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Page history last edited by Wesley Fryer 14 years, 11 months ago

LIABILITY - CYA no matter what the cost

The United States is a litigious society. In some of our schools, some administrative decisions are driven/motivated primarily by a fear of lawsuits. This is true in some cases when it comes to Internet policies on content filtering and censorware. The safer path is to just block the entire Internet and stop students as well as staff from potentially getting into trouble. Some school districts actually block Google and all Google websites. (Yes, ALL of Google.) These types of policies are extreme and thankfully not very common, but liability fear IS very common in U.S. schools.


How do some school administrators invoke LIABILITY concerns to block web 2.0 sites?

Some school administrators cite LIABILITY concerns as the reason interactive websites and software tools are blocked and not permitted on district computers and networks. Students might encounter an Internet predator. Students might encounter objectionable content, and a parent complaint might lead to a lawsuit. It is safer to block all these dangerous websites and software programs than let students and staff use them.


What are the legal requirements for school officials to avoid liability risks?

This question does not have a clear answer. Some school districts go so far in trying to avoid liability risks that they remove ALL playground equipment from the school, so students cannot potentially get hurt on the equipment during recess times. This seems ridiculous, but it actually happens. The same liability-avoiding mentality drives some school officials to take and maintain extreme policies when it comes to Internet use.


What is the Takeaway Here?

Liability risks are a part of life in the United States today, as well as in many other countries. Liability risks must be balanced with benefits and responsibilities. As educators and adults in our communities we have responsibilities to help students learn to be responsible and ethical digital citizens. Learning to act appropriately online is a lot like learning to swim or drive a car. Both are potentially dangerous activities, but they are also both important skills for young people to learn. We have to get in the pool and in the car with young people to help them learn to swim and drive. The same is true for online, digital citizenship.


Additional Resources Relating to LIABILITY


  1. "The Death of Common Sense." Phillip Howard. 1994.


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