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Am I Legally Required to Install a Security App on My Personal Device?

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 1/18/2023

We have noticed a recent trend. Perhaps you have, too.

Public school districts across the state have increased their focus on campus and online security following several ransomware attacks targeting ISDs and the Uvalde school massacre. We expect this to continue and have seen an uptick in employees being asked to install security and tracking apps on their personal devices.

With this new trend, legitimate questions arise about the legality of requiring employees to install these apps on their personal devices, as well as concerns about privacy and increased costs due to data consumption.

We generally advise our members only to use district-sanctioned means of communication, such as district email, Remind, or Google Classroom, for work-related communications. It is also a best practice only to use a district-issued device, such as a laptop or tablet, when possible for work-related purposes. However, a district may decide there is a legitimate business or safety reason to have employees use their personal devices for certain purposes, so it may be able to require employees to download work-related apps onto their personal phones or devices.

What about employees who do not have smartphones? Or employees with limited monthly data who are not able to leave location services on without incurring burdensome fees? In these cases, we suggest asking what other options the district has available.

The district may be able to provide a work-specific cell phone or key fob, or it may pay a portion of the employee’s cell phone plan to offset data charges incurred. The district may allow use of a district-issued tablet rather than a personal device. The district IT department may have suggestions as well. It is also possible the use of personal devices is addressed specifically in a job description—or more broadly in local policy or an employee handbook.

Whether or not it is addressed, it is reasonable to make professional inquiries about the app you are being asked to download, including how the app works, how it tracks your movement, and the district’s expectations about the use of the location services while not at work. Professionally exploring the options available is important, but remember, failure to follow a directive to install the app could result in negative employment action, such as a reprimand.

To avoid negative repercussions, you could meet to discuss your concerns or write a memo outlining your questions and concerns. You could also ask to speak directly to the IT department about other available options. Just remember to avoid unnecessary conflict by following the chain of command when addressing your concerns.

As this area evolves, more districts may require specific security protocols for online access and emergency situations. Hopefully, they will work with their employees to find optimal solutions for the safety and security of all students and staff.

The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.