“Your” District issued computer, is NOT yours!

It may be seem like a simple concept, but a lot of teachers don’t think about it this way.  The computer that your district has assigned you to use is still district property, and is, therefore, subject to search and monitoring.  Everything you put into it can be seen by other people. Many of you have heard the stories, seen the TV, or know someone who has been relieved of his job because of something on his school computer. Believe it or not, most workers in America are subject to some computer monitoring in the workplace. It is almost impossible to hide the emails you have received or the websites you have visited. Monitoring of your computer can even be done through many school districts’ servers. Even deleting an item does not mean that it is gone forever. Those who know what they are doing can still find the item. So once it’s there, it is usually there to stay. School employees are subject to investigation and punishment (if improper materials are found on their computers) even if they send an email or visit a questionable website after hours, during lunch, or any time. It should also be remembered that much information on a school computer is open to the public under the Texas Freedom of Information Act. This could include many emails sent or received by a school employee.

How can you protect yourself?

Here are some tips for safe use of your district computer. “The best thing you can do is to remember that the computer belongs to the school district, not you,” says Steven Poole, Executive Director of the United Educators Association. “The district has the right to check your computer anytime they wish.” Poole suggests that you not use the email system to send out anything you would not want on the front page of the newspaper or discussed before the school board. This includes emails about your personal life, your administration, or your students (unless it is a notice to their parents). And, most of all, protect your password. If you don’t have a secure password, ask for one from your administrators. Do not leave your computer running, without password protection, so that others can do things for which you will later be held responsible. You do have a right to use the computer to communicate with friends and others, unless you have been ordered not to do so or you are doing it in a time you should be teaching or doing other work. This includes communications to your association. If you are told that you cannot communicate with your association, but this rule is not applied to other people, then there could be a possible violation of other laws.  

Some “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Computer Use:

  • Don’t write when you’re angry.
  • Do have someone else edit your e-mail.
  • Don’t use sarcasm. You may think you’re clever, but others might not.
  • DON’T USE ALL UPPERCASE! Someone will think you are mad at them.
  • Remember that what you put in an email or the websites you visit might end up on the front page of the newspaper, especially if it comes from your school computer.