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Essential Policies and Procedures Needed to Maintain Network Security in School Systems

Essential Policies and Procedures Needed to Maintain Network Security in School Systems

The need for anytime, anywhere access to educational resources places new responsibilities on administrators and technology leaders to inform stakeholders of risks, instruct on the skills necessary to assure safe use, and enforce procedures and security protocols.

Clear policies and procedures are essential for maintaining network security in a school system. They also set the stage for proper executive sponsorship and responsibility to maintain ongoing ownership and relevance. Policies need to be clear, practical, and easy to enforce. Less ambiguity will lead to cleaner implementation and enforceability. Policies should also be reviewed annually in order to remain current and relevant. Additionally, changes may occur to state and federal laws and regulations that dictate revised or updated policies. Policies should be considered “living documents” that evolve to accommodate the needs of dynamically changing school systems.

There are many types of policies that relate to network security which address configurations, processes, and human behaviors. Some of the most traditional policies used in a school district environment include the following:

  1. Acceptable Use Policy
  2. Remote Access Policy
  3. Digital Communications Policy

Although there is some overlap between these policies, each addresses specific issues relating to network security.

ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY (AUP)

One of the first and most important policies that school districts should develop and implement is an acceptable use policy (AUP). AUPs have been around since students first started using computers and accessing the Internet. However, having an AUP in place has become more critical in the last five years due to the increasing volume of mobile computing initiatives in schools. An effective AUP is one of the first steps in communicating to students, parents, and employees how users are expected to behave while on the school or district’s network. An AUP typically defines both acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and stipulates the consequences that stem from non-compliance.

Many resources are available to support schools in developing, reviewing, and updating their AUP policies. Both CoSN and Common Sense Media are excellent resources that have guides to assist in this process. CoSN’s “Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies to Enable Digital Learning: A Guide for School Districts” and Common Sense Media’s “1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies” provide step-by-step action plans for building a comprehensive and usable AUP. These resources provide real world examples of existing school AUPs as references. The key is to make sure the district’s AUP meets both instructional and configuration needs. It is important to make the AUP relevant to the unique needs of the community it serves in order to increase the likelihood of it being understood and supported.


Excerpted from the newly-published Education Network Security in a Hyperconnected World white paper. To learn more about the remote access policy and digital communications policy, download the full white paper and “Network Security Recommendations Checklist” today!

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