The Fairfield school board's policy committee will have to revise a proposed amendment to the district's Internet use policy after it sparked response from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The committee was tasked with revising the Internet use policy to comply with changes in the state's Child Internet Policy Act regarding first-degree harassment via the Internet.
The proposed policy revision aims to -- through the use of filtering controls on the district's network -- "protect [the district's] students from exposure to Internet materials that are harmful, inappropriate, or explicit," according to the document.
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But there is one clause that the ACLU fears will violate students' constitutional rights to privacy:
"Digital storage and electronic devices used for school purposes, whether district or personally owned, will be treated as district technology resources. Therefore, all students must be aware that they should not have any expectation of personal privacy in the use of these resources."
Because the district allows students to bring and use Internet-accessing devices to school -- laptops, smartphones, iPads, e-readers, etc. -- the policy committee wanted to make sure the amendment covered any devices that could use the district's network.
The amendment, should it have passed at Tuesday's board meeting, would have allowed district officials to search and seize students' personal devices to determine if a student accessed the district's network to view inappropriate content or to harass another individual.
But the Board of Education received a letter from David McGuire, an attorney from the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU, after the proposed amendment was reported on in the Fairfield Citizen in September.
In the letter, McGuire warned that, "this sweeping characterization will not survive scrutiny under the United States Constitution because it ignores the Fourth Amendment rights of students or anyone else with a privacy interest in the device and the information contained on it," the Fairfield Citizen reported.
At Tuesday's meeting, the three members of the policy committee (Jennifer Maxon Kennelly, John Convertito, and Paul Fattibene) discussed the issue with the rest of the board.
"The ACLU understood the need for such a policy," Kennelly said, but the board agreed that clause may have crossed a line.
"It's the trade-off for allowing students to bring devices to school," board member Tim Kery said. "We need to find the balance, to protect the network form being degraded or used against others."
The board voted to remand the policy back to the committee level for Kennelly, Fattibene, and Convertito to revise before bringing it back for a vote at a later meeting.
"The policy may have gotten specific," member Sue Brand said. "The danger is where we draw the line."