Whether you’re using district technology or your own personal devices while at work, there are rules and regulations to be aware of.
Acceptable Use of District Technology
Often employees sign an acceptable use policy that outlines the permitted use of district technology including internet, computers, and other provided devices. Most of these policies do not include rights to privacy, so be mindful that websites you visited or emails you sent from a district account are traceable, even if you have deleted them.
Find out if your district has an acceptable use policy and, if so, familiarize yourself with it, including use of personal technology on a campus. While most districts allow for limited use of personal tech devices —for instance a quick phone call or personal email to you family — be sure and check for any policy that tries to authorize access to your personal email account.
Some employees are issued district-owned devices, like laptops. In some cases, that district-owned device may be authorized for both work and personal use. More often than not, the district’s acceptable use policy is still in effect, and you should be cautious about syncing the device with the district’s internet network.
With a district device, you could be liable if something happens to it, but only if you’ve signed an agreement stating so.
Using Your Own Device at Work
Rules about when you can use your own device (laptop, cellphone, etc.) at work depend on your district’s policies. Keep this in mind, though: Using district-provided internet from your own personal device still constitutes using district technology.
If you bring your own device to work, take precautions:
- Make sure it is password-protected.
- Place it somewhere where no one will be able to access it.
- Double-check that your device does not sync automatically with the district network, otherwise personal content (photos, messages, browsing history) could be given to the district.
Whether you can be written up for posting on social media is dependent upon your district’s policies. Districts can regulate employee use of electronic media to the same extent as any other form of employee communication. If an employee’s communication violates state or federal law or interferes with the employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her job, a district may have grounds for action.
A good rule of thumb: Post on your personal devices on your personal time. That personal time includes your duty-free lunch.
Records of Work Communication
Texas’ Public Information Act states that public information held on a private device or in a private account must be released. Under the law, school employees and district trustees are considered “temporary custodians” of public information. Accordingly, they either must maintain texts and emails received on their personal devices (cellphones, tablets, computers, etc.) related to district business or transfer those documents to the district.
If pertinent documents have not been transferred to the district, employees would have to maintain the documents received on their personal devices during their tenure even if they left district employment.
- What do I do if information is requested of me? Your district should have a public information officer responsible for receiving requests, and they will work with you to get the required information. (The district must respond to a request for information within 10 days.)
- How am I required to transfer the information? The law includes no specific description of how the public information officer should collect the information or how an employee should transfer the information. Check your district’s records retention policy for specific details.
- Do I have to hand over my personal phone? An employee in possession of requested information has no duty to hand over a personal device on which the information is maintained, but the employee is required to provide the information itself to the public information officer within 10 days.
- What happens if I don’t provide the information? If an employee fails to surrender or return the public information requested by the public information officer, the district will have grounds to discipline the employee. Additionally, the employee will be subject to any penalties provided by the Public Information Act or other laws.
- Senate Bill 944 (updating Public Information Act)
- Texas Government Code 552.233(b)
- Texas Government Code 552.233(c)