By CARL SMITH
Starkville School District trustees will hold a second reading of a new Internet policy aimed at safeguarding students from inappropriate content and educating all age groups about proper online behavior at their 6 p.m. meeting on June 5.
The board will discuss the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in June and is expected to implement any changes necessary to its current policy to adhere to the act. SSD Director of Technology David Hill said the only difference between the district’s current Internet usage policy and the incoming CIPA adjustment is a district-led teaching aspect aimed at educating students to proper Internet behavior and cyberbullying.
School districts which fall under CIPA guidelines may not receive E-rate discounts until they are certified under the policy. CIPA states schools must block or filter Internet access to obscene materials or those which are illegal or harmful to minors. Schools must also adopt policies to monitor students’ on-campus Internet usage and activities.
SSD Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin estimates E-rate funding pays 80 percent of district Internet services and other technology expenses.
“In the previous years, all we had to do was have a filter in place which prevented (viewing) unauthorized materials (and) sharing of personal information,” Hill said. “Because the Internet is so broad … kids are now coming in contact with anybody. There’s no 100 percent (Internet) filter. (CIPA) gives them a mechanism … (so) students can proactively handle (inappropriate) situations.”
While CIPA guidelines only affect students, faculty and staff using school district Internet access, Hill said associated educational efforts will focus on proper Internet behaviors during on- and off-campus usage.
School districts around the state are working with the Mississippi Educational Technology Leaders Association to develop age-appropriate videos which will educate students on proper Internet behavior, he said. The videos will be available for students in the fall.
“The real issue is the school district can only monitor Internet activity while at school. We know cyberbullying happens outside (of school district facilities). We want to educate kids on how to react to this whether they’re at school or home,” Hill said. “We’ll put information out as we can. It’s educational for parents to look at this information and discuss it with their children. Cyberbullying is something new to all of us. Parents and the community need to be aware of these activities.”
While SSD filters its Internet access to students, faculty and staff, administrators can grant more access to employees who provide a legitimate research or educational need.
“It’s a good policy, and I think it’s something that will be extremely beneficial to the students, faculty and the community,” Hill said.
Trustees will also hold a second reading of the district’s new building-naming policy in their June meeting. In April, board members expressed a need for building-naming guidelines after Starkville High School athletic director Stan Miller approached the district about renaming its baseball field after retiring coach Danny Carlisle. The board unanimously approved the name change without a formal policy on the matter.
The proposed building-naming policy states any motion by the board to name a facility in honor of someone must have unanimous support for approval. The policy also states the individual must have made major contributions to the school system through either financial support, work which led to the improvement of school facilities, the advancement of student learning, enhancement of instruction or by bringing acclaim or distinction to the district.
“School facilities named for a person will retain that person’s name as part of the building’s name for as long as the facility is used for instructional purposes by the school district,” the policy states. “Exceptions to this stipulation may be made by the board at its discretion.”
SSD administrators said the general public is invited to attend the meeting and ask questions about either potential policy.