Linking to learning

Protect yourself: Know the DOE’s Internet policy

Chapter leaders: Use non-DOE e-mail addresses


Chapter leaders who use e-mail should refrain from using the Department of Education’s e-mail system for sending union messages.

Ask your members to provide you with their personal e-mail addresses. If members don’t have personal e-mail, help them establish free accounts with Gmail or Yahoo.

They can access those accounts from any computer connected to the Internet.

The intention of the Department of Education’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy was to establish a set of guidelines to inform users about the appropriate use of the DOE’s Internet services and “to establish a secure, appropriate virtual learning space” that will expand communication “between all members of the learning community.”

It also serves as a warning to members because the “Department reserves the right to monitor all Internet access, including all e-mail, through use of the Department’s system. The DOE specifically reserves the right to revoke access and/or take other appropriate disciplinary action, with respect to any user who violates this policy.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the unacceptable behaviors that may subject users to “disciplinary action.”

E-mail

Routinely scrutinizing all e-mail traffic to prevent the spread of viruses or malware is one of the major responsibilities of network managers. However, the DOE “reserves the right to examine any/all e-mail or Internet correspondence for security and/or network management purposes.” That means any district or school network manager can open e-mail correspondence at the request of the administration.

So don’t use your e-mail account to promote religious and political causes or private commercial transactions like selling something on eBay or buying and selling stocks. In addition, don’t use your DOE e-mail address when you subscribe to Web sites that do not conform to your duties and responsibilities.

Transmit all union correspondence from your non-DOE e-mail account. Finally, because junk mail eats up much of the network’s resources, refrain from sending and forwarding chain letters and advertisements. To prevent exceeding memory limits, quickly delete unwanted e-mail.

E-mail is so commonplace that most everyone has a casual attitude about using it. Most of us have heard stories about someone who accidentally clicked on “reply to all” when sending a message that was only meant for one person.

Be prudent when using your employer’s e-mail account. Pay attention to what you say, who you say it to, and what you are doing because it could cost you your job.

General Internet use

Because of grade-appropriate filters, the Web sites you can access from your home computer may not be accessible from the network at your school. If you have a legitimate educational objective for using a blocked site, contact your district technology coordinator to request that the filter be modified.

Remember that when you are on the DOE’s network, or any closed network for that matter, there is no expectation of privacy. The network and your browser record the Internet sites that you visit.

Obviously, hacking into the system by subverting network security, destroying data by spreading viruses or engaging in illegal activities while using the DOE’s network will all lead to disciplinary action.

However, unauthorized access to the DOE system or any other user’s account is “not permitted and may be illegal, even if only for the purposes of ‘browsing.’” It is important not to reveal your password to anyone to prevent unauthorized access to your account (only supervisors may require you to provide it).

The restrictions on inappropriate language include prohibitions against “lewd, vulgar, rude, inflammatory, threatening, abusive or disrespectful language.” Posting “information that could interfere with the educational process or cause a danger of disruption in the educational environment” is prohibited, as is engaging in personal or prejudicial and discriminatory attacks.

In addition, there is a strict prohibition against harassment of other individuals. If a person asks you to stop sending them messages, then you must stop. However, that doesn’t mean that you can tell your supervisor to stop sending you reminders about the next grade or department meeting.

The DOE’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy is not a “gotcha” document. It protects the employer as much as it protects the user — teachers, administrators, students and parents.

Most of the policy’s constraints protect the network’s resources and absolve the DOE from liability if someone uses the Internet inappropriately while on the system. However, if you violate any of the conditions of its Internet policy, the DOE reserves the right to revoke your access “and/or take other appropriate disciplinary action.”

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