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Articles: Security

Deborah Karcher, CIO of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, meets with a network a

For district leaders considering idenitity and access management programs, Sandeep Chellani, executive director of product development for the New
York City Public Schools, says it’s important to become as aware as possible of the benefits and potential of identity management and not to be at the mercy of vendors. “Districts need to step up and do a better job of voicing concerns and pushing vendors to meet their needs,” Chellani says.

Bullying has captured the news headlines and the attention of legislators, educators and special interest advocates over the past three years at a greater rate. High-profile teen suicides have raised questions about the role bullying may have played in student deaths.

States have enacted new anti-bullying laws and parents are turning more often to principals to resolve bullying incidents occurring in school and in cyberspace.

When Google+ was announced in late June, it began in a field trial to determine its place in social networking. While it's still unavailable to Google Apps for Education customers and the jury is still out on whether or not it will be right for K12 public schools, the project is designed to make sharing on the Web more like the real world—sharing different pieces of information with different people.

Creating an early college high school can help overcome academic barriers for low-income, minority and at-risk students. Joel Vargas, vice president of the High School Through College, a national Jobs for the Future program, and LaVonne Sheffield, associate vice president for Early College Expansion at JFF, believe the program should be expanded across the nation because today's pupils need to have the advanced skills, content knowledge and learning strategies to be successful in a rapidly changing job market.

As districts across the country debate the boundaries of social media in the class room, Missouri took an unprecedented step by passing the first statewide law banning teachers from individual communication with their students on social networks. The bill was passed with bipartisan support in the Missouri legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon on July 14. The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which became effective Aug. 28, was created in response to a middle school student who was sexually abused by a teacher following communication on Facebook.

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To the more than 600 million members of Facebook and the expanding legions of Twitter users, you can add a growing number of schools and districts. Whether communicating with parents and the public, enhancing classroom instruction and staff development, or rallying school spirit, administrators and teachers are beginning to leverage the interactive and multimedia features of social networks that have the added advantage of being widely and easily accessible—and free.

candlelight vigil for Tyler Clementi

New Jersey knew it had a bullying problem after a 2009 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of students bullied in the state was one point higher than the national average. The momentum surrounding the antibullying movement in the state peaked last September when a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his roommate streamed a video of Clementi with another male student over the Internet. State legislators then moved quickly to pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights on Jan. 6, 2011, which will be effective Sept. 1.

There is a fine line between making student data available to influence data-driven decisions and still respecting student privacy. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative to elevate the importance of safeguarding the collection, use and disclosure of student records. With this new initiative comes a new position, chief privacy officer, and Kathleen Styles is the first.

Among the many challenges facing district leaders, student safety can be particularly difficult as new technologies allow for instant and constant communication. Recent tragic events, most notably the suicide of a Rutgers University student after an intimate sexual encounter was broadcast live via the Internet without his knowledge or permission, have brought increased attention and awareness of the danger of misuse of these technologies. But what can school districts do to protect students and staff without violating their constitutional rights?

Online social networking includes much more than Facebook and Twitter. It is any online use of technology to connect people, enable them to collaborate with each other, and form virtual communities, says the Young Adult Library Services Association. Social networking sites may allow visitors to send e-mails, post comments, build web content, and/ or take part in live chats.

The suicide of the 10th-grader sent shock waves through the middle school, but after a few months, almost all students and staff had moved on. The principal had heard through the grapevine that the parents blamed the school, but he had no idea that the school was going to be sued. The lawsuit specifically named the principal, coach and a teacher the parents believed had failed to stop the bullying of their child at school. The parents claimed that they had told school officials of their concerns about their child being victimized and that nothing had been done.

In 1992, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) released an educational video that described to students the dangers of copying information from floppy disks, called Don't Copy that Floppy. But the Internet, with its file sharing and nonstop social media, made the problem of copyright infringement much worse. For this reason, SIIA has released Don't Copy That 2, which includes a rap video and classroom resources to discuss online copyright infringement, piracy and how to become a responsible digital citizen.

Most of us are familiar with the damaging consequences of computer viruses such as freezing worms and Trojan horses. Another set of devious hacking forces, however, known as botnets, have caused districts to re-evaluate their online security measures. A botnet is a network of computers controlled remotely by hackers and infected with malware. Unlike other viruses, botnets do not run on autopilot once they gain access. They infiltrate computers, usually via e-mail, and they take advantage of the affected computers' Web browser vulnerabilities while spreading spam and viruses.

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

Karl Springer, superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public School District, recently found himself answering tough questions in the heavy glare of the media spotlight. The issue? Student bullying. "We don't escalate the situation by being macho," says Springer, also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a former Marine Corps captain.