CIPA Planning Process and Public Input

Districts will want to develop a planning and implementation process that ensures a good-faith, comprehensive approach to concerns related to the safe and responsible use of the Internet. Districts across the country vary greatly in terms of size and complexity and have different basic approaches to planning. The following are recommendations that districts may wish to consider in the CIPA Planning Process.

Policy and Planning Committee

Most districts will either delegate the responsibility for developing a CIPA Internet Safe and Responsible Use Policy and Regulations to a pre-established technology committee or establish a specific committee to address CIPA matters. Regardless of the approach, there should be some coordination with whatever district committee has ongoing oversight in the operations of the district's Internet system. The recommended Policy included in this Planning Guide envisions ongoing committee oversight specifically related to the district's Internet Safe and Responsible Use Plan. Whatever committee addresses the issues should include representatives from all of the major stakeholder groups, including teachers and administrators at all school levels, technical services, media specialists, secondary students, and possibly parents.

The Policy will need to be approved by the district's governing board. The Regulations will need to be approved in accord with the district regulatory process. Since policies and regulations can be extensive and difficult for many to read, the district committee may also wish to prepare a brief description of the District's Safe and Responsible Use Plan for dissemination to parents and the community. Templates for the Policy, Regulations, Student User Agreement, Letter to Parents, and Description of the District Safe and Responsible Use Plan have all been provided in this Planning Guide.

Community Information and Input

CIPA requires the a public notice and a public hearing:

PUBLIC NOTICE; HEARING.-- An elementary or secondary school described in clause (i) or the school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of the school, shall provide reasonable public notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposed Internet safety policy. ... "

For public schools, state laws will prescribe the manner in which public notice must be posted and a public hearing must be held. Private schools generally have some established procedures to communicate with the parents of the students attending the school.

Districts may wish to consider addressing CIPA in the context of two public meetings. The first would be a public hearing early in the process by the committee in which members of the public are invited to submit input into the development of a Safe and Responsible Use Policy. The second would be the actual presentation of the District Safe and Responsible Use Policy and Plan to the district's governing body. Most school board meetings provide the opportunity for public input prior to board action.

Several commenters sought to persuade the FCC to implement more extensive public disclosure requirements. The FCC responded as follows:

40. After careful review, we decline to require schools and libraries to publicly post the key requirements of CIPA, the text of the written Internet safety policy adopted, the name of the vendor of the technology protection measure chosen, and instructions on registering complaints. We disagree with commenters that suggest that recipients be required to post this material in a public area, preferably near the Internet computers, and on websites when possible. Commenters argue that this mandated disclosure would inform library patrons and parents of school children about the measures taken to protect against illegal or objectionable content, and would assure that the public would assist in monitoring compliance.

41. The plain language of the statute does not require such disclosures. Congress has not specified what information schools and libraries must disseminate to their relevant communities regarding CIPA implementation choices, and the manner in which they must do so. Because the statute does not require these disclosures, we decline to impose additional burdens on schools and libraries ."

While not required, districts should consider the benefits of complying with some of the recommendations that were made to the FCC. Appropriate disclosures can help facilitate communication with parents, alleviate parental concerns about use of technology and the Internet, and generate support for the district's technology programs. Such disclosures can also help parents understand the need to develop comprehensive strategies to reinforce the safe and responsible use of technology by their children at home. Disclosures can help to mitigate problems by communicating information about the district's good faith efforts, as well as providing honest information about the limits of all Technology Protection Measures and other strategies. Districts can also use these disclosures as an opportunity to request further input from the various stakeholders that can be used in evaluating and updating the districts Internet Safe and Responsible Use Plan.

Districts may wish to consider the following disclosures and input mechanisms:

  • Posting of the District's Internet Safe and Responsible Use Plan (one page document) on the district web site, with links to the policy and regulations, and an e-mail input mechanism requesting comments or concerns.

  • Provision of the District's Internet Safe and Responsible Use Plan (one page document) to parents in addition to the Student Internet Safe and Responsible Use Agreement and parental permission form.

Information Gathering Requirements

Several commenters also sought to persuade the FCC to implement more information gathering requirements.

42. A few commenters propose mandating that all schools and libraries compile and report specific information about the workings of technology protection measures. Under these proposals, entities would be required, for example, to catalogue (in various categories) the number of attempts made to access prohibited visual depictions, the number of times the technology measure succeeded or failed, and the number of instances where "clearly or arguably appropriate and protected material" was inadvertently blocked or restricted. It has also been proposed that we require all recipients to collect any complaints filed by the public, and make these available. Other commenters oppose these various requirements as not mandated by CIPA, overly burdensome to schools and libraries, and potentially violative of statutory privacy rights of students. Because we concur that these data collection and reporting requirements fall outside the requirements of CIPA, we decline to impose such requirements on recipients. As we have stated previously, we are confident that local authorities will take the appropriate steps to ensure that they have complied with CIPA's requirements .

While not required, districts should also consider the benefits of establishing a process for gathering data and evaluating the effectiveness of the District's Internet Safe and Responsible Use Plan. Technologies are changing rapidly and new concerns may emerge. The template Policy provided in this Planning Guide envisions an ongoing evaluation process. The district Internet policy and planning committee should evaluate the following kinds of information:

  • The degree to which the Technology Protection Measure is blocking access to appropriate material.

  • The effectiveness of the process implemented in the district for temporarily or permanently unblocking sites. (Input should be specifically sought from district media specialists, teachers, and high school students to evaluate this issue.)

  • Reported incidents where students have accidentally accessed inappropriate materials. (These reports should be analyzed with respect to determining the content and effectiveness of district instruction in avoiding such accidental access.)

  • Reported incidents of student or staff violations of the District Internet Safe and Responsible Use Policy and Regulations.

  • Any recommendations or input made to the committee from administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community members.

Implementation Strategies

The template Policy and Regulations envision implementation action items that will be the responsibility of building administrators and other educators. Responsibility for the implementation of other action items should be delegated to the appropriate individual or committee. The most significant of these implementation items will need to be addressed by district staff responsible for addressing curriculum and professional development issues. The curriculum and professional development issues that need to be addressed include:

  • Establishment of the district educational web site.

  • Professional development and standards for the development of classroom educational web sites.

  • Safe and responsible use instruction for students .

  • Legal, ethical, and safe use issues professional development for administrators .