Norman parents express concerns with school technology use at board meeting

Norman Public Schools parents expressed varied concerns with technology use in schools for nearly an hour and a half during Monday’s school board meeting, asking the district's board for more communication and oversight of their students' in-school screen time.

Two dozen people — nearly all of them parents of NPS students — addressed the board about technology in public schools during the public communications section of Monday night’s meeting, the first of 2020. The meeting was otherwise uneventful, as the board moved quickly through other agenda items.

Norman Public Schools provides middle and high school students with Macbooks they are able to take home, and provides in-classroom iPads for elementary students. As reported by the Transcript in a Jan. 5 story, the district has rolled out technology in schools over the past 10 years using money from 2009, 2014 and 2019 school bonds.

On Monday, parents presented a wide spectrum of concerns about their children’s technology use that spanned from students’ increased screen time to in-school pornography exposure. Several parents said that they have seen positives from technology use in schools and are not anti-technology, but have still seen negative effects on their students that they want to address with the district.

Several parents asked that the district communicate more regularly and thoroughly with them concerning their students’ screen time and how their private information and data is being used.

One parent told the board she “would like to see the computer usage in schools drastically limited or removed altogether;” others asked that NPS implement a district-wide “no cell phone” policy.

“It would take integrity to stand before your peers and your community and say that we need to rethink something,” parent Laura Miller told the board. “It takes courage to say, ‘we’ve spent this money, we have these tools and now we need policies for how to use them.’”

Many speakers asked that the district consider how screens are replacing pencils and paper in students’ learning processes, and that NPS implement written policies guiding screen time, best classroom practices and student privacy. While the district does allow students to opt out of technology usage on an individual basis, parents asked for a written opt-out policy that families can turn to.

Multiple parents also expressed concern that their students had been exposed to inappropriate content — including pornography — on school devices in their classrooms, despite district filters that have been implemented on all devices.

“We are your constituents, your neighbors, your friends and your colleagues. We come to you tonight to ask for written policy and communication, so that we understand as parents what is expected of our children’s learning,” parent Julianna Kershen told the board.

At one point, board president Linda Sexton asked that parents keep their comments short and refrain from commenting if their concern had already been expressed.

“We have more to do tonight than listen to the same thing over and over again,” Sexton told parents to audible pushback.

The board otherwise refrained from commenting on parents’ concerns, as Sexton noted that during public comment, board members cannot legally discuss anything that is not on the meeting agenda. Technology in public schools was not otherwise on Monday's agenda.

Nick Migliorino, the district’s superintendent, did offer comment at the end of parents’ remarks, telling the audience that the district is working on refining guidelines for cell phones and proper technology use. Addressing a concern from one father that “our students’ data was sold to the highest bidder,” Migliorino told commenters that “by no means is any data of any child in this district being collected or being sold for any reason at all.”

“I too have three kiddos in Norman Public Schools, and many of the stories you shared I have had the same conversations with my wife, as superintendent,” Migliorino said. “...I promise you, many of the things that you talked about are in process...We do want to partner in this endeavour. Technology is all around us — there’s no escaping that.”

Emma Keith

366-3537

Follow me @emma_ckeith

ekeith@normantranscript.com

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