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Last post Author Topic: High School Student Laptop Policy  (Read 6670 times)

cschw

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High School Student Laptop Policy
« on: August 19, 2014, 09:47:40 PM »
Our local high school is giving all students a free!! laptop for the coming school year.

I attended tonight's mandatory "orientation session" for parents and students, where the speaker said that:
  • all students would be required to have a laptop computer for the upcoming school year,
  • only school-provided equipment will be allowed in the classroom,
  • no modifications to the operating system (Windows)--or installed programs (e.g. MS Office 365, etc.)--are allowed,
  • Sophos anti-virus and monitoring/logging software will be installed and are not to be tampered with,
  • insurance is recommended ($50 per student per year) to avoid being liable for the $810 replacement cost if the equipment is damaged, and
  • repairs are ONLY to be performed by the school district's IT staff.

"That's it.  Thanks.  Drop off your paperwork on the way out...including the one-pager saying that you understand and agree to all the terms and conditions in the 'Student Laptop Computer Handbook'."

The frustrating bit:  No discussion and no Q&A.   :huh:

The completely unacceptable bit:  The Privacy Policy (shown below in its entirety, taken directly from the Student Laptop Computer Handbook)

Quote
No Expectation of Privacy
Students have no expectation of confidentiality or privacy with respect to any usage of a laptop computer, regardless of whether that use is for district-related or personal purposes, other than as specifically provided by law.  The school district may, without prior notice or consent, log, supervise, access, view, monitor, and record use of student laptop computers at any time for any reason related to the operation of the school district.  By using a laptop computer, students agree to such access, monitoring, and recording of their use.

In light of the Lower Merion School District spying scandal from a couple of years ago, I was expecting something a little more protective of the privacy of our children.  :mad:

I'll conclude with a little irony (also from the Student Laptop Computer Handbook): 
Quote
The goal remains to promote self-directed, life-long learners.

Renegade

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2014, 10:39:37 PM »
Stuff like that makes me see red and brings out the raging contrarian in me.

I would rather buy a laptop for my daughter than use the school-supplied spybot. I most certainly wouldn't sign any paperwork. (Or not without significant photoshopping...)

My gut reaction to "you will do this" is invariably "NO. I. WILL. NOT!"

The privacy policy is simply too far out there.

The irony you point out is even more maddening. I think they meant:

Quote
The goal remains to promotemanufacture selfstate-directed, life-long learnersslaves.


But, I'm also against mandatory state-sponsored indoctrination centers. Nothing against education. Nothing against learning. Everything against being forced a the barrel of a gun. Good ideas don't require force.



But you'd at least think that they'd have the common decency to use a Linux distro and something like Libre Office instead of proprietary software. Nope.

I wonder who was behind getting those computers purchased for the school district... hmm...
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40hz

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2014, 12:45:06 AM »
@cschw - Yet another example of school administrators stepping outside their designated role and acting in blatant excess of their legislated authority.

I doubt that policy (as presently written) would survive a creditable legal challenge. (That threat suggestion to get the laptop insured should, by itself, be ripe for Watergating.) There's just so many things wrong with the policy and the mindset behind it that I'd hardly know where to start if I were an attorney. Maybe you could contact the people at TechDirt and Popehat with your story. (TechDirt especially loves stories like that.) It's amazing how often simply turning the spotlight of publicity on school boards is enough to send the bureaucratic cockroaches scurrying.

However, since few government employees are as timid and litigation-fearing as most school administrators, I'd be inclined to try calling them up first and 'ask' for (i.e. politely demand) a meeting. Mention you have some very deep concerns. Imply you've spoken to a few interested parties along with some outside advisors. At the meeting, suggest the consensus is that the school system does not have the legal authority to unilaterally institute such a policy or requirement. And then ask WHO wrote the policy - and how can you get in touch with Sir/Madam/Fido to discuss it further.

Don't be too surprised, however, if they accuse you of 'threatening' behavior because you had the temerity to question them. And to cobble together an ill-conceived and hasty little character assassination program to deal with you "troublemakers." Or possibly to just stonewall.That's the knee-jerk reaction of petty authority whenever it's challenged lately. So best to have a few people present when you call or go to meet them. Just to keep "the story" of what happened straight later on. (Because they'll never consent to your taping your conversation with them.)

Luck!

Renegade

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2014, 01:43:16 AM »
YES! TECHDIRT!

I love that suggestion!  :Thmbsup:

Don't be too surprised, however, if they accuse you of 'threatening' behavior because you had the temerity to question them. And to cobble together an ill-conceived and hasty little character assassination program to deal with you "troublemakers." Or possibly to just stonewall.That's the knee-jerk reaction of petty authority whenever it's challenged lately. So best to have a few people present when you call or go to meet them. Just to keep "the story" of what happened straight later on. (Because they'll never consent to your taping your conversation with them.)

Or a mobile phone set to record audio? (Need to CYA there for 2-party jurisdictions.)
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app103

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2014, 04:29:43 AM »
I expect any laptop provided by a school to come with the same privacy rights as the computer use in the classroom...pretty much none, with full logging and monitoring of everything the computer is used for.

Therefore, my instructions to my child, concerning the use of that laptop would be to use it as little as possible and only for school related things, and assume the privacy is equal to having their teacher standing over their shoulder watching everything they do, including watching what keys they type in as passwords on websites.

And as a precaution, when you are not using that school provided laptop, you will place it inside this box, to prevent eavesdropping on your private life (via microphone & webcam) when the laptop is not in use.

Furthermore, if you want to do anything that could be considered personal use, even something as trivial as looking up local weather info before heading off to school, you are to use your regular computer that was not provided by the school. (You know, that one provided by your parents, for such purposes.)

In fact, you may use that computer for your school work, as well, if it is allowed by your teacher, keeping that school provided laptop stored in that box the entire time that you are at home.

 ;)

Children are never too young to learn good computing habits, including good security and privacy protection habits. If they are old enough to understand how to start a web browser, type in a URL, and log in to a website, they are old enough to learn this stuff. I don't believe in keeping kids naively innocent and turning them loose among wolves, completely unprepared.

I would also contact the state school board in writing via Certified Mail, return receipt requested (cc: local school board, principal of child's school, president of PTA, child's teacher, local Congressmen, editor of local newspaper, TV news reporters, etc.) and ask them what their provisions are for covering the costs of the insurance on this unwanted, costly laptop, that the responsibility for it is being forced upon you, considering that every child is entitled to a free public education, and free doesn't mean $50 for insurance, nor does it mean accepting responsibility for a costly piece of equipment that could make your child the target of a robbery on the way to/from school.

I would also ask about what additional security provisions they planned to provide for my child, from home doorstep to school doorstep, to ensure their safety while traveling to/from school, to prevent them from becoming a victim of violence, due to having to transport this unwanted, expensive laptop. And if anything were to happen to your child as a result of having this laptop in their possession, who exactly is going to take full responsibility for it. (it, referring to any injury to the child, not the laptop)

 8)

Vurbal

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2014, 05:21:26 AM »
I expect any laptop provided by a school to come with the same privacy rights as the computer use in the classroom...pretty much none, with full logging and monitoring of everything the computer is used for.

This is exactly why I would tell my kids' school that any district provided laptop is not coming in my house. It's none of their business what goes on under my roof and insisting on monitoring activity which does is an unlawful invasion of privacy.

Also, unless they're going to cover the insurance themselves, they're not handing one to either of my remaining school age kids. That's so far over the line it's not even funny. If you don't have enough money to pay for the insurance, you don't have enough to institute the program in the first place.

Also, don't send me a bill for bus insurance when my kid goes on a field trip or ask me to chip in extra for the custodians' salaries.
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x16wda

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2014, 05:35:05 AM »
I expect any laptop provided by a school ...

+1 for your whole post!!
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40hz

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2014, 05:39:35 AM »
any district provided laptop is not coming in my house. It's none of their business what goes on under my roof and insisting on monitoring activity which does is an unlawful invasion of privacy.

This. Along with everything in app103's post. :Thmbsup:


4wd

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2014, 06:18:40 AM »
Albeit the terms are somewhat brief but they don't seem to preclude the following:

1) any needed material/documents are copied from/to a flash drive at the start/end of every day, and
2) the laptop is to remain at the school at all times, the responsibility for its safety is the schools concern.

Mind you, when I went to school you were still allowed to use a pen, paper, slide rule, and calculators were sometimes banned from tests - so anything I know about today's so-called education system is a bit out of date. :)

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2014, 07:15:07 AM »
Mind you, when I went to school you were still allowed to use a pen, paper,...

Hell even now when I go onsite I consistently move the tablet I carry out of the way so I can use a pad of paper under it to take notes ... It just seems faster to me.


But on topic: The local school that I've been working with for the last few months had a system that allowed any school supplied student's machine to be directly accessed and monitored in real time. I say had, because the new admin that I've been working with there had the whole system torn out by the roots because (And I quote directly) "It's just to creepy".

wraith808

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2014, 09:34:39 AM »
insurance is recommended ($50 per student per year) to avoid being liable for the $810 replacement cost if the equipment is damaged, and

Even with everything else that was said- this little bit is what really sucks.  Can't really leave it at school or not bring it into the house if you're responsible... this is just bad.

mouser

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2014, 09:49:39 AM »
+1 for what App's post.
Use this laptop as a lesson to teach your kids that "free gifts" are to be treated with a healthy dose of suspicion, and with your guard up.

And in all fairness, some credit has to be given to the school for finding a way to get a laptop in the hands of every kid to assist with school work -- though it would be much better if they let each parent decide whether they wanted the kids to be able to install what they want but take responsibility for maintenance, or leave it as is and have the school do it.  And I'm guessing the signed legal stuff about no privacy rights may be as much about school officials wanting to protect their ass in worst-case scenario, rather than real expectations of spying on kids, but you never know.

Hopefully the school will have an option of providing just the 3rd party commercial software needed for schoolwork (assuming there is any) to kids who have their own laptops.

It does make you wonder how long until some clever kid at that school starts offering a service to:
1. Make a drive image backup of the laptop when it is newly delivered.
2. Wipe the OS clean and installs a new operating system free of any lockdown or monitoring software.
3. Install the original image as a virtual machine if there is any needed non-free software on it.
4. Restore image when it's time to hand it back



« Last Edit: August 20, 2014, 09:56:44 AM by mouser »

Renegade

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2014, 10:18:34 AM »
+1 all the way up the line there.

I have no problem with school computers being surveillance devices at school (well, yes - I have major problems with all of that, but I'm trying to be nice here - give the Renegade a break, eh?). Laptops? To be taken home? By children? Yeah... not so much.

+1 again for 4wd with data transfers via USB device (or email, or web storage, or whatever).

Then again, I can imagine twisted scenarios to put together for the webcam on the laptop... Point it at a monitor with graphic, unsettling material (e.g. ISIS videos) (or just run software to hook the device & channel it directly), etc. Yes - it's too much effort, but it could be funny! :P "Yes. We have a desert in our home, and we're decapitating thousands of people! How did you know? :P )

It's sad that the spirit of "Am I free to go?" is now needed in the classrooms of children.

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2014, 10:21:06 AM »
And I'm guessing the signed legal stuff about no privacy rights may be as much about school officials wanting to protect their ass in worst-case scenario, rather than real expectations of spying on kids, but you never know.

I agree there, but I still don't think that parents should ever agree to that. Power given is power abused. That's pretty much a truism. I get the admin's position, but... sorry. No.
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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2014, 10:24:02 AM »
And... I have to wonder.  What kind of laptop that they would be giving students would warrant a $800+ replacement cost?  Hmmm...

cschw

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2014, 11:17:18 AM »
Thanks for mentioning TechDirt and Popehat, I will reserve these as 'nuclear options' if I don't get anywhere when writing to or meeting with school administrators.

App, thanks too for your suggestions.  I understand why they want monitoring/logging software installed on school equipment, and am not necessarily opposed if the laptops were to remain at school.  My reservations kick in when they encourage students to take the laptops home for working on homework and projects--and to charge them so they will be fully charged the next morning.  As the privacy policy stands, I do not want the laptop to leave school.  And if it never leaves school, then I see no need to purchase insurance of any kind--however this means not working on homework/projects out of school.

Like mouser, I would prefer there to be an option to bring your own laptop.  The school could publish minimum requirements and offer a generic software package.  Their rationale is that it makes support more difficult, and that the "integrative technology" which provides for communication between the students and teacher may not work on equipment brought from home...that, and the teacher would not be able to use the same "integrative technology" to monitor whether the students were using the laptop for schoolwork, rather than social networking or games.

I will not sign the agreement as it stands, so my plan is:
1. Write to the school board to outline my reservations with the laptop policy.
2. If there is no political will to amend the policy, take my concerns to third parties (media, government, others)
3. If the policy still cannot be amended, attempt to include provision for BYOL (bring your own laptop)
4. If all else fails, opt out and let the administrators and teachers figure out how they will adapt their plans to accommodate a non-conformist.

My child isn't thrilled about the possibility of being unique in this way...but it's an opportunity to further her education.

cschw

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2014, 11:26:40 AM »
And... I have to wonder.  What kind of laptop that they would be giving students would warrant a $800+ replacement cost?  Hmmm...

I'm assuming they are getting a quantity discount--so unless these are some pretty stellar machines, it seems like $810 already includes the cost of a replacement.

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2014, 11:29:07 AM »
Or we may simply be dealing with the standard overypaying of academic/government contracts, where a product that would cost a normal human $200 somehow costs a government office $2000.

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2014, 12:01:31 PM »
Their rationale is that it makes support more difficult, and that the "integrative technology" which provides for communication between the students and teacher may not work on equipment brought from home...that, and the teacher would not be able to use the same "integrative technology" to monitor whether the students were using the laptop for schoolwork, rather than social networking or games.

And they're wrong - I just spent 2 months rolling out a BYOD solution at a school that is using an internally hosted Stoneware LanSchool cloud solution that allows anything that can connect to the school's wireless network to access resources on the school network. All internet - "naughty website" - filtering is done at the border of the network. I have no idea what the cost of the system was (they bought that on their own) but from an IT perspective it's slick as hell.

If the teacher's really want to know which students are screwing off, all they need to do is walk around to the back of the classroom and look ... Just like in the good old days - Surveillance software not required - and there are no maintenance and licensing fees to contend with.

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2014, 12:13:23 PM »
Or we may simply be dealing with the standard overypaying of academic/government contracts, where a product that would cost a normal human $200 somehow costs a government office $2000.

This is what I'm convinced of.  For $800 I can get a pretty good laptop- in fact, my gaming machine upgrade I just did to a pretty hot rig didn't cost much more than this... including video card.

40hz

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #20 on: August 20, 2014, 12:18:36 PM »
They can also quite effectively lock down these laptops to prevent what they consider misuse without needing 'monitoring' features to do it. Locking down a system prevents misuse. Monitoring a system identifies misuse once it's occurred.

So if the goal really is prevention rather than rule enforcement, there's no operational need for live and/or discretionary monitoring capabilities.

skeptical-bullshit-clarity.jpg

Or we may simply be dealing with the standard overypaying of academic/government contracts, where a product that would cost a normal human $200 somehow costs a government office $2000.

This is what I'm convinced of.  For $800 I can get a pretty good laptop- in fact, my gaming machine upgrade I just did to a pretty hot rig didn't cost much more than this... including video card.

Hmm...do I detect a sweetheart deal with somebody on this "initiative?" I hope they didn't contract for Surface Pro 3s! :-\
« Last Edit: August 20, 2014, 12:30:07 PM by 40hz »

wraith808

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #21 on: August 20, 2014, 01:26:08 PM »
Hmm...do I detect a sweetheart deal with somebody on this "initiative?" I hope they didn't contract for Surface Pro 3s! :-\

They're just following the NFL... I mean... what could go wrong?

40hz

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #22 on: August 20, 2014, 02:20:40 PM »
Or we may simply be dealing with the standard overypaying of academic/government contracts, where a product that would cost a normal human $200 somehow costs a government office $2000.

Aggravating and non-intuitive to be sure.

But when you factor in  the Byzantine bidding process, the paperwork, compliance auditing, and add-on social engineering (hiring requirements, rules for preference to be given to favored suppliers for parts of the contract, commitments to targeted groups and businesses, the GSA "discount", etc.) it's easy to see how the final sticker price can soar.

Government people usually have no responsibility for recouping their expenses. Operating costs are not "real" to them. If they run in the red, they just ask the appropriations committees for more money. Businesses who need to run things off their P&L rather than the public tax base don't have that luxury.

Not saying that is always why crazy price tags happen. But it accounts for a lot of it. Just ask anybody who ever had to put together a proposal based on a government "request for bids." Providing the goods or service itself is easy to price out. But then you hit those sections on reporting and compliance - and ask: "Ok....How the heck much is it going to cost us to do all this stuff? Better quadruple the first number just to be sure we're covered."

 :-\

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #23 on: August 20, 2014, 02:36:04 PM »
Aggravating and non-intuitive to be sure.

But when you factor in  the Byzantine bidding process, the paperwork, compliance auditing, and add-on social engineering (hiring requirements, rules for preference to be given to favored suppliers for parts of the contract, commitments to targeted groups and businesses, the GSA "discount", etc.) it's easy to see how the final sticker price can soar.

Government people usually have no responsibility for recouping their expenses. Operating costs are not "real" to them. If they run in the red, they just ask the appropriations committees for more money. Businesses who need to run things off their P&L rather than the public tax base don't have that luxury.

Not saying that is always why crazy price tags happen. But it accounts for a lot of it. Just ask anybody who ever had to put together a proposal based on a government "request for bids." Providing the goods or service itself is easy to price out. But then you hit those sections on reporting and compliance - and ask: "Ok....How the heck much is it going to cost us to do all this stuff? Better quadruple the first number just to be sure we're covered."

From dealing with it from the other side, I can definitely say that you're correct... sometimes.

There's also the mistaken assumption (because it's not *their* money) that money equals quality.  Or... something like that.  If you quote too low, you're just as likely to lose as if you quote too high.  What those numbers are?  Beats the heck out of me.  Which is why I'm not in that anymore.

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Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2014, 08:38:33 PM »
Or we may simply be dealing with the standard overypaying of academic/government contracts, where a product that would cost a normal human $200 somehow costs a government office $2000.

Aggravating and non-intuitive to be sure.

But when you factor in  the Byzantine bidding process, the paperwork, compliance auditing, and add-on social engineering (hiring requirements, rules for preference to be given to favored suppliers for parts of the contract, commitments to targeted groups and businesses, the GSA "discount", etc.) it's easy to see how the final sticker price can soar.

Ya beat me to the punch! I was going to say this:

To be fair, government bureaucrats work so hard at finding the absolute best deals on the perfect solutions to their bureaucratic problems that they inadvertently create a tendering process that incurs enough overhead to justify a several hundred percent price hike. I supposed the rest is just pigs at the trough. :D

Government people usually have no responsibility for recouping their expenses. Operating costs are not "real" to them. If they run in the red, they just ask the appropriations committees for more money. Businesses who need to run things off their P&L rather than the public tax base don't have that luxury.

 :Thmbsup:

*cough* tax is theft *cough* :P ;D

They're just following the NFL... I mean... what could go wrong?

Hahaha! Yes - definitely! The antics inside the NFL are just insane. *cough* stadium welfare *cough*

Add to that, now they're asking superbowl half-time acts to PAY the NFL for the PRIVILEGE of being the superbowl half-time act. DOH!

If the teacher's really want to know which students are screwing off, all they need to do is walk around to the back of the classroom and look ... Just like in the good old days - Surveillance software not required - and there are no maintenance and licensing fees to contend with.

 :Thmbsup:

Low tech is often the best or easiest way to go.

Tech toys are fun, but... they're often toys that we invent reasons for rather than actually have real reasons for. You can see this all the way down to regular hand soap where hi-tech replacements make people feel all nice & sciency & fuzzy & secure, but the actual science doesn't pan out and the fancy-dancy hi-tech soap has no significant benefit over regular, ordinary, boring, pure, simple, ancient tech... hand soap.

Exterminating cockroaches with nukes doesn't end well. 8)
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker