TECH SAFETY: WCCS monitors tech usage

COLUMBIA CITY — One challenge associated with changes in technology is using it responsibly. Whitley County Consolidated School District (WCCS) has approached this issue from both sides of the coin. The first wrinkle involved is related to students using the technology in compliance with school rules. The second consideration is ensuring that teachers, while they are using technology, do not interact with students in an inappropriate fashion.“We take it seriously,” said Dr. Pat O’Connor, superintendent for WCCS. “We are looking at each level — elementary, middle and high school and teaching safety strategies in terms of use of technology.”Part of the strategy is the new internet safety policies the WCCS School Board has adopted within the past year. Within those are expectations for staff and curriculum for cyber safety for students. The district has strict guidelines for staff and students regarding use of social media, although O’Connor acknowledges that is an ever-changing environment.“Sometimes I feel like we might be ahead, and others we might be a step behind and need to catch up,” she said.This conversation also includes dialoguing with students about what happens with the internet and the dangers that accompany it.“Kids talk a lot about understanding their electronic footprint,” O’Connor said.Since the district provides students access to the internet and other technology throughout the school day, the schools carry the burden when it comes to keeping students safe. Students might explore places online that are unsafe or inappropriate, and during the day the school has policies to prevent children from accessing such sites.“We have talked to staff about physical monitoring and electronic monitoring of students on the internet,” O’Connor said. “We have to be very vigilant and keep our kids safe.”Guidelines for staff and students may be restricting, but they are necessary. “These are conversations we have to have and it goes hand-in-hand with technology,” O’Connor said. “I am thankful that we are able to stay on it and stay alert as much as we can.”