(TNS) -- If you've ever downloaded an app for your smartphone, tablet or computer, chances are you've tapped or clicked through a legally binding user agreement without reading it.
Carroll County Public Schools are hoping to protect student data from falling into the wrong hands by putting new procedures in place to keep educators from blindly agreeing to those terms when downloading apps to use as instructional tools in the classroom.
"Everyone is familiar with them; they're long, they're legal and they benefit the software company — not the users," Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said. "Most of us just click through those to get to the software. Because some of these software programs use student data, I'm concerned that approval is not sought before they are used in the classroom."
The policy establishes the Instructional Technology Resource Team, which is responsible for reviewing all Internet-based tools and approving them for classroom use, according to proposed regulations posted on the school system's website.
Guthrie said that under the proposal, no new staff would be hired for the team. "We would use existing staff," he said.
Requests from teachers, staff and administrators for such tools will be submitted to the team through the school system's Instructional Technology Resource website, the policy states.
Teachers submitting requests will have to explain how the tools support classroom instruction, according to policy regulations. Once the Internet-based tool has been approved by the ITRT, the teacher will be required to receive parent permission for the student to use it.
"If approved, this process will replace the review process that currently exists that treats Web-enabled instructional tools the same as textbooks and other instructional material," Guthrie wrote in an email. "Under the current review process the focus is on content not security."
School systems in Maryland are required to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
"I want to make sure that everything that is used in our classroom is approved to ensure we're following FERPA and that the proper people are approving the software," Guthrie said.
Guthrie said there is a "lag" between the law and click-through user agreements. The proposed policy patches that gap to ensure student data is protected, he said.
If the school board approves the policy, Carroll County Public Schools would be Maryland's first school system to adopt such standards, Guthrie said.
"We've been thinking about this for a while. After looking at the General Assembly, we thought we could get some state help during this legislative session — we would have some state guidelines to follow," Guthrie said. "But the staff and I just finally thought we need to do something on our own."
According to the legislation, it would also limit the applications teachers and schools can use for instruction.
Guthrie said that if the legislation is passed, the school system will comply with the state law, rather than FERPA. (Editor's note: The state law would encompass all aspects of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, thus complying with the federal law.)
The Board of Education will discuss the policy at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
Guthrie said he will seek input from the school board, the public and school system staff before implementing the policy.
He hopes to have the policy in place before the next school year begins, he said.
©2015 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC