Chris Craft has posted an
interesting scenario
about the potential legal liability of using Slideshare
, or any
non-district-sponsored web service, that has advertisements that may be
inappropriate for school-age children.

I will first offer my typical caveats that

  1. I am not in an attorney-client relationship with anyone reading this;
  2. Although I’m pretty sure that I’m correct, you rely on my opinions at your
    legal risk; and
  3. I always encourage educators to consult with their local school
    organization’s attorney about any legal questions that they may have.

That said, here are my thoughts…

It seems to me that Chris’ practice of embedding his Slideshare presentations within his
district-sponsored Moodle system, combined with his district’s blocking of
Slideshare, should be enough to protect him from claims that he negligently
exposed children to inappropriate Web content. He’s not sending students to the
Slideshare site directly. In fact, his district is blocking students’ ability to
do so. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Chris could be liable for
students accessing the site from home. That would sort of be like trying to hold
Chris accountable when a student used Google at home to look up inappropriate images
just because the student also used Google at school (where access to such images
was blocked).

If he wanted, Chris might be able to strengthen his case by including an
explicit notice that he and the school have provided safeguards against access
to inappropriate content, that students should access school-related content
only within those safeguards, and that he and the school are not liable for
students’ deliberately bypassing those safeguards at home. Such a notice could
be on his Moodle site, in a note sent home to parents, part of the
student-signed acceptable use policy (see, e.g., a model AUP from the Indiana
Department of Education
), or all three. Another potential safeguard might be
a popup window that appeared whenever a student clicked on a link to an external
site. The text in the window could note that the student was leaving the
district web environment and disclaim liability for any further actions by the
student on other web sites.

The essence of negligence
is whether educators acted reasonably under the circumstances. Given the
safeguards already in place and maybe the additional ones that I’ve briefly described,
I think Chris is probably okay when the situation is viewed in its totality.
It’s one thing to hold him and his school liable for a direct link to
inappropriate content. The further away from direct linking a student gets (2
links? 5 links? 10 links?), the less likely a court would be to hold Chris and
the school responsible. There’s no bright line here, but ‘reasonable
’ should win the day…