with the children this week, I thought this was done when they were distributed. What was done during the scheduled pickup days? The more lies that are told the less sense it makes. In the meantime let the teachers teach.

  8. I do wonder how this will affect the almighty metrics that show “low student referrals = high student engagement = digital initiative success.” Perhaps the imposition of the new fines for misuse (essentially parent penalties, rather than student penalties) won’t be included in those stats.

    1. That is an extremely good question. I have not heard anything from anyone on the council yet that would lead me to believe that they don’t.

  9. What Smiely said! “Seems to me someone is making out like a “FAT RAT” if I am gullible enough to fall for this nonsense. It is a lame excuse for the system to say they are just reviewing the policy with the children this week, I thought this was done when they were distributed. What was done during the scheduled pickup days? The more lies that are told the less sense it makes. In the meantime let the teachers teach. ”

    Just talked with a family member, she just found out her student if failing Chemistry because he hasn’t been able to access the material on the computer. Student said they told teacher but the teacher brushed them off. Of course the parent doesn’t find out until it’s too late to do anything about it.

    Question, can students print out the material?

  10. From these comments, we clearly see that there is SO much wrong with this system. I stressed to Captain Wardynski at a BOE meeting that this transition was poorly planned, not properly coordinated, and rushed into implementation without a look at metrics or lessons learned from other school districts taking this path. And as they year progresses, we see it only getting worse. DOing homework or taking quizzezs on the laptop is a joke. It goes something like this. Work the math problem, select an answer, and if it’s wrong, the computer will tell you to try again. OK, now it’s a 1 out of 3 chance of getting it right. If you get it wrong again, you can either accept that you missed that question OR opt for another question similar to it to take its place. Then you can begin guessing all over again. Great learning huh? Here’s a novel idea. How about having a teacher teach the student and understand where the student is going wrong in his or her thinking, then help to correct it. Oh wait, that eliminates the need for a laptop. The Captain will have none of that!

  11. My child’s Hsv Middle homeroom teacher told her students to sign the sheet today. Each student had to come up to her desk to sign the acknowledgement sheet. (My child did not sign it.) The teacher told them it was about their computers—-she never went over any policy with them. No policy document for parents was sent home with my child today.

  12. I was given an email copy of the new policy and told to go over it with the kids and have them sign that I did. Nothing was send home to the parents to let them know about this. I wish they would stop worrying about tech discipline and work on classroom discipline.

  13. Story on al.com about the school accountability bill. Whatever your opinion of the legislation, I was absolutely tickled to see Wardynski’s response. “The problem that many school leaders have with the bill is the lack of input or warning they were given.”

    Hahahahahahahahahaha! That is RICH.

    1. Indeed. 🙂 I liked it almost as much as when he was complaining about the Common Core repeal and he whined, “nobody consulted this superintendent from this area about whether this was a good idea.”

      Poor little guy is feeling left out . . .

  14. Anyone yet receive a copy of this document sent home for parent signature? I haven’t — two kids, two schools, zero forms. Tomorrow will be a week since the robocall telling me to expect it.

    1. I got it yesterday from one of my two kids. I’m planning to post about it later today. It’s basically the same form that they put in the back of the student parent handbook that comes home at the beginning of the year.

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