Pompton Lakes BOE sets policy on students’ school-issued laptops – NorthJersey.com

The school district’s plan to provide individual laptop computers to its eighth-graders comes with caveats.

In April, the district announced it will roll out a five-year plan to provide students with individual laptop computers to use as part of the everyday educational program.

This program will kick off in the eighth grade next year. The goal is to provide every student in the sixth through 12th grades with a laptop computer, and have a set of laptops for every class in the third through fifth grades by the 2019-20 academic year.

At the June 9 meeting, the district introduced its policy for the students’ laptops, which as with textbooks, would make parents liable if the laptops are lost, stolen, or damaged.

The district is looking to buy 140 laptops for the eighth-graders. (Parents will not pay out of pocket for the laptops). Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Amoroso said the laptops will cost the district about $260 each. The policy would also require students to sign a user agreement that outlines the rules they have to follow with their laptops.

In addition to holding parents liable to pay for a laptop if it is lost, damaged, or stolen, the policy will prohibit students from adding any software to them, and also says the students must bring their laptops with them every school day.

Also, the laptops can only be used for academic purposes, and must be returned in the condition they were distributed in. Parents can take out insurance to cover this liability if they wish.

Amoroso said the board did consider taking out its own policy to cover the expense of the laptops, but decided it would not be cost-effective.

“The purchase of the devices we are buying is so cheap that the device itself is not worth paying for the policy,” he said. “And the policy does not cover the entire loss.”

In addition, if a laptop is broken or misplaced, the policy states that it must be reported to the district within two days. If a laptop is stolen, parents must file a report with the police.

The policy also includes a clause on the state’s Anti-Big Brother Act that prohibits the school district from collecting and using students’ personal information from their laptops.

New Jersey’s Anti-Big Brother Act was signed into law in April 2013 in response to reports that a school district in Pennsylvania had taken photos of its students without their knowledge using the webcams on their school-issued laptops.

“If any technology device is equipped with a camera, a global positioning device, or any device that collects data, the school will not use this information to violate any student’s privacy rights,” Amoroso said.

During the meeting, board members questioned if the students would be responsible enough to handle their own computers.

“I think when you raise the level of expectations and responsibility, the kids … will respond very well to it,” Amoroso said.

Next year will be the pilot year of the program’s five-year plan. Amoroso said school officials will reevaluate the program to see what changes could be implemented. The board may continue the program in the 2016-17 school year, or expand the program to the ninth and 10th grades.

The district estimates purchasing 960 laptops over the next five years.

This policy is set for final adoption at the school board’s July 14 meeting, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in the board office at 237 Van Ave.

Email: scottl@northjersey.com

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