No Internet for Your Kid

I regularly check the district's website for updates.  Here's the latest one (bold mine):

All Seattle Public School students in grades K–12 will be able to access their personal email accounts from District computers beginning this fall. This change comes at the request of District principals with approval of senior leadership.

SPS is not providing email accounts to students, nor is SPS recommending that students get personal email accounts if they do not already have them. SPS is instead allowing students to access their personal email accounts from District computers for academic and learning purposes only.

Access to personal email from District computers will not reduce or eliminate other filtering of Internet content and does not conflict with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). However, access is governed by all applicable SPS policies and agreements including:
•  Student Network Agreement
•  Students Rights & Responsibilities
•  Policy 2202 & Procedure 2022 SP (Electronic Resources and Use of Internet)

Point in fact; Electronic Resources is 2022, not 2202.

Parents can elect to "opt out" and not allow their students to access personal email by completing theInternet Opt Out Form included in their Start-of-School Packets and on the District website under Forms.
Please Note: Students who opt out of Internet access will not have access to any Internet services including email.

For general information, contact: 
Carmen Rahm, 
Chief Information Officer

Where - to - start?

First, I see some public disclosure requests in my future because I am not buying that principals are asking for this (and I certainly don't think teachers are).

"Access personal email accounts"..."for academic and learning purposes only."  This can only be called utterly ridiculous.  Are teachers sending e-mail for homework assignments?  No, as NOT all kids have access to the Internet outside of school.  And, if there is academic value to having kids access their e-mail, doesn't that put kids without e-mail at a disadvantage?

Then I have to wonder about why this notice tells you what the policies and agreements are but doesn't provide links.  Wouldn't want parents to look those up, right?  

You're welcome.  (I see some troubling things in these but that discussion will come later.  The district's policies around data and technology are NOT all they should be.)

And the kicker?  If you DON'T want your kid to access his/her e-mail at school during the school day, well, then your student can't have access to ANY Internet services.  

I don't think this one will stand without further discussion.


Anonymous said…
gee melissa, maybe this will allow kids without internet at home to have email. That"s equity

or should only kids rich enough have email?

nearly asleep
Anonymous said…
Why both or none? Doesn't make sense.

Let's hire some High School techies to program the either-or, or both. Give them some extra credit for their weekend of work and be done with it.

Dang - SPS. This is Seattle. Technically pathetic won't fly.


Anonymous said…
Kid forgets homework; parent emails it to them. Kid is doing group project; can access other kids' contribution without printing at home or if sent after kid goes to bed. Kid has email conversation about assignment with teacher; gets time to work in class and wants to access exact comments. Lots of academic reasons a kid might want to have access to email. How about we trust our kids a bit, Melissa.

Anonymous said…
They're just asking for trouble with this policy. The bulk of the issues in other districts have been with access to home email at school. Keep home and school separate. School stuff stays on school email, home stuff stays at home on home email. School email should be like all other monitored network activity - no expectation of privacy for any user (staff or student), follow all guidelines.

Bypassing the filters is very easy when kids have access to home email. They simply mail themselves a link to a proxy site, open home email (now sanctioned by the district) and click on the proxy site. With monitored school email, less chance of this getting through. What an absolutely short-sighted, asinine policy.

As for trusting kids? Trust but verify. Kids are kids, and if they think they can get away with something, they will try. And I say this as someone who has helped schools to investigate porn, cyberbullying, threats, etc. sent from kids as young as 4th and 5th grade. The district has just given kids license to get away with all kinds of things. Egads.

Anonymous said…
My kid pretty much needed to get a gmail address last year to put her assignments on Google docs. That's how she turned in 90 percent of her homework and she also did group projects by sharing docs with classmates and they were able to work on things at their respective homes while still working together. Getting that email address did open up a can of worms because she has a google plus account and can post pictures, videos etc, so we had to have some serious discussions about what's appropriate and safe (discussions I felt should have been happening at school as well but at least one teacher felt strongly that was the parents' job not the school's). Correct me if I am wrong, but I think they'd need to access their personal Google account to see such docs at school.

Gen Ed Mom
mirmac1 said…
It is because of gmail and Google that I would not allow this. Recall that my daughter was REQUIRED to create a gmail account to enroll in that short-lived ConnectEDU counseling database - without my knowledge or permission. I understood that it had to be a personal account so that their enrollment could carry beyond HS - for LIFE. This is like Google wanting my phone number associated with my account.
Anonymous said…
My kid has an accommodation to do all work on a laptop because of a disability. But how to turn in this work? He is not allowed access to school wifi network & we have not pushed for this as it is not accessible in half the building anyway. He can use a flashdrive to take his work to the library to print, but there is a page limit which is somehow unable to be overridden even if I send in money or printer paper, so that ran out halfway through the year. The only thing that worked was to email the work directly to the teachers. If he had homework that needed to be edited & then turned in during class it was always a problem.

Constant group projects requires access to email & sharing documents. I have even had time-sensitive information emailed to my student from teachers after school started.

If kids can't have access to personal emails then SPS should provide them with school emails that they can access at home, school or the public library.

How are schools currently policing personal access to emails via phones?

-More Barriers
Anonymous said…
Google has Google Apps for education (they improved the privacy policy after they got busted last year), and schools can turn on email or not, but kids can definitely have access to Google Docs. The schools can create accounts per kid based on student info, or less personal ones that get recycled each year after a password change. There are also other really good options out there like Gaggle. Pretty much anything would have been better than what SPS just did.

Anonymous said…
Oh yes, now I seem to recall discussion about needing a personal address because the school could not afford the educational package. Of course your I could have opted my kid out and had her done all her work in paper - it definitely would have put her at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said…
As a SPS high school teacher, I fully support this policy change. I can't tell you how many times problems have arisen when kids have not been allowed to check their email because of the district filter-- homework, group work, parent contact. It was a daily struggle. We have been asking for it.

I'd also like to echo the comment about how this allows some kids equitable access to the internet. While it may seem like everyone you know has internet, I assure you, there are plenty of children whose only ability to access the internet is here or at a public library.

I understand parents need for privacy and it seems like the all or nothing policy is a little extreme, but this is the 21st century and teachers and students need access to the basic tools of the world wide web.

Working on an Unpaid Day
Anonymous said…
Why does every edict coming out of JSCEE lately sound more like an attempt to circumvent liability than an attempt to help students? First to avoid lawsuits we have the tortuous process to have no one accountable for complete lack of chaperoning on a Garfield trip, which ended in sexual assault, Now we have the "it's email or nothing because we don't want to get sued by a parent" tech policy.

This is a ridiculous policy. It is the duty of SPS to separate email functions from apps. Students can and should have access to all school-approved apps. Email can and should be accessed on a parent-approved basis.

That's what's best for students. The SPS legal office needs to stop trying to run operations.

Okay, I'm confused. Can't kids have e-mail accounts thru the district? I seem to remember my kid had one and that's how he shared info on work with other kids. Did that change?

Nearly Asleep, it doesn't say the district will allow them to CREATE personal e-mail, only access accounts they have already. If you are a kid without Internet access at home, you probably don't have one. Where's the equity in that?

Ams, you may not have a middle or high school student yet. Or you may totally trust your kid. My experience is that kids that age need monitoring and this doesn't help.

As far as privacy, the district should not have either/or for access to the Internet at school. That part is just wrong.

mirmac1 said…
Aghast, add to that English's latest attempt to dodge Federal law: we don't need to provide no stinkin' equitable access to extracurricular or enrichment activities for students with disabilities. Section 504? Not our problem."
Anonymous said…
We were never offered an email through the district. We were specifically asked to get a gmail address for our kid and told that the school could not afford the educational package so it would be a personal email and we would have to monitor its use. I was wary about this, but now that my kid has it, I have to say she does need it for school.

Gen Ed Mom
Jamie said…
My kid is a senior this year and we've never been offered an email address through the district for her as far as I can recall.
Po3 said…
This headline is very confusing - students WILL have Internet access from school, but no school email accounts, is that the correct assumption?
Josh Hayes said…
At the high school level (and probably most middle schools and some elementary students) smart phones are ubiquitous. Students may not have Wi-Fi, but they do have data connections on their phones (3G was pretty well available throughout my building last year). For a lot of students, this is not a change: they've had access to their email all along.

I'll add that those worried that this makes circumventing district filters easier can rest easy: they're absurdly easy to circumvent NOW, and EVERY kid knows how. The filters are a joke, and are actually more disruptive to learning than they are an aid: students doing research on, say, BRCA identification and genetic testing cannot DO that research, because the BRCA gene is for "breast" cancer, and therefore, all the links are filtered out. Idiotic.

Kids live in a wired world, whether we like it or not, and that genie is not going back in the bottle. Better to be able to supervise their responsible network use, isn't it? (And the equity issue raised in above comments is on point, too.)
mirmac1 said…
I feel for kids without smart phones....
mirmac1 said…
I believe this could easily be viewed as a civil rights violation. How can the district deprive students of a needed aid or service for a proper education? Some students cannot be treated differently than others. This is classic district bureaucracy trumping equitable access to education and services. Mr. Rahm, bad move. What POSSIBLE rationale is there to put this in place? Shouldn't you be working on a comprehensive technology plan that EXPANDS the tool for students? Instead of putting up hurdles?

GAWD, SPS just shoots itself in the foot.
"How can the district deprive students of a needed aid or service for a proper education?"

Especially when the district just created a procedure that says having access to personal e-mail IS going to help with academics?
Anonymous said…
I asked my high schooler. Josh is right. It is absurdly easy & they all know how to access their personal email on district computers.

-HS Parent
Anonymous said…
1) Students with smart phones are already at a huge advantage versus students without, at least in the high school. I am concerned that this could exacerbate equity gaps if we don't come up with some type of all-student email service at some point, but per federal rules it must be either filtered or monitored. This may be the root of the all or nothing exaggerated district response.

2) Many teachers have essentially required gmail accounts to upload documents to class google sites. Some teachers use Fusion for most of this (Fusion has its limits, but files can be uploaded by students, teachers can be messaged, etc., but with less functionality than a Google site).

3) Supposedly Seattle and other districts can offer email to students along with MS Office for free. I'm sure it's more complicated than the below link suggests (and there are several articles I've seen on this). Email with MS Office could be an incredible equity piece, but yes, somehow parents need to be involved (or at least aware/consent) with any student email.

Next Tech
dw said…
A couple points.

CT mentioned the fact that google got busted earlier this year for scanning email and other student communications through their Google Apps for Education, and brought up the subsequent policy improvements. However, the "improvements" were mostly BS. Read the updated policy very carefully (Apps for Education. Nowhere does it say that the scanning and data collection of student behavior and communications has been stopped. The new policy merely states that the scanning is not for the purpose of advertising, and that "advertising profiles" are not created. It doesn't state that user profiles are not created, and they almost certainly ARE created, along with other "shadow profiles", waiting for users to either create a google account or to become of legal age, at which time all the data can be married together to make extremely profitable profiles. This is a dirty industry with such a we-are-above-reproach attitude that they don't even know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

GenEd Mom, I seem to recall that your daughter is (or was) still in elementary school, right? If so, you should know that there are federal laws that legally prevent kids under the age of 13 from even applying to use services like gmail and googledocs without very specific steps taken by parent/guardians, such as having a credit card on file or photocopying your drivers license or passport and sending to google so they can keep on file. Google is very soon going to be pushing against the under-13 laws, and it will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

If your teacher or school was coercing you and/or your daughter to use such services, they are putting themselves in a very dangerous position, legally. You do NOT have to use such (third party data mining) services in order to do participate in school. This should be grossly obvious, because not all kids even have internet access at home! Yes, parents may need to stand up and advocate strongly for their children in these matters, because most teachers don't have any clue about the technology, policies and laws.

By the time kids are in high school, it's a completely different story, but there is no reason whatsoever that an elementary teacher or staff member should ever, ever be pressuring students to use these (non-) "free" services.
dw said…
One more comment for now.

If ANY school, even high schools, wants to push students to use online collaborative tools, then they should make district-managed tools and services available to the kids. Services that are freely available to ALL students, and services that are free from the relentless data mining of companies like Google, Facebook, Pearson, Fusion, and all the hundreds of other smaller players doing the same thing under the radar.
Anonymous said…
To clarify, I have more than one child and this happened in Middle School. I was offered the option for my child to do all work on paper but that option would have made it harder for my child.

Gen Ed Mom
Anonymous said…
PS, In theory, I don't disagree with anything you've said DW, but I don't have time to fight about that with the school or the teacher. In practice, most kids my kid know, for better or for worse, seem to be using Google docs for asignments.

Anonymous said…
I am all for opting my little one out of internet use. He is in no way savvy with the internet and tends to be drawn into every advertising ploy and any data mining trap because he is a child. With nearly 30 kids per teacher there is no way that he would have adequate supervision when using the internet.

By disallowing internet use he would also not be able to use standardized testing as it is all internet based now. That must be why his kindergarten principal discouraged me from signing the opt out form kindergarten year when I was about to turn it in. This year I will.

School should be a safe place for youngsters to grow, not a place to ruin their online profiles. As many of us know, a clean online profile is needed for quality jobs and mobility within companies. We can't expect our youngsters to know this yet. My little one thinks bodily functions are really funny. This is completely age appropriate but completely dangerous on the internet.

I'll be signing the opt out form this year.

Opting out.
Opting out, good for you.

YOu said this:
"By disallowing internet use he would also not be able to use standardized testing as it is all internet based now."

That can't be true because I'm sure they want as many kids as possible to take the test. If it is true, then they have a real problem.
Anonymous said…
I think they do have a real problem with the adaptive testing, as it is all internet based right now.

Opting out
dw said…
GEM said: "In practice, most kids my kid know, for better or for worse, seem to be using Google docs for asignments."

In practice, most kids your kid know either are or soon will be engaging in all kinds of unfortunate things: drinking, experimenting with drugs, etc. That's not a good reason to help enable them down those paths.

That said, I understand there are different risk levels, and I totally understand about having to pick your battles. Until you've seen deleterious effects from a particular activity firsthand, it's hard to justify a big fight. I just want to make sure people are aware that these services are provided by data miners, and over time there are all kinds of bad things that can come from having every single thing you say and do online put into giant unregulated cross-referenced databases for analysis - especially when children are involved.

In the meantime, people like mirmac, myself, Melissa and others will continue to raise red flags in the hopes that we can get more people to pay attention. At the end of the day, nothing will change until enough people start caring enough to complain.
Anonymous said…
DW, I'm doing my best. I did start a discussion with the school about this and it didn't go anywhere. I am, in fact, picking my battles. I am personally monitoring what my kids do online. I don't think I am "enabling" kids to do anything. I believe I'm in the minority as a person who spoke up and had questions. I'm just telling you what's happening out there. Don't shoot the messenger.

GEM, I appreciate you speaking up at your school.

It is an interesting thing how so many people take what is said at face value. Or don't want to believe/imagine that anyone has motives other than what is said OR that anything can go wrong.

mirmac1 said…
Sounds like something PTAs should take a position on.
Anonymous said…
Teachers are asking for this--at least in my experience at the high school level. To me it is an equity issue. For students with computers and printers at home, certain assignments are a non-issue. For students relying on the public library for computer access, they do not have a reliable way to store and transfer documents from place to place. Flash drives are dying out and are fairly unreliable once they've lived in a backpack for some time. With email access, the students can send files to themselves and have back up accessible from any location.
Anonymous said…
secondary teacher
Anonymous said…
JAMS Transportation
Dear JAMS Families-

With letters from Seattle Public Schools Transportation Department arriving last week, we have heard from a number of parents that their student either didn't receive bus service at all; their student has an unsafe walk route (no sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic lights); and/or the Metro routes from their home are very limited.

We take our students' safety very seriously and to that end, Principal Montgomery has outlined the following updates:

Families should email SPS Transportation and Transportation Manager Michelle Drorbaugh ( directly with specific information for their child who lives in the 1.5-1.9 area (the area currently served by ORCA cards).
Michelle’s team is attempting to get these students spaces on nearby buses. We have heard that students are slowly getting spaces on yellow buses, so please be patient.
Assistant Superintendent McEvoy will come to JAMS the week after we meet on September 10 with City of Seattle in order to give updates, hear any ongoing issues, and discuss further next steps.
Please help us by following the recommended drop off areas as outlined in the attached traffic flow handout for the first few days of school. We have heard that quite a few families are going to drive kids to school and perhaps honk in protest. Please remember that at the school level we can only relay this information to the transportation department. We are working hard to address these systematic issues, but please let’s keep the first day of school as calm as we can.

In addition, the PTSA is working with the City of Seattle to update crosswalks under their Safe Routes to Schools Program as well as working on advocating with the school district to update transportation options for our students.

Principal Montgomery wants to thank families for all of their help on these issues and their willingness to work collaboratively and proactively for ALL of our students. It speaks volumes about the community of parents that is developing at Jane Addams Middle School.

The teachers and staff at JAMS are very excited to welcome your students to school on Wednesday.
(end of letter)____________________
Anonymous said…
Honk in protest? Come on people. Let's hope parents don't muck up the first day - everyone is new to the school and there will be many issues to resolve as they get new routines down.

-patience please

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