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The Julie Group shares a professional interest in the area of digital and emerging technology and law. As professionals there is a rich and deep appreciation for the differences of opinion that can appear in this space. You must never assume that opinion, where it is introduced is universally shared and endorsed by all our volunteers. Nor are they necessarily the very best snapshot of a given issue.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Substitute Teachers and School Attendance Software

In recent discussions of the Julie Group's volunteers an interesting observation surfaced that sheds considerable light onto the plight of Julie Amero's experience in the classroom when confronted by the pornado of inappropriate images on a school teacher's computer.

In many schools across the country, the software that monitors attendance makes no accommodations for substitute teachers. The regular classroom teacher's account exclusively controls classroom access and privacy to that classroom's student attendance records.

And attendance is critical to the central administration of the school. Administrators are made aware of unusual absences because regular and substitute teachers enter the data in realtime. Pulling the plug on the computer by a substitute teacher creates a crippling situation for that classroom and potentially the school.

Critics of Julie Amero or other substitute teachers who follow the rules of not shutting off classroom computers do not understand the gravity of doing so. Shutting off that classroom computer compromises critical school administrative functionality that safeguards the students and staff in the event of a true emergency.

Unfortunately, even school administrators are oblivious to the software's catch-22 defect. The software works fine only when regular classroom teachers are all present and accounted for or if all their logins are functioning properly. Otherwise, substitutes are hostage to making sure the computer is not shutdown (because they can't get back in). This is a requirements blindspot in designing the software.

In Julie Amero's case, no one mention the fact that Julie had done the right thing by leaving the computer running and logged in. The inference was that she should have done more to "protect the students". And the prosecution did nothing to disspell this idea either. The public was mistakenly lead to believe that pulling the plug on the computer was a no-brainer and legitimate option. It wasn't and isn't for most substitute teachers.

In fact, Julie did the only thing she could - leave the software running and deal as best she could with an awful classroom crisis. When substitute teachers are put into compromising positions about turning off computers these facts must be presented fairly in their defense. They are justifiably following procedures that keep the system whole and healthy. They have no other real administrative choice.

- krasicki

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In fact, this article proves that pulling the plug was the most sensible thing she could have done. If "administrators are made aware of unusual absences" in realtime, then having her classroom go offline would have brought an administrator to her almost immediately, and she would have received the support she required to protect her students. That after all, is the only real choice, administratively or otherwise.