Ed Tech Committee aims to teach responsibility in online interactions

Chronicle Staff


How much should school regulations affect the personal lives of students? Recently, the Educational Technology Committee asked that same question.

The committee has stated in the newly revised Technology Acceptable Use Policy that any  member of the Harvard-Westlake community should be held responsible for his or her conduct on the internet when they are identifiable as a Harvard-Westlake student, whether researching a report in the library or posting comments on a social networking site at home.

“One of the roles of a school is to teach young people what it means to be a responsible citizen,” math teacher Jeff Snapp, chair of the committee, said.

At the November committee meeting, Snapp presented the new goals of the Technology Acceptable Use Policy: “teach all students how to use technology effectively and efficiently, do what is possible to keep students from endangering themselves, do what is possible to keep students from endangering or hurting others, do what is possible to prevent students from breaking the law or behaving unethically.”

The newly adopted objectives have come about primarily as a response to teachers’ desire to use electronic resources in class, which required guidelines to legitimize and standardize classroom and homework online activity. This year many teachers have introduced the forum system Moodle .
The guidelines also address the committee’s concern that social networking sites are a falsely private arena. The line between one’s school and personal identity is debatable.
As Snapp put it, “nothing is truly private, nothing can be completely erased and simply saying ‘I was just kidding’ doesn’t change the harm that can be caused by a thoughtless comment.”

The new policy is also to ensure that students respect others on the internet, Snapp said.
This desire does not come unwarranted; in October the Facebook group Students Against Skinny Jeans snowballed into cruel posts belittling the clothes and sexuality of some sophomores.

The group was quickly shut down and the school investigated the issue, before deciding not to punish anyone.

The school also recently settled  a $100 million lawsuit regarding internet harassment of a former student.

The school does not routinely survey student behavior on the internet, but will look into it if someone reports improper behavior, Snapp said.

“I have a difficult time understanding how a student might think these changes infringe upon their rights,” Snapp said. “I’m curious what rights they think are being thwarted by the school’s effort to ensure a fair and welcoming opportunity for all students.”Â