💻School issued Chromebooks would be inoperable for all students at night

💻Superintendent Kevin Kanauss said it is to make sure students get enough rest

💻Parents argue that some students involved in sports don't do homework until late

💻A committee has been formed to discuss concerns of parents and students

DEPTFORD – A South Jersey school district is giving itself a say in the need for students to get more sleep by controlling the hours they can use their school-issued Chromebooks.

The devices are issued to Deptford students in grades 4 through 12 to complete homework and studying.

Their use is monitored by software called Lightspeed Systems to make sure the machines are being used "safely and appropriately both in school and at home," according to Superintendent Kevin Kanauss.

In his letter about the new policy, Kanauss said the district's IT team noticed an increase in the use of the laptops in the evening and in some cases "well past midnight."

"As part of our responsibility for student wellbeing, we want to ensure we are not enabling unhealthy behaviors by allowing access to school-owned devices during hours where children and teens should be resting and recovering," Kanauss wrote.

Starting Friday, March 1, the Chromebooks will be inoperative to elementary school students after 8 p.m., middle school students after 9 p.m. and high schools after 10 p.m. They will become operable again at 6 a.m. for all grades.

Map shows location of Deptford Township
Map shows location of Deptford Township (Canva)

Comment from all sides

Kanauss' letter sparked debate by parents in the comments of a Facebook post. Some parents argue that their children are involved in athletics or have jobs that don't let them work on assignments until later at night.

"I think 10 p.m. is too early. For those kids who are athletes and do not only a high school sport along with a club sport, there’s many nights where work is being completed after 10 pm…. This is the real world," one parent wrote.

"On days he has sports or work, he's not home till after 8. (His sport is outside of school & he competes nationally. So it's a lot of work)," another parent commented. "He eats dinner then gets on the Chromebook. He's in Honors and next year Honors & AP classes. He would flip out if they shut his down at 10!!! He gets plenty of sleep."

Another argument brought up by parents was the amount of homework that is assigned.

"Here's an idea....don't assign homework!!! They're in school 6.5/7 hours. After school time is family time and time for personal growth and development... athletics, socializing, extracurriculars... sooooo many reasons I hate homework. It's just not necessary," a parent wrote.

Yet other parents argued about whether or not it is an overreach by the district to determine when their children should go to bed.

"Why does the school get the right to tell the parents what time their children should go to bed and not work on schoolwork?" one comment said. "In the past it was the parents responsibility ... But to tell the children what time they have to stop using their computer it’s just more of their communist behavior."

Knauss said district administrators met as a team Tuesday to discuss the concerns raised by the school community.

"We have preliminary steps in place to continue gathering information and make equitable adjustments to this plan before it takes effect on March 1. We will communicate these adjustments to our community once they have been made," Knauss wrote in a statement. "We appreciate the passionate engagement from our community and the trust they place in us as educators to do our best for our students."

Playground at a Deptford school
Playground at a Deptford school (Deptford School District)

Guidelines allow monitoring

According to the district's Chromebook guidelines, log files are maintained on each device creating a detailed history of accessed websites.

"All Chromebooks have a tracking/monitoring system that is activated when the Chromebook is logged on," according to the district's guidelines.

The district follows state guidelines including "͞The Anti-Big Brother Act."

The act requires notification if a device is "equipped with a camera, global positioning system, or other feature capable of recording or collecting information on the student's activity or use of the device.

Kanauss on Monday did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's inquiries about the policy. The district was off for President's Day.

The Deptford Township school district had an enrollment of 4,114 as of the 2022-23 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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