kitchen table math, the sequel: Technology and discipline (and help desk)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Technology and discipline (and help desk)

Parents everywhere should be taking a look at their schools' Codes of Conduct, particularly where "technology" is concerned.

Ours are here.

Our Code specifies that "Electronic Media Crime" will be reported to the police.

As far as I can tell, searching the Code, "Electronic Media Crime" is the only form of misbehavior that automatically triggers a call to the police. Even bringing a gun to school, which carries the same penalty -- a one-year suspension -- doesn't seem to require police involvement.

The Code doesn't say what an "Electronic Media Crime" is, and I'm skeptical anyone explains it to the kids.

The district does require students and staff to sign an agreement called "Acceptable Use Form for Computers," but the form doesn't mention that police will be called if a child logs onto the system and does something he shouldn't. (So far it's always been boys.)

At this point, it's looking to me as if computers in schools are a real and present danger to adolescent boys.

Computers are dangerous because public schools don't seem to have real IT people, so the systems are wide open. At least, our system is open. I'm told, by more than one student, that the password for the WiFi system is the same as the password for the teacher section of the network. Lots of students have the password, and some of the teachers rely on kids as young as age 13 to help them with their computers.

I was talking to my California sister about this, and she pointed out that "Technology Directors" in schools aren't trained in IT. They're just teachers with an interest in computers. They don't know any more about network security than I do. (Is that true elsewhere?)

So we send kids to school in buildings where the network has limited security at best, and in a country where "unauthorized access" to a computer is a federal offense.

While you're checking your district's Code of Conduct, you should take a look at the regulations governing questioning of students. Here in New York, schools don't have to notify parents that they are questioning their child, no matter how serious the infraction.

So far I don't see a limit to the length of time school personnel can question students without parents present, either.

Does anyone know whether there are federal regulations requiring schools to secure their networks?

Or whether the doctrine of "negligent supervision" applies?

Florida Teen Charged With Computer Hacking After Changing Teacher's Computer Background To Gay Kiss Image


Froggiemama said...

When even major corporations cannot figure out how to secure their systems, how can we expect it of schools. Most schools only have budget to hire one or two IT people, and they can't pay enough to get really top of the line people. I deal with the IT guy in my district because I am on a district technology committee. He tries really hard but he is overwhelmed.

Allison said...

What does it take to start a charter school in NY?

A school whose charter is to provide children with a liberal arts education.

Catherine Johnson said...

We don't have an IT person at all.

We have a math teacher on the make.

And, Froggiemama, I think 'if corporations can't secure their data, how can we expect anything of publi schools' is a red herring.

I don't care whether my district secures data as well as a corporation.

I **do** care that the district leaves the system open to 13-year old children then interrogates them for 3 hours with their parents not present and sends police cars to their homes.

Catherine Johnson said...

Allison - Hi!

Great to see you!

I don't think it's possible to open a charter school here in Westchester County, period.

People have tried.

In the city, we have Jeffrey Litt!

I knew nothing about Litt & the Icahn schools till I went to hear him speak at a Fordham Prep luncheon. Turns out that's by design. The Icahn schools chose to keep a low profile because of all the hatred directed at charters.

I asked Litt, after his talk, how many kids leave the school --- the number is 0.

They take transfers, too.

And they use Core Knowledge. He was one of the first adopters in the country.

Catherine Johnson said...

When I say "leaves the system open" I mean that adults, some of them, give students the password, then leave the room.

It's no different from putting a crate of wine in a room with 13-year olds and then leaving the room.

Except that a 13-year old who gets drunk won't be interrogated for 3 hours without his parents present.

ChemProf said...

That's one interesting thing about California's charter law. You can open a charter that serves students who live in adjacent counties. So initially my county (Alameda) generally resisted charters, but surrounding rural counties started opening charters, particularly homeschooling charters, to serve our population. My daughter's school is actually a satellite campus of a charter in the next county.

And interrogating 13-year-olds without a parent present should be unacceptable (the only exception I can see is if it is a question of abuse and that doesn't apply there -- and even then the kid should have some kind of advocate, just as an adult should never allow himself to be interrogated without an attorney present).

halojones-fan said...

Step 1: make it reeeeally easy to hack the network.

Step 2: give students the third-world political-prisoner treatment if they hack the network.

The result is a Skinner box to train students that "hack network = bad result". It's like when you give rats a blue button that is easily pressed but causes them to get an electric shock; they pretty quickly learn to avoid blue things, even a pile of food pellets left completely unguarded.

Sort of a "learning by discovery" for network security.