A number of privacy and internet-related issues dominated discussion at the regular Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board meeting Wednesday.
The district has faced a number of sticky issues relating to technology in the past year, and just about all of them managed to come up at the meeting.
“Not only have we met with all the students, we’ve met with every parent who has a computer,” Schoenbar Middle School Principal Casey Robinson told the Board.
Robinson gave a quick update on Schoenbar’s efforts to prevent another hacking incident like the one that happened last school year, where students in Schoenbar’s one-to-one laptop program saw their computers taken away. That happened after a number of students accessed and gained control over others’ computers remotely.
Robinson says the school has held six separate meetings with students and parents about proper use of school computers.
The hacking incident also sparked a wider investigation into just how district computers are used and if more stern action should be taken. Superintendent Bob Boyle presented his findings to the Board, but questions the ethics behind those steps.
“The question is, should we do this?” Boyle said. “What we’d proposed to the Board is that we’d first of all find out how we would do that, and the Board could make a determination.”
Boyle notes that Internet filtration software, which would restrict students from accessing certain sites with district computers, is a possible solution. But he also points out it would be a complicated process, and that only eight other school districts in the state use filtration software.
Just about all the School Board members expressed disdain for any sort of filtration on school computers.
Board Member Misty Archibald has strong words for filtration policies.
“I think if the school needs to be filtering what my kid does at home, then I as a parent am not doing my job,” Archibald said.
With most of the Board Members in agreement about not adopting the restrictive policies, it appears unlikely that they will.
Board Members Stephen Bradford and David Timmerman also drew attention to potential cyber bullying within the district. They say that in light of recent and public incidents on Facebook and other social media both nationally and in Ketchikan, the Board should be watchful.
The Board also voted unanimously to draft a resolution opposing state Senate Bill 90, which would require school district employees in Alaska to join a state-sponsored health insurance plan. New School Board Member Trevor Shaw pushed the Board earlier this month to adopt the resolution, and he continues to oppose the bill.
“It’s an irresponsible mandate from the state, and hurts the autonomy of our school district, and I’m a big believer in localized education,” Shaw said.
Senate Bill 90 currently is under review by the Senate Finance Committee.
The School Board also decided Wednesday to change its November meeting schedule because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The board will meet only once next month, on Nov. 20th.