Do You Understand the Legal Implications of Using Technology in Schools?

19 Nov 2019 5 min read
Nicole Zumpano
Nicole Zumpano
Director of Instructional Technology Coaching, Learning Technology Center

On October 30, 2019, attorneys from Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller generously shared their slide decks with participants and fielded several questions about specific situations. Examples of rulings that have shaped our use of technology in schools were featured. Following is a list of topics that were covered and an interesting fact or two I took out of each presentation. Note: I am not a lawyer!  My takeaways should not be considered as legal explanations, just thoughts from an educator that I found impactful.

Disclosure of Photos and Videos of Students under FERPA and ISSRA: A video may become part of a student’s school record if it directly relates to a specific student. Other students that are in the video but are not involved are considered “set-dressing” and will not have the video added to their student record. 

Staff Use of Technology: Schools cannot require staff to provide passwords or login credentials to social networking and email sites.

Data Security and Online Privacy: Changes to SOPPA (a.k.a. HB 3606) take effect for public schools in July 2021 and has new guidelines for data breaches: schools must notify affected parties no later than 30 days after the breach. 

Disciplining Student Use & Abuse of Technology: Schools can only restrict student speech when it can be reasonably assumed that a substantial disruption of the educational environment will take place or the speech invades the rights of others (Tinker v. Des Moines, 1968).

Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom: Teachers should hold no reasonable expectation of privacy in communications taking place in the classroom (Plock v. Freeport School District 2007).

Developing an Internet Acceptable Use Policy: Schools receiving E-Rate discounts for Internet service are required to teach an internet safety lesson to students once per year.

Copyright in the School Setting: Children have the same copyright rights as any other creator. Copyright law provides that “works for hire” (i.e. lesson plans, materials created for classrooms) are the property of the employer (i.e. the school district). 

Open Meetings & FOIA: Public records can include electronic communications such as emails and text messages. 

Sexting and Cell Phone Searches: Cell phone searches should be directly related and limited to the infraction and not other content on the phone. 

Related Opportunities

Legal Implications of Technology Use in Schools held at ROE #11

February 20, 2020 | 8:30 am – 3:00 pm | $15

Laws Affecting Technology in Illinois School Districts Resource Guide | Free Download

Nicole Zumpano
Nicole Zumpano
Director of Instructional Technology Coaching, Learning Technology Center

Nicole oversees the LTC’s Instructional Technology Coaching Program, supervising a statewide team of instructional technology coaches and supporting participating districts’ program implementation.