After a couple of unpleasant incidents, my district has announced that students and teachers may no longer access their personal Web-based Email accounts (e.g., Hotmail) at school. This is causing a real furor, especially among students who claim the ban is disrupting online communication related to schoolwork. Are other districts having problems personal Email accounts at school?
Yes. There has been a recent increase in reported problems with use of personal Email accounts at schools, most centered on incidents involving students and cyber-bullying. Due to concerns about liability, several districts have responded by blocking all access to personal Web-based Email services. This decision is not always popular and some educators question whether misbehavior on the part of a small group of individuals is a good rationale for restricting access for everyone. Two major concerns are that:
- Bans on personal Email accounts impede students who use personal Email for legitimate purposes such as contacting teachers or working collaboratively with fellow students on-and off-site, especially in districts that do not provide their own student Email accounts.
- The prohibition sidesteps the issue of the need to teach and enforce rules for responsible use of online communication.
It may be a good idea to ask the district to revisit this decision, particularly if the decision was top-down, with little or no input from school sites, parents, and students.
Submitted by: Susan Brooks-Young
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