Baldwin County Schools superintendent outlines digital safety and security

Baldwin County
baldwin county public schools_232112

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — The Baldwin County School Superintendent sent out an email informing parents of the digital safety and security measures the school system is taking now that students are learning remotely from home.

In the email, Eddie Tyler outlines the security measures the school system is using and encourages parents to monitor their children’s activities on the county-issued Chromebooks.

Read the full statement below:

As I am sure you have heard, there are a lot of fraudulent and criminal activities being pushed out through phone calls and the internet regarding the coronavirus pandemic. There are people trying to get into your checking accounts or trying to get your personal information. Just as you need to be aware of these things as adults, we also need to be aware and focus on your children’s safety and security.

First, let me say we began disseminating and downloading specific curriculum plans to all of our principals and teachers at your local school level today. The plans have been received very well! I have gotten tremendously positive feedback from our employees and I am looking forward to your feedback once we get into instruction after spring break.

Now let’s talk about technology and our responsibilities to each other in this new world. I have had many parents contact me about how wonderful all of this technology is and how proud they are to be a part of Baldwin County Public Schools. I’ve also had a few parents contact me about concerns they have regarding all this technology and connectivity. Everyone has been very supportive, even in sharing their concerns.

All of our school Chromebooks are protected using sophisticated software to prevent access to certain websites and prevent certain activities. We also monitor all of these activities through our central servers. We will forward notifications to teachers and principals for inappropriate behavior or violation of student policies. You should know there is a significant level of protection here, but it is notabsolute.

Let’s be honest – many children will find a way around the rules. They will find ways to get through the barriers we have set up. Just as you have to remind your child to wear a helmet when they ride their bicycle and check to make sure they’re actually wearing it after you told them to, you’re going to have to put your eyes and your hands on these devices and challenge them about what they’re doing.

If you think your child, or other children, are doing something inappropriate, reach out to their teacher or their principal. We are all here to help. Remember – if you don’t like what they’re doing, close the computer and take it away. They are still your children and that is your prerogative.

Now let me speak specifically to our video conferencing. As I said earlier, we are monitoring what is going on to the best of our abilities. I have had a few, though very few, reports of inappropriate behavior on our video conferencing platform. It is not more than what would happen if our kids were still in school, but I want to be clear, we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior and students will face disciplinary action when they return to school if it violates our student code of conduct. They know this and I have received reports of teachers shutting down and prohibiting certain activities based on these reports.

We are doing our part and I challenge you as parents to jump in and ask questions. Look in on what your kids are doing with their devices and under NO circumstances should you ever let a child take an internet connected electronic device behind a closed door!

With regards to Zoom conferencing – your child should not be setting up a personal account. Our Chromebooks were specifically blocked from downloading and setting up accounts. Your student’s iBaldwin email address cannot receive emails from outside our system, however, some students found a way around this by choosing to log in through their Google account or by having their parents set up an account. We and you do not want them to do this.

When they create a personal account, their information can be accessible to other persons in some instances and is not what we have recommended. So let’s make sure they have not created and are not using a personal Zoom account on their Chromebooks.

When you or your child needs to join a BCBE  Zoom conference, one can simply visit the website Zoom.US, click on the ‘Join’ link in the upper right corner and type in the meeting code and password you have been provided. You do not need an account to join any of our Zoom conferences. When the conference is done you should always close the window.

While we continue to evaluate other software platforms and security measures, I can assure you we are providing the best security and protection services available in the educational arena at this time. We may change products or platforms over the next few weeks if we find a better solution but much ofthis is a new reality that we will need to work on together.

Rest assured that we have a dozen people monitoring our systems, providing technical support and filtering through appropriate and inappropriate behavior by our students. Even with all of that in place, you still have a role as a parent and I hope you will take the opportunity to be engaged, ask questions and enforce discipline if you think it is necessary.

Also, remember if this makes you uncomfortable we have an alternative method that will not require digital connectivity. Just contact your teacher and they will put you onto that alternative program, no questions asked.

I remain very pleased with where we are headed at this moment. To look back and realize the massive change in direction we were required to take in a very short amount of time is breathtaking. We are blessed to have such an incredible team of educators in Baldwin County.

I’m also reminded of how incredibly challenging this is to all of you as parents. I know you have your own worries about health, financial circumstances and now your children at home 24/7, with the added responsibilities of helping them not just with their schoolwork but with their internet technology and computer needs.

The good news is we are almost done with our core standards. The state department has allowed us to reduce our focus to the basic necessities required to move your child to the next grade, eliminating most electives and focusing just on our core subjects. Students will complete two assignments per week, per course. We are expecting this to take about six weeks to complete.

In the meantime, we are all here to help you. Email our tech team techsupport@bcbe.org if you have concerns or need help in technical matters. Our teachers are more connected and accessible today than they have ever been to parents and students. If you can’t reach a teacher, you can reach a principal. If you can’t reach a principal, you’re welcome to email myself or any member of our senior staff by visiting bcbe.org and looking up our contact information.

Please don’t read this email the wrong way. I am very pleased, in fact, I’m excited about how far we have come and what we are able to offer our students during this uncomfortable time. We just need a reality check to be sure we are all operating in a safe and comfortable manner during this new normal.

In my 44 years of education, I’ve had a lot of wonderful students and athletes who are amazing people but who also could find themselves doing things they knew they weren’t supposed to be doing. That doesn’t mean they’re bad kids. It just means they need guidance and supervision. This is something we all have to work on together.

I continue to believe we’re going to come out of this stronger as a nation and again I want to express to you my deep gratitude for the support you continue to show our school system.

Eddie Tyler,
Superintendent
#BaldwinProud #CommunityStrong

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