School District considers banning TikTok on school devices

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As some young people post videos on the social media platform TikTok, the Washington County School District is weighing potentially prohibiting the use of TikTok on District or school-owned devices.

The rule is part of revisions to and overall regulations set forth in the Washington County School Board Policies/Procedures and Public Progression Plan. The School Board is advertising a public hearing in Washington County News about the possible changes so the community can give feedback.

The hearing will be held on Monday, Jan. 8, at 5 p.m. in the board room at 750 Sinclair Street in Chipley. The hearing does not not mean the changes, including the TikTok ban, have been currently set in place. The School Board will make a final decision after hearing public feedback.

The TikTok rules also prohibit use of the platform on any device connected to District or school-owned internet, even if the device is private.

The provisions are part of an overall potential new board policy addressing Internet safety. Other regulations in the policy include preventing user access to or transmission of “inappropriate material” over the school District computer network, filtering or blocking access to “material that is not appropriate for students based upon the subject matter and/or the age of the students served at each school,” and prohibiting students from accessing social media in general except when expressly directed to do so by a teacher for educational purposes.

Attempting to send or sending anonymous messages of any kind or pretending to be someone else while sending a message would also be banned, as would be harassing, insulting, ridiculing, attacking or defaming others via network communications and changing, deleting or modifying Internet browser settings including hiding or deleting Internet history or records of Internet use.

Furthermore, other prohibited actions include broadcasting a WiFi signal or operating a personal Hotspots from personal devices and students performing any kind of maintenance, repair, configuration or installation services on District-owned devices.

“Students who violate these procedures may be denied access to Washington County School District computing or technology resources and may be subject to disciplinary action, including possible expulsion,” the proposed policy said. “Alleged violations will be subject to the Washington County School District disciplinary procedures.”

Students and visitors should have “no expectation of privacy in their use of the District system,” according to the policy. 

District employees would not be authorized to install software, perform any repair, configuration or maintenance on student-owned technology resources that are brought to school property or present during school-sponsored activities, including both software and hardware resources.

“Students who are authorized to bring and/or use a personally owned technology devices are responsible for the safe keeping and proper use of their property,” the policy said. “The District is in no way liable for any loss or damage for student-owned devices. Schools/Departments will not be responsible to hold or store student-owned devices.”

Except at open house and public events at the direction of the principal, students, parents and visitors would not be allowed to videotape, photograph or make audio recordings while on school premises.

“All recording devices must be turned off at school,” the policy said. “The purpose of this general rule is to foster an appropriate educational environment, prevent unwarranted disclosure of student images and information, and to comply with the requirements of the negotiated agreement with the Washington Education Association.”

Age-appropriate training would also be provided to students who use the District’s internet facilities.