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The Problem

Our nation is witnessing a troubling rise in the number of deepfake incidents, a trend that is casting a shadow over the safety and well-being of our students. Deepfakes can lead to various negative outcomes, including cyberbullying, character assassination, and blackmail, all potentially hindering students’ ability to learn and thrive. This increase in deepfake incidents could conceivably impact the mental health, privacy and security of our students, thereby creating an unwelcome environment of mistrust and fear.

Explanation of technology and it’s ethical & unethical applications

As you may imagine, the rise of AI and deepfake technology presents a unique set of challenges, especially in educational settings. Deepfakes are synthetic media creations where a person’s image or video likeness is replaced with someone else’s, often without consent. These manipulations can range from harmless entertainment to malicious misinformation. The technology behind deepfakes involves artificial intelligence and machine learning, where computers are trained to recognize patterns and replicate them in different contexts. This emerging technology presents various impacts on students, particularly in terms of emotional well-being and psychological effects.

The Ottawa Area ISD #StopThinkVerify campaign

Recognizing these dangers, school leaders from across Ottawa County are proactively taking steps to educate our school communities. At the request of and under the leadership of the Ottawa Area Superintendents Association, which includes our own head of schools, Dr. Eric Foseth, the OAISD has created a #StopThinkVerify initiative as an educational campaign in collaboration with the Ottawa Area Secure Schools Network (OASSN). The focus is on empowering students, parents, and staff with the knowledge and tools necessary to critically and thoughtfully evaluate digital content. This education is not just about raising awareness of the existence of deepfakes, but also about developing the critical thinking skills needed for students to discern fact from fiction in order to thrive in a world where the lines between real and artificial are increasingly blurred.

Holland Christian’s multipronged stance

At Holland Christian Schools we prioritize respect, compassion, and integrity in all forms of communication, including digital interactions. It is our stance and goal, along with students’ parents and churches, to equip and nurture students in the ethical use of AI and digital interactions, as well as how to respond appropriately when they are used unethically. Cyberbullying, defined as any form of harassment, intimidation, or malicious behavior conducted online, is strictly prohibited at Holland Christian Schools. Creation or distribution of AI-generated deepfakes with malicious intent, or inappropriate impersonation, is expressly forbidden. Students must not manipulate digital content to deceive, embarrass, or harm others.

Holland Christian Schools also seeks to equip our students’ minds and nurture their hearts to transform the world for Jesus with an understanding that we must do so in a way that prepares them for the advancements in technology today. One of these advancements is the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools (collectively, “AI/NLP tools”). These tools allow users to ask an AI Tool in a natural written sentence to respond to search for the answer to a question, analyze and summarize large quantities of information, or synthesize ‘new’ writing based on the data the NLP has been trained on by its creator.

Updated Holland Christian student policies

While HC wants to encourage students to learn and adapt to an ever-changing landscape, we also want to ensure the integrity of the educational process of each student’s academic development. With this in mind, it is our belief that HC students must not utilize AI/NLP tools in an unethical manner—in any way that misrepresents their comprehension of the course learning standards. Holland Christian administration holds the right to determine unethical use of AI/NLP tools and apply disciplinary measures in accordance with the Student Handbook.

We ask for your support, prayer, and partnership as we navigate this relatively new terrain as a school community. Our hope is that all students become equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill God’s vocational calls and plans for their lives, and that every student be treated with the inherent dignity that comes with being an image-bearer of God. With these ends in mind, please see the updates in our student handbooks regarding student academic use of AI/NLP tools and cyberbullying with AI.

Parents’ role

One of the best starting points for you as parents and guardians is to talk with your kids about what they see on the internet. Ask them about the videos and photos they come across and if they think they are real or not. It’s not just about telling them what’s right or wrong; it’s about helping them think and decide for themselves.

OAISD Resource Website

You can find helpful tips and resources on the OAISD Secure Schools Network website. These include guidance on how to identify deepfakes, tips for safer internet usage, and where to report suspicious content. It is our collective responsibility to ensure our students’ safety and well-being in both the physical and digital realms, and we invite our entire community to join us in this vital effort. These resources are designed to empower you and your children to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and caution.