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Student BYOD Policies 101: Back to Basics

While speaking with school and college administrators about technology issues facing public educational institutions, I am frequently questioned about acceptable use, social media and, more recently, Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) policies.

While I have felt confident that most educational institutions I have encountered were adequately equipped to begin the process of updating or implementing new acceptable use and social media policies, I have been less confident about institutions looking for quick answers to complex questions about BYOD policies for students.  Rather than rushing into the adoption of a BYOD policy, I encourage you and your educational institution to consider the five issues raised in this first blog (of several) about Student BYOD policies.

1. Before developing yet another policy for students and parents to consider and sign, review your existing technology policies, such as any technology plans, board policies, administrative regulations, acceptable use agreements, or handbooks regarding student use of technology.  If your institution is planning to embrace student-owned devices, then the institution needs to ensure that the existing policies are consistent with one another and with your overall BYOD philosophy.  In other words, if you have a policy prohibiting student cell phones in class or on campus, then your student policies may need some real updating.  This sounds basic, but many educational institutions have internal policies that contradict one another.

2. Ensure that your BYOD practices do not violate any state prohibitions against student fees.  For example, would students be required to purchase and install certain upgrades or apps or to incur data charges on their devices?  If so, any related fees could constitute unlawful student fees under your applicable state laws.

3.Consider how the implementation of a BYOD program will support equal access to learning.  Will financial barriers lead to unequal access to instructional materials and/or learning?  Is the student who does not have access to the latest technology at a disadvantage?  Is a student who does not own or have access to his or her own device being denied equal access to instructional materials?

4. Develop a system for proactively reviewing and securing board approval of the terms of use and privacy policies (“contracts”) related to any required applications or services.  Do the contracts adequately protect students and your institution?  Do the contracts comply with any applicable state and federal laws aimed at, for instance, protecting minors, data, and privacy?

5. Ensure there are adequate measures in place to educate instructors and students about the ethical, legal, and safe use of their devices.

There are, of course, many other legal, technical, and logistical issues to consider before implementing a BYOD program for students; however, these basic issues should help educational institutions avoid some potential pitfalls.

Penelope Glover is a Senior Associate with Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo’s Education Law Practice Group.  Ms. Glover represents public school districts, county offices of education, community colleges, and universities throughout California in the areas of technology, human resources, and student discipline. She is also the leader of the firm’s Education Law Technology Group, which uses the law to connect, and not divide, education and technology.


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