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What is the standard for personal use of a school computer?

Q: My principal spoke to me after I used school e-mail to ask a colleague out. The principal said the message violated school board policy and I should never use the school computer that way again. Is this standard policy?

A: Each local school board adopts its own "acceptable use policy." In many cases the policy restricts use of school computers to education and related research and prohibits use for personal messages or personal business. Your contract requires you to be familiar with and abide by all school board policy. Please read the acceptable use policy very carefully and make every effort to comply. Don't send personal messages or go shopping on the web, whether before, during, or after school hours, if your school board restricts the use of school computers.

Even if the acceptable use policy allows personal messages, there are real disadvantages to using school electronic mail. The computer system administrator - or your supervisor - can read all messages on the system. You might prefer to keep private communication private rather that using a medium that allows third parties to "overhear" what you say.  Recognize that a casually typed thought can take on a very different meaning than you intended when it is printed out and read by others. School administrators don't want to deal with sexual harassment complaints because your request for a date is not well received, or a school romance ends in a difficult break-up, or the special attention you pay one colleague causes resentment in others. And you don't want a misunderstanding to jeopardize your job.

Contact your local Uniserv Director for assistance reviewing the acceptable use policy. You should also share the text of your messages to get the Director's opinion of whether your communication was inappropriate for the workplace and help to follow up with your principal. 

I hope some separation between your work and social life will bring success in both. Thanks for your question.


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