Critique and address issues of law, regulations and policy in practice.
The Situation/ Predicament
A student came to me enquiring into whether I had access into students’ Google Drives
and how often I check what students do online. The student started to share that she had been involved in an argument with her friend which had led to written abuse through email. She was aware of the school stance and the consequences in place regarding cyberbullying and was concerned if this would impact on her opportunity to go on camp.
When reviewing the student’s Google Drive, there were a number of back and forth email correspondence over a period of two weeks. The emails displayed unpleasant communication between the two girls.
Analysis of the issue
The central issue posing an ethical dilemma is that of Cybersafety, which comes under the School’s Health, Safety and Welfare policy (Te Hapara School, 2015). In this policy there is a section on Digital Technology and Cybersafety which states “We maintain a cybersafe school environment by: setting and sharing clear guidelines about acceptable and unacceptable use of the technology, and monitoring these guidelines” (Te Hapara School, 2015). In the same paragraph it states there being a “clear process dealing with breaches of policy or agreements, including incidents of cyberbullying”, and guidelines “for the surrendering and retention of digital devices.” The policy states that these guidelines apply to every member of the school community authorised to use the digital technology equipment (Te Hapara School, 2015).
When reviewing the Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers (Education Council New Zealand, 2015) in relation to the central issue and taking the School’s policy into consideration, there are two areas to consider:
- Commitment to Learners
Teachers will strive to:
f.) promote the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of learners.
- Commitment to Parents/Guardians and Family/Whānau
In relation to Parents/Guardians and the Family/Whānau of learners, teachers will strive to:
a.) involve them in decision making about the care and education of their children.
d.) respect their rights to information about their children, unless that is judged to be not in the best interests of the children.
(Education Council New Zealand, 2015)
Having consulted the Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers (Education Council New Zealand, 2015) and school policy documents (Te Hapara School, 2015), it’s important to look at the stakeholders surrounding the issue and their interests.
Of primary concern is the students’ welfare with their well-being being at risk. Then, their parents or guardians who are the legal carers of them. Next, is the school who has a responsibility to the students and parents to ensure they are being looked after, but, also, that policy and procedure is being upheld to maintain a good school reputation.
Taking all areas into account when looking at the course of action regarding the incident, there is the immediate action and the long term action to consider.
The immediate action will require the following of protocols which have been put in place through school policy.
The long term action will involve the review of the policy relating to digital citizenship to prevent situations like this incident happening again.
Course of Action – How was this resolved
At the same time as I was notified, the teacher of the other student involved was notified. She immediately shut down the students access to their Google Drives while a review took place. The Principal and SENCO teacher were notified of the situation. They reviewed the online material and spoke to both students to hear their version of events. The parents of the students were notified and together all parties meet to discuss the incident. A contract had been signed at the start of the year by students, parents and the school stating they would honour school policy. Due to the behaviour choices of the students, consequences were put in place. The students’ school laptops were confiscated and a warning was put in place relating to attending school camp.
Reflection – Next steps
Due to it being the end of the year, there wasn’t the follow through to look at long term action relating to the incident. However, reflecting on the process, the school does a good job of teaching digital citizenship at the start of the year, but this can tail off as the year progresses and other events and learning become a priority. The school can look at ways to consistency keep digital citizenship in the minds of the students as a preventive measure to avoid situations like this occurring again.
Education Council New Zealand. (2015). Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers. Retrieved from chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/https://educationcouncil.org.nz/sites/default/files/coe-poster-english.pdf
Te Hapara School. (2015). Health, Safety and Welfare Policy. Retrieved from https://tehapara.schooldocs.co.nz