LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County students with smartphones be aware: The rules for their use in school could soon get more strict.
School Board members this week discussed banning students from using "wireless communication devices" to take photos, video and audio and post them online while in school, without specific permission in advance.
Board member Allen Altman raised concerns about the growing number of "improper" items popping up on YouTube, Facebook and other such sites by students. He wanted assurances that the district has the authority to act if it receives information that such activity is emanating from district sites or activities.
"If it's on campus, then it's sanctioned," student services director Lizette Alexander responded.
That being the case, then, students and parents need to know it, Altman said. "We need to notify parents that there are things in here (district policy) that their children could get in serious trouble for."
Board attorney Dennis Alfonso shuddered at the conversation. He worried that the district could face serious constitutional questions about First Amendment rights if it tries to govern the content of students' social media sites.
"I urge incredible restraint in enforcement of this issue," Alfonso said, calling the subject "thorny," adding that "this will surely require input from the courts."
But it's a topic that is sure to vex the school district, particularly as it looks to incorporate student-owned devices into its instructional model for technology use. Students already carry iPhones and Androids in large numbers, and it takes only seconds to snap a picture and post it, largely undetected by administrators who have social media sites blocked by Internet filters on their district computers.
"It's truly how the student decides how to utilize what is taken that is the issue," said Hudson High School senior Mitchell Starr, 18.
Starr said he uses his iPhone frequently at school for taking notes. Sometimes he uses voice memo functions to record teacher lessons, so he can review the information later.
"I don't post it online," he said. "But I can understand where the district is coming from."
Hudson High junior Kayla Roberts, 16, said she uses her Android to take pictures of teachers' notes on the classroom white board, and to search the Internet for information during class.
Roberts also has seen students take pictures in the cafeteria and post them on Facebook. Sometimes they're innocent and fun. Sometimes they might be inappropriate.
She wondered how the district would distinguish between those students who do nothing wrong and those who do. Why not just rely on the rules against bullying and harassment already in place, she asked.
"How much further are they going to go?" Roberts said. "They already can take your phone away."
Both noted that sites such as YouTube have ways to report inappropriate content, including unauthorized use. That's also available to people who feel aggrieved by postings, whether taken at school or not.
"I got a video taken down from YouTube," Roberts said. "I looked bad. I didn't want it up there."
The policy revision under consideration would require two public hearings before implementation. The board has not set a date for future discussion. It is in the process of revising its entire policy manual.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.