“Ok, today we’re going to be using Bathonic, a tool that lets us easily post our homework, classwork, pictures, and audio interviews in ONE place! Ok…let’s get started….”
As the class hunkers down in the computer lab–reserved for just this purpose–one of the students points out, “Miss, this says I have to be 15 years old at least. I just turned eleven. Is it OK?”
“Yes, Raylene,” responds Ms. MacLed, “Go right ahead. We are using this in our classroom and your parents will love it when they can see what a wonderful job,” she gushes, “you’re doing in class!”
Source: A Fictional Scenario written by Miguel Guhlin
Update: Read the Redux version of this.
A classroom teacher instructs her students to lie to get the benefit of an online email account, or service. But then, what happens? Should that teacher be disciplined by her school administrator for requiring her students to lie (e.g. their age) to qualify for a free web-based service? Worse, what happens if something goes drastically wrong with what students are using that web-based service?
These questions have come up in my own conversations with educators as an education consultant, and I was happy to see that one of our resident edublogosphere lawyers–The Edjurist, Justin Bathon–had taken it on, citing this example:
The question is what are the legal ramifications of this scenario (here is how Jeremy Brueck wrote it in his notes):
). The teacher proceeds anyway to (1) either create an account for the students or (2) encourages the students to check the “I agree to the terms of service” button anyway – or other variations on that same theme. Anyway, the point is that a 12 year old or younger student is using a website with a terms of service agreement that requires them to be 13 or older. Something bad then happens; either (1) the students violate the terms of service or (2) some type of injury occurs (think sexting) and the parents sue everyone.
At this point, Justin has me wondering, how many teachers out there have embraced Read/Write Web tools–you substitute any one of hundreds available to you–to get students online, including kindergarten students, and required students to click “I Agree”? He clarifies what he thinks in regards to inappropriate use of that web-based service a child has been signed up for by a teacher:
Both the school and the teacher are likely to be sued both by the software company and by the parents if there is that type of injury. In fact, there might even be a case of the school suing the teacher.
Depending on what exactly happened, fraud might be involved which is clearly outside the scope of a teacher’s employment and thus not covered by immunity statutes. So, personal liability for the teacher here is not out of the question.
In the scenario I presented at the top of this post, the decision for disciplinary action clearly lies with the campus administrator, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s the safest route for a school district to take.
That is, school districts should advocate the following:
- Strongly work to help teachers understand that having students lie on web-based services (e.g. email, whatever) is an ethical violation.
- If a teacher should be found to be encouraging a student to violate an agreement for a web-based service–having a 12 year old sign up for a service only eligible to thirteen year olds and older–notify their campus administrator so they can take appropriate action.
But what constitutes appropriate action? And, what will appropriate action look like from a District perspective?
Thoughts? I encourage you to contact your Human Resources Department and share what they would do in response here!
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure