Lawmaker introduces bill barring school boards from claiming students’ work

February 22, 2013

A Maryland lawmaker has introduced a bill that would prohibit school boards from claiming students’ work.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) introduced the legislation in response to a controversial proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by its staff and students.

“The employment relation is one thing, but we’re talking about the creativity of students,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Under the bill, a school board could not take ownership of written reports, essays, tests, homework, personal class notes, art projects and computer software.

Last month, the Prince George’s school board proposed a plan that would result in all work by students and employees to belong to the school system, not the individuals.


Anthony O'Donnell

After questions were raised about the proposal, School Board Chairman Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said it was never the board’s intent to stifle creativity or to claim a student’s work. She said the policy would likely be amended. The item is under legal review and it was pulled from the board’s agenda last month.

O’Donnell said he would like to have a discussion about what compelled the board to entertain the idea, which he disagrees with.

He said he understands Prince George’s may amend its policy, but he wants to ensure that no other school board in the state considers a similar policy in the future.

Some experts had raised concerns that the policy could have broad implications, ranging from stifling a student’s creativity to impeding an educator’s ability to teach effectively. Some even questioned the legality of the proposal as it relates to students.

“Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials,” the policy reads. “Further, works created during school/work hours, with the use of school system materials, and within the scope of an employee’s position or student’s classroom work assignment(s) are the properties of the Board of Education.”

If the policy is approved, the county would become the only jurisdiction in the Washington region where the school board assumes ownership of work done by the school system’s staff and students.

Some copyright attorneys said they had never heard of a local board enacting a policy that would allow them to claim ownership of a student’s work.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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