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BFTP: Harsh? Your policy on computer accidents

This week was the "roll-in" of Chromebooks from our graduating seniors. Our other students keep their devices over the summer in our district. It's prime time for real and (mostly) imagined concerns about student carelessness with equipment. How does your school handle accidental damage to the devices in your 1:1 program? Personally, I'd give every kid the benefit of the doubt just as I give every teacher who spills coffee on the keyboard a pass. Anyway, here is an old post related to computer damage....


Here's a e-mail question I got this week:

Ethical senario for you. Teacher has a laptop from school. The teacher knocks water onto the keyboard zappying the logic board. My boss is charging the teacher for the repair. The teacher is burning my boss in effigy in front of everyone in that school for the charge. I think my boss is in line. Just wondering how you would handle it. Are we too harsh here?

And my response:

As mad as it sometimes makes me, I try to take the high road and accept accidents happen to everyone. We always assume that professionals take professional care of equipment and repair it without question. At least the first time (or two.)
What do you think? Any good rules of thumb for who pays for repairs in your school? If a teacher got into an accident with a school vehicle would he/she be responsible for repairs? Is saving a dollars in a repair budget worth engendering ill will from the entire teaching staff?

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Reader Comments (8)

In my district, we tend to err on the side of assuming our staff take good care of the equipment they are issued. As such, I've budgeted extra funds for repair and try to have a few extra devices on hand for staff to use while their devices are being repaired.

June 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Townsley

Thanks, Matt. I think we agree on the right stand on this issue. I empathize since I've spilled a little coffee on computers myself!


June 12, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Interesting analogy to a school-owned vehicle...

I'm also a Director of Tech, and I hold the line of teacher's responsibilities to return the equipment in the same condition as it was issued. Inevitably, I have 6 to 8 teachers paying for their Mac each year because of coffee or soda spills.

The vehicle analogy gave me pause. It's a good analogy - at first. But I think I would charge the employee IF the accident was the employee's FAULT. I wouldn't charge them for the car, but at least the insurance deductible.

Now, if the accident was not their fault - then I wouldn't charge - much like with a laptop. If a student spills on a teacher's machine, I don't charge the teacher. But if a teacher chooses to place that top-heavy drinking glass precariously close to the $2000 laptop, and it spills - that's not an accident. That's a mistake.

June 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

So I would add that from my point of view it is more about a pattern of behavior than 1 incident. If as an employee I have had a laptop for 4 years without any incident and one day an accident or a mistake happens - that is life - not a pattern of behavior. Like the student at my previous school, 2 1/2 years of checking out books, well over a hundred in that time, without so much as a dog ear then one day he brings me a soaking wet wreak that has been dropped in a puddle. Yeah I asked him to do a couple of hours of work in the library because it was a community resource and it wasn't usable anymore but I didn't make a huge deal of it, didn't demand he replace it (which he couldn't) and he still got to check out books. 1 time is not a pattern of behavior.

June 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnn M Morgester

Hi Ann,

Your point is a great one. First accident, we are forgiving. Subsequent ​accidents, we do some intervention. What seems to work is keep some old computers to give to those who are very accident-prone.

Thanks for the comment!


June 18, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Ann,

Your point is a great one. First accident, we are forgiving. Subsequent ​accidents, we do some intervention. What seems to work is keep some old computers to give to those who are very accident-prone.

Thanks for the comment!


June 18, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I wonder if school districts will ever get out of the business of providing laptop computers to staff? Invariably, it's not the computer that the staff member wants. It's either too heavy, screen is too small, wrong operating system for the teacher's preference, etc.

So I was wondering if any Districts would consider an annual stipend to the teachers and in return, teachers provide their own computer. The District simply provides WiFi access and publishes a list of requirements that the computer must meet. That way the teacher always gets the computer or devices they want, has full admin access to it, and must maintain it in working order. It's a professional tool. Shouldn't the professional choose their own tool?

And, in this case, because the teacher owns the computer they also assume the responsibility for having food or drink in the vicinity of their computer. The taxpayer doesn't have to foot the bill for the accident (or negligence, however it's viewed.)

As long as the District is comprehensive with the system requirements, wouldn't everyone be happier? After all, we all buy our own cars and are responsible to get to work! Some teachers can bike to work! That system seems to work.

I don't know of any schools doing this but it's something that I've been wrestling with.

June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKurt Paccio

Hi Kurt,

I have long argued for this means of BYOD for teachers and staff (especially for cell phones) without much success. As I remember reading, this is not necessarily a more economical approach, but it can lead to higher satisfaction and productivity. I guess the key would be making sure the specs were written carefully enough that people would buy the devices needed to do the work. People would also need to understand that they may lose some personal privacy as well.

Thanks for thoughtful comment,


June 22, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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