This page is dedicated to Catholic schools that want to share and discuss how they use technology and create/revise their Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). Pages will be dedicated to high school, middle school, and elementary school, since what is appropriate may differ among these levels. In researching high school policies, I noticed that policies varied drastically depending both on gender and the technology available at the school. As a linguist, I was very interested in the choice of words used and the messages, intentional or intentional, that our words have; when creating an AUP, we can choose to positively- or negatively-charged words, and depending on the words we use, we can convey an attitude about technology.
As Catholic high schools, we have an obligation to not only to meet the standards set by the National Education Association that are listed below, but we also have to uphold our schools' mission statements and Catholic identity.

I created a sample AUP merging together the suggestions from the NEA and ideas I gained from looking at a dozen Catholic high school AUPs. In my AUP, I pulled from elements that I liked from these three Catholic high schools. My AUP is called "Sample Catholic High School".

What is an AUP?

Think of an Acceptable Use Policy as a set of classroom rules for technology use at a school, but MORE.

classroom rules.jpg
By Krissy Venosdale and taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/venosdale/

The National Education Association suggests that an effective AUP contain the following six key elements:
  • A preamble
  • A definition section
  • A policy statement
  • An acceptable uses section
  • An unacceptable uses section
  • A violations/sanctions section

The preamble explains why the policy is needed, its goals, and the process of developing the policy. This section should say that the school's overall code of conduct also applies to student online activity.

The definition section defines key words used in the policy. This section should define and explain words and terms such as "Internet," "computer network," "education purpose," and other possibly ambiguous terms to ensure student and parent comprehension.

A policy statement must tell what computer services are covered by the AUP and the circumstances under which students can use computer services. Schools may, for example, base student access to computer services on the completion of a "computer responsibility" class that will enhance student understanding of the AUP guidelines.

The acceptable uses section must define appropriate student use of the computer network. It may, for example, limit student use of the network to "educational purposes," which this section then must define.

In the unacceptable uses section, the AUP should give clear, specific examples of what constitutes unacceptable student use. In determining what is unacceptable, the committee charged with drafting the AUP must consider:
  • What kind of computer network sites, if any, should be off limits to students?
  • What kind of student sending, forwarding, or posting of information, if any, should be prohibited?
  • What kind of student behavior will be destructive to the computer network services and should, therefore, be restricted.

Among the sites that might be off limits to students are chat rooms and term paper vendors. In addition, AUPs often prohibit students from sending, forwarding, or posting sexually explicit messages, profanity, and harassing or violent messages.

The violations/sanctions section should tell students how to report violations of the policy or whom to ask questions about its application. "As a practical matter," says the NEA, "the AUP may simply provide that violations will be handled in accordance with the school's general student disciplinary code" (Cromwell, 1998).