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District : Boston Public Schools

State : Massachusetts

Level : P-12

District Enrollment : 40,001+ students

Community Type : Urban

Related Tags : digital citizenship, equity, Privacy

Student-Centered Acceptable Use Policy

Boston Public Schools (BPS) serves approximately 57,000 students who are enrolled in 128 schools.
They have transformed from a failing school district to one of the most recognized urban public school systems. It is one of the most diverse districts in the country where half of the students speak another language, students are from 135 countries, and 3 out of 4 students live near or below the poverty line.

The Challenge

In 2007, with school-based Internet access on the rise, district technology administrators used high school students to assist with communicating the importance of online safety – specifically targeting K-8 students. With funding from a tech company, district administrators hired two high school interns with graphic design skills for the summer. Under guidance from tech directors, the interns created four cyber safety heroes who effectively conveyed key information to younger children about how to stay safe online. The colorful characters focused on personal and computer safety, copyright and cyber bullying and they became the basis for the BPS Cyber Safety Campaign. However, it became evident to the technology leadership that the district’s AUP was not student-centered. It was also apparent that the language in the AUP needed to be adjusted to be understandable to younger students.

The Solution

A member of the Boston Public Schools tech staff was tasked with updating the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) with the goal of making it student-friendly. After scanning AUPs from districts across the country, the staff member found a model to modify by condensing the existing rules into 10 main points. We crafted the language to make students assume responsibility for their actions by starting each rule with the phrase, “I am responsible for….” We contracted a retired elementary teacher to review the language and to assist with developing age-appropriate AUP modules (including a glossary and a quiz) teachers could use in their classrooms. Since we are keenly aware that students do not always bother to read the AUP, we once again tapped high school interns to assist in developing grade-level appropriate podcasts designed to deliver the AUP message. Finally, we trained high school students to be cyber safety mentors who could go to classrooms and into the community to deliver the Internet safety message directly to youth.


  • If students are supposed to comply with the AUP, it is critical that they understand what the policy stipulates.Making the document student-centered is the first step in that process.
  • Engaging high school students in the process of revising the AUP can result in more student buy-in.
  • Students can use their multimedia skills to help your district develop effective messages that reinforce the AUP.
  • ? High school students can also be tapped to teach younger students how to be safe online.
  • Having a trained crew of cyber safety mentors who can be deployed into classrooms is an effective way to deliver the AUP message.

Boston Public Schools received funding for this effort from Microsoft, Verizon, Bunker Hill Community College, and Boston Society of Information Management.

Additional Resources

From Boston Public Schools:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

District Point of Contact

Haruna Hosokawa
Diane Hauser