Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
The following guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches.
3. Pornography on a school laptop
Student ‘A’ was using a school laptop in the library and invited a group of friends to look at a website with pornographic and violent images. Another student viewing it was very disturbed by the content and told the librarian the laptop should be confiscated and examined.
The laptop is the school’s property and the teacher can ask the student to surrender and search the device. Schools may wish to consider the following issues and questions:
- How have the images been accessed? This will inform the school as to whether they only need to focus on the laptop, or whether images could be on other devices or their servers.
- Were the images:
- loaded to the laptop locally. For example, using a USB memory stick?
- accessed via the school’s network?
- accessed using the student’s own internet connection (e.g. via a tethered mobile device) or a third party connection (e.g. community Wi-Fi)?
- If accessed via the school’s network, were any security and content filtering systems bypassed e.g. using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? Whose network account was used?
- What type of images are involved? Are they inappropriate (i.e. restricted) or illegal (i.e. objectionable material)?
- Were the images being viewed illegal content? If so, the laptop should be secured electronically and physically and the incident reported to the Department of Internal Affairs.
- If the images were inappropriate, could they become evidence in a school-based discipline procedure? If so, the laptop should be secured electronically and physically and an examination conducted by a digital forensics specialist on behalf of the school board.
- Will a review of the school’s prevention strategies be carried out after this incident? For example, are the school’s policies on appropriate use of digital technology clearly stated and understood by students? What pastoral support is in place for students witnessing the content?