Legal Issues Related To School District Web Sites Cas 4 26 07


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Legal Issues Related To School District Web Sites Cas 4 26 07

  1. 1. Issues Related to School District Web Sites Colleen Sloan, Esq. Manager of Labor Relations Erie 1 BOCES 355 Harlem Road West Seneca, NY 14224 (716) 821-7097
  2. 2. Main Topics <ul><li>Student Photographs/ Student Work </li></ul><ul><li>Free Speech </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright </li></ul><ul><li>Links to Other Web Sites </li></ul><ul><li>Access for the Disabled </li></ul>
  3. 3. Student Photographs/ Student Work Placing Student Photographs and Student Work on District Web sites can: <ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitate Family Involvement </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Create Evidence of Progress </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Motivate Students to Perform </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enable Students to use the site as part of their resume or applications for college </li></ul></ul></ul>… HOWEVER….
  4. 4. Student Photographs/ Student Works … Unauthorized use of a student’s likeness or other identifiable information could constitute a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) . <ul><li>FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. </li></ul><ul><li>FERPA applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. </li></ul><ul><li>FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records until the child turns 18, then the rights are transferred to the student. </li></ul>
  5. 5. What to do? <ul><li>Get permission. Photographs should not be displayed unless prior, explicit permission has been obtained from the parent/guardian. </li></ul><ul><li>Have one release for student work, and a separate release for photographs of students. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Obtain a release for each work that will be displayed, or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Create a yearly release with a check list of possible types of information, images and media and allow parents to choose the categories acceptable to them </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Include a release in the Acceptable Use Policy. </li></ul>Releases will lessen liability, but caution for student safety is also an issue…
  6. 6. What to do? <ul><li>Do not post identifying information of students. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only post first names of students. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Do not include identifying information, home address or phone number. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If replies to the work are appropriate, they should be directed to the sponsoring teacher’s email. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be cautious to avoid </li></ul><ul><ul><li>identifying a teacher with specific students, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>allowing work to lie dormant on the Web site, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>creating URLs that inadvertently give a student’s full name. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Free Speech: Controlling Web Site Content <ul><li>District Web sites facilitate communication among administration, teachers, students, parents and the community. </li></ul><ul><li>Many Web pages include guest books, </li></ul><ul><li>teacher pages, or public bulletin boards </li></ul><ul><li>which can be beneficial for the sharing </li></ul><ul><li>of information. </li></ul>Once the District has opened a forum to unrestricted public expression, whether through an open guest book, chat room, or bulletin board, it has difficulty thereafter controlling the content and who has access to the forum.
  8. 8. Free Speech: Controlling Web Site Content <ul><li>If the Web site is an open forum for expression, it is a cyber-age soap box and everyone is entitled to a say. </li></ul><ul><li>There are free speech concerns for districts in limiting what can and cannot be published on a Web site. </li></ul><ul><li>Districts can prohibit expressive activities which are </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ungrammatical </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Poorly written, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inadequately researched, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Biased or prejudiced, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Vulgar or profane, or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Unsuitable for immature audiences. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. What to do? <ul><li>Prevent the Web site from being used as a community forum for discussion of education issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt a website policy that designates the Web site as a “closed forum” for district use only, to transmit information to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Include a warning in the Acceptable Use Policy: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ All Web pages created by students and student organizations on the district’s computer system will be subject to treatment as district-sponsored publications. Accordingly, the district reserves the right to exercise editorial control over such publications.” </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Teachers’ Blogs, Pods and Vods <ul><li>Teachers are increasingly using Internet resources to add interactive and exciting elements to their instruction. </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging, Podcasting and Vodcasting can enhance instruction beyond the classroom. </li></ul>HOWEVER , they may create liability if they become an open forum and a source of unacceptable behavior and materials which will be traced back to District.
  11. 11. What to do? <ul><li>Be cautious about allowing staff to create class-specific Web sites, school-specific Web sites, or other presentations on the Web. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Forbid this practice and require that all submission be located on district Web site, where the District can monitor them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OR </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish a pre-clearance requirement that allows a responsible official to screen and approve possible submissions. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>The purpose of copyright law is to benefit the public good through the twin goals of promotion of public interest and protection of private rights. </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright protection begins the moment that an idea has been “fixed” in a “tangible medium.” A copyright notice is not necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Time limits provide access to an author’s work after the term of the copyright protection. Once a work no longer receives copyright protection it is considered part of the “public domain” and it may be reproduced, copied, or performed without seeking the author’s permission. </li></ul><ul><li>Fair use provides access during the term of the copyright protection. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fair use attempts to balance the author’s right to control against the public’s need to desire or gain access to a copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C Section 107 </li></ul></ul>Copyright
  13. 13. <ul><li>Four factors applied to determine whether use is fair: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the nature of the copyrighted work; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrights work as a whole, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the effect of the use upon the potential market for value of a copyrighted work. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There is no set formula as to how these are applied. </li></ul>Copyright Educational institutions receive exemptions from the copyright law in certain circumstances. The internet is not one of them. There are special difficulties when it comes to the fair use of information still receiving copyright protection.
  14. 14. What to do? <ul><li>Have the policy reviewed by counsel and adopted by the governing body. </li></ul><ul><li>Disseminate it widely. </li></ul><ul><li>The policy should include statements that: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>indicate that all school employees intend to abide by copyright laws; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>prohibit copying not specifically allowed by law, fair use, license agreement or permission of copyright holder; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>place liability for willful infringement upon the person requesting or duplicating the work; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>make clear that no institutional support will be given to an employee who violates the parameters; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>identify the copyright contact person for the district; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>indicate that adequate records will be maintained. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Develop a concise and </li></ul><ul><li>reasonable copyright policy </li></ul><ul><li>Accompany it with examples. </li></ul>
  15. 15. What to do? <ul><li>Establish clear standards for the use of copyrighted materials </li></ul>Provide employee training concerning copyright. <ul><li>Make sure students learn to respect the intellectual property of others, and teach proper use of copyrighted materials and citation of sources. </li></ul>Learn how to balance and apply the fair use standards and guidelines and do so. One can always request permission outside the parameters from the copyright owner. Make it easier by having a request form. <ul><li>Give copyright credit on copies and productions with proper citation techniques. Teach students to do the same. </li></ul>Think about requisite rights that might be needed from copyright owners before producing a product.
  16. 16. Links to Other Web Sites <ul><li>HOWEVER, Districts must exercise extreme caution when doing this. </li></ul><ul><li>Parents and/or students could sue the school for injuries caused by information received from a site accessed through the District’s Web page. </li></ul>Linking a District Web site to other Web sites can provide an easy way to direct visitors to related information and expand the scope of your Web site….
  17. 17. What to do? <ul><li>Investigate your links. Make sure they do not connect users to objectionable material </li></ul><ul><li>Disclaim, Disclaim, Disclaim: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Links to Third Party Sites: The links in this area will let you leave the school district site. The linked sites are not under the control of the district, and the district is not responsible for the contents of any linked site or any link contained in a linked site, or any changes or updates to such sites. The district is providing these links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement of the site by the district” </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Access for the Disabled <ul><li>More than 54 million people in the United States- About one in every five people - have a disability. </li></ul><ul><li>Students and others with disabilities who are denied effective access to school Web pages may have a cause of action against the school under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and parallel state statutes. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Access for the Disabled <ul><li>Schools must provide communication to those with disabilities that is as effective as that provided to others. </li></ul><ul><li>Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act directs that federal agencies make technology accessible to employees and the public to the extent it does not pose an “undue burden.” </li></ul>
  20. 20. What to do? <ul><li>Be Proactive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It is not enough to respond on an ad hoc basis to complaints </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A proactive approach is expected and anticipated by law </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use Universal Design Principles to Establish Universal Access to your Web site </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Check all links for visibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide instructions and support for users with disabilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use descriptive words as links </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Link pictures with a description button </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Link audio and video clips with text transcriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide alternatives to PDFs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid formats that create barriers – tables, frames, etc. When necessary, include detailed descriptions </li></ul></ul>