Education Law Insights

For School Tablet Computer Rollouts, Don’t Forget Potential Legal Stumbles

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 6, 2012

The Illinois Association of School Administrators recently alerted followers on Twitter (@IllinoisASA) to an interesting blog entry by Eric Lai for UberMobile entitled “Four Reasons Why School Tablet Rollouts Can Stumble – Or Fail.” In the blog, Lai explains why even the best technology can’t overcome poor planning and lack of follow-through when it comes to 1:1 technology programs in schools. The entry is timely in light of national news that Apple’s iPad is overtaking PC sales in schools and local news of schools swapping textbooks for tablet computers/laptops (examples here and here).

Lai’s entry hits the mark with respect to technological and pedagogical issues that schools may face. Yet, school leaders should also consider potential legal challenges when implementing 1:1 technology programs in schools.

Here are just a few of the issues about which school leaders should keep alert:

Filtering or Blocking

Technology that students take home with them is subject to the same monitoring requirements applicable to technology within a school. For example, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which applies to schools that receive universal service (“E-rate”) discounts, would apply to tablet and laptop computers sent home with a student just as it does to computers in a school’s library.

Privacy Issues

School leaders should consider carefully how to balance the need to monitor students on district issued technology with any rights of privacy that the students may claim. Although privacy concerns might not be as sensational as this webcam spying case from 2010, schools should work carefully to strike the right balance with 1:1 technology issued to students.

Fee Waivers

Illinois requires that public schools provide fee waivers to eligible students for essential materials like textbooks (here is a summary provided by ISBE). Even in states without such provisions, schools should take steps to ensure that any fee policies for required 1:1 technology (such as deposits for use of a tablet and insurance premiums for a laptop) are not out of reach for students whose parents lack the means to pay for them.

By both following the technological and pedagogical advice from Lai’s blog and carefully planning ahead with legal counsel regarding legal issues, school leaders can set up their 1:1 programs for success from all angles.

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