A Maryland county school board is considering a proposal to copyright student- and teacher-created work, reports The Washington Post. This would mean that any work done during school hours using school resources—a paper written by a high school student, a lesson plan developed by a teacher, even a picture drawn by a kindergartner—would be property of the school district. The proposal by the Prince George’s County board of education also extends to work created for the school on a student’s or employee’s own time and with the use of their own materials.
Kevin Welner, a professor and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, told the paper that the proposal appears to be revenue-driven, considering the growing online market for teacher lesson plans. But he doesn’t think it will influence teacher behavior. “Within a large district, there might be some who would invest a lot of time into something that might be marketable, but most teachers invest their time in teaching for the immediate need of their students and this wouldn’t change that,” he said.
David Rein, a law professor of intellectual property at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, told the Post that, to his knowledge, no other school board has enacted such a policy that also extends to student work. In fact, according to Peter Jaszi, an intellectual property law professor at American University, the legality of applying such a law to student work is questionable. Jaszi went on to call the proposal “sufficiently extreme.”
In an interview with the Post, Board Chair Verjeana Jacobs explained that the proposal was designed to clarify the ownership of curricula developed by teachers while using apps on school-owned iPads. She said that it was never the board’s “intention to declare ownership” of students’ work. “Counsel needs to restructure the language,” said Jacobs. “We want the district to get the recognition ... not take their work.” She added that amendments may be made to the policy at a future board meeting.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.