SDP Web Standards and Guidelines


Version 1.0.1 [06-14-2006]

1.0 Introduction

This document is intended for use by the staff and students of the School District of Philadelphia. It is provided as a guide toward creating accessible, useful and up-to-date web sites.

2.0 Contact Names and Numbers

If you have questions and/or comments about these web site content policies please email: webmaster@philasd.org.

3.0 Guidelines Administration and Oversight

The Chief Information Officer has the responsibility and authority for the development, publication, implementation and ongoing administration and enforcement of these guidelines.

School principals have the responsibility to establish a plan to ensure adequate supervision of students and/or staff who are responsible for the school’s web site or other school-related web content. They are also responsible for interpreting and enforcing these guidelines at the local level.

Local management has the responsibility to interpret and enforce these guidelines.

4.0 Emergency Messages

4.1 School Closings

In the event that schools are closed, the District Webmaster will post closing information on the front page of the School District’s web site at http://www.philasd.org, and will provide the information to the local radio station KYW1060.

4.2 Emergencies

The School District of Philadelphia will continually evaluate situations that may arise, including situations on or near school property, local, state or federal emergencies, etc. Conditions permitting, all announcements will be made over the usual radio and television stations used for snow closings. Information relative to the emergency procedures being followed by the district will be posted on our web site at http://www.philasd.org.

4.2.1 Emergency Response Information

Instructions for appropriate responses to different emergency situations (e.g., shelter-in-place in case of chemical or biological threat, a need to evacuate, etc.) and other information regarding what to do in case of an emergency, are also available online in the "Emergency Preparedness" policy (805.) at http://www.philasd.org.

4.2.2 National Security Alert Levels

Explanations of the national security alert level color coding used in the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory System are available online in the “Emergency Preparedness” policies section of the SDP web site and also at the Department of Homeland Security web site: http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?theme=29

Finally, this communication is not intended to alarm anyone. Its purpose is to keep principals and work location supervisors informed about communication plans and emergency preparedness procedures to ensure the safety and security of our students, employees, schools, and offices.


5.0 General Web Site Accessibility Guidelines

5.1 Worldwide Web Consortium – Web Accessibility Initiative

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has taken an active role in promoting web site accessibility and helping to develop universal accessibility standards. The W3C defines accessibility as the following: Web accessibility means access to the Web by everyone, regardless of disability. 

5.2 Web Accessibility Overview

Web sites and applications that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with.

Examples of general web accessibility considerations include:
  • Visual:
    • Descriptive tags or captions for graphics or video;
    • well marked-up tables or frames;
  • Hearing:
    • captioning for audio, and /or supplementary illustrations;
  • Physical, Speech:
    • keyboard or single-switch support;
    • alternatives for speech input on voice portals;
  • Cognitive:
    • consistent navigation, appropriate language levels;
    • clear and precise illustration; no flickering or blinking designs.
For further information on how to make your web content accessible, visit: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/

5.3 Plain Language

Office/school web sites must ensure that home pages, all major entry points, and navigational elements are written in plain language, considering the knowledge and literacy level of their typical visitors.

5.4 Useful Tools to Measure Web Accessibility

The SDP is committed to ensuring accessibility of its web site for people with disabilities. Below are some tools that can assist webmasters in evaluating the accessibility of their web sites:


6.0 U.S. Web Site Accessibility Laws

For an excellent summary of laws governing web site accessibility, visit http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/#US. The laws governing web site accessibility include:

6.1 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. The SDP and all affiliated web sites will be compliant with all ADA regulations.

The ADA requires covered entities to furnish appropriate additional aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the program or service or in an undue burden.
For assistance with implementation and compliance, review the Federal guidelines here:   http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/websites2.htm

6.2 Rehabilitation Act, Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to design of accessible software, accessible web-based intranet and internet information and applications. Specific guidelines are available here: http://www.ed.gov/fund/contract/apply/clibrary/software.html

6.3 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, Section 508

Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘ 794d), webmasters must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.

Offices/schools must comply with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), designed to make online information and services fully available to citizens with disabilities.

6.4 Access for People with Limited English Proficiency

Offices/schools must comply with existing requirements of Executive Order 13166, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of national origin.

“… Generally, entire websites need not be translated, as only the vital information/documents within the website might need translation. If, in applying the four-factor analysis, the agency or recipient determines that a particular document/piece of information should be translated, that translation should also be posted on the website if the English-language version is on the website. If documents are translated within a website, the existence of the translation should be noted (in the appropriate language) at an initial entry point to the site (usually the homepage).” - From the Department of Justice document “Commonly Asked Questions And Answers Regarding Executive Order 13166“

For more information:

6.5 Access to Documents in Different File Formats

Offices/schools should base their choice of file formats on both the needs of the office/school and the needs of the users. Offices/schools should provide information in a format that does not require the audience to use a plug-in or additional software, if it imposes a burden on its users.  When choosing the file format, the office/school should consider: (1) the intended use of the material by the target audience; (2) the accessibility of the format to the target audience; and (3) the level of effort required to convert the material to the format. SDP web sites should, when linking to documents that require downloading (for example, PDF, MS Word, or MS Excel documents), provide sufficient contextual information so visitors have a reasonable understanding of what to expect when they view the material.

Visitors become frustrated and are less likely to access information that requires downloading with additional software, even if that software is freely available. Visitors with low bandwidth need information and appropriate warnings about how long it might take to download large files.

7.0 Terrorism

Content that could be construed as “helpful” to potential terrorists and therefore should not be displayed on school websites:
  • site plans or site maps of schools
  • bus routes
  • information about security drills
  • attendance lists

8.0 Design and Content

8.1 Branding

Every public SDP office web site must use the templates and designs provided by OIT. These templates incorporate the official SDP banner and logo as part of their design.

Every public SDP school web site must be clearly identified as an official SDP web site by URL and use of the official SDP logo.

8.2 Links to Personal Web Pages

Links to personal web pages (students or staff) and lists of personal web pages shall not be permitted on school or office web pages. Links to IMS/Outreach classroom and/or homework pages are allowed. Links to web sites that sell term papers, book reports, and the like are prohibited.

8.3 Use of Logos

Every public SDP web site must incorporate the SDP logo on their home page and link it to the main SDP web site to ensure consistency of identity and navigation to our users.

When using the SDP logo, the following guidelines should be adhered to:

  • The logo is an identifying element and therefore the colors should never be altered.
  • The font should not be substituted, stretched, condensed, etc. It is a piece of the logo art.
  • Type is never to be printed over the logo.
  • The logo is not to be stretched or skewed.
  • The logo is meant to be used as designed. Adding special graphical effects such as sun flare or beveled edges is prohibited.
Offices must use the templates and designs provided by OIT which already contain the logo. Schools are not required to use the OIT provided office templates on their sites, but must still incorporate the SDP logo on their home page.

8.4 Copyright Restrictions

Every SDP office/school should be aware that materials, publications, images, and other media distributed on the internet is fully protected under copyright law as stated in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Therefore the duplication of copyrighted content on an SDP web site is discouraged. As an alternative to inclusion, webmasters may link to any content which is not accompanied by permission for inclusion and use in SDP web sites.

Offices/schools should be aware that copyright laws also apply to the reproduction and dissemination of correspondence. This includes any and all media attachments or materials. The reproduction of any work or media that is not accompanied by approval or is not covered in the clauses of educational or archival reproductions under Title 17, is strongly discouraged.

For further information, the full text of Title 17 (in both PDF and plain text formats) can be found at the URL: http://www.copyright.gov

8.5 Navigation

Offices/schools must develop and implement consistent navigation schemes for their web sites to promote ease of use. Consistent navigation contributes to ease of use because visitors don’t have to learn a new navigation scheme on each new page. Visitors are more likely to find what they need on a site if they aren’t confused by changing navigation.

8.6 Timeliness and Accuracy of Information

All offices/schools are responsible to ensure that any content they publish on the SDP network of web sites is current and accurate; for the purposes of this document, “current” is defined as at least once a quarter during the academic year (September – June) Each site should be considered an educational resource and be counted on to provide up-to-date, factual, and accessible information.

All hypertext and image links whether internal or external should be descriptive and functional. All media linked or hosted by an SDP web site should be functional and pertinent. That is including but not exclusive to images, video, audio, documentation, as well as resource files of any format.

9.0 Hosting Requirements

9.1 Hosting Privileges

Only schools and offices of the School District of Philadelphia are permitted to have web sites hosted on the school district’s main webserver.

9.2 Removal of SDP Hosted Web Site

Each school and office that has a web site hosted on the SDP main server can have the web site removed with an email request from the Principal or Director sent to webmaster@philasd.org.

The Educational Technology Group (ETG) may also request in writing the removal of any school web site that does not comply with guidelines outlined in 8.0 of this document.

9.3 Designated Webpublisher

Each school and office must have a designated webpublisher. The name and contact information of the webpublisher must be provided to OIT.

9.4 Web Sites/Servers Must be Hosted Within the SDP Domain

Every public office/school web site must be established within the school district domain; this communicates to the public that these are SDP web sites. No school shall add site redirectors that otherwise would advertise that school under an outside domain, i.e. www.myschool.com.

SDP branded web sites must physically reside within the school district network.

All web sites not managed by schools/offices will be managed by the Office of Information Technology.

9.5 Web Sites Hosted on the Main SDP Web Server

The District Webmaster and the Office of Information Technology (OIT) will assist in the publishing of web pages by office and school webpublishers; however, each office and school must assume the ultimate responsibility for determining the content to be posted online and the creation, publishing, and maintenance of said content.

9.5.1 Space Allotment

All web sites hosted on the main SDP web server share space for their files on a database. If circumstances arise that the database on the server is reaching its maximum capacity, larger sites may be asked to reduce the amount of content being stored.

9.5.2 Publishing Authorization

Designated webpublishers must provide the District Webmaster with a signed copy of the publishing authorization form. The form must be signed by both the webpublisher and the principal or department director. All additional webpublishers that are expected to have access to publish pages are required to provide the authorization form as well.  In addition, a new webpublisher or a change in personnel requires submission of a new form.

The authorization form can be found on the SDP web site:

9.5.3 Third-Party Software

Any third-party software to be installed on the main SDP web server will undergo a security review by the District Webmaster. All documentation and service contact information for the software will be provided to the District Webmaster for use during the review. A timeframe for the review will be provided within 1 week (5 business days) of receipt of the request for a review, the software and the software documentation.

9.6 Web Sites Hosted on a Server at a School Location

All web servers must be actively maintained by administrators. The purchase and installation of any web server assumes that provisions are made to maintain the server in a secure manner.

9.6.1 Security

All web servers must have all security patches and fixes applied in a timely manner. Documentation shall be provided to the District Webmaster upon request.

9.6.2 Standard Software

All web servers must have SDP standard software installed, including, but not limited to, remote management and anti-virus software. (Note: some server operating systems, e.g. UNIX, may not require anti-virus software). Documentation shall be provided to the District Webmaster upon request.

9.6.3 Access

OIT will be provided account access to the web server and the machine on which it is hosted.

9.6.4 Web Server Registration

All new and existing web servers must be registered with OIT. To register a web server with OIT, email the following information to dns@phila.k12.pa.us.

  • Server contact(s), including backup and after-hours contact(s)
  • Operating system type and version including patch level and list of proactive security software
  • Primary functions and applications of the machine
  • OIT account userid and password

When this request is made and the appropriate information is provided, OIT will respond to the requestor with a hostname, IP address, and will copy the District Webmaster. The District Webmaster will have final right to authorize that a new web server/site be opened up to public access; the basis of this authorization will be the school’s compliance with the hosting policies outlined in this document.

10.0 Freedom of Information Act

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), members of the public can request, and must be granted access to, any documents in the possession of a public agency that address public business and are not specifically protected by other statutes establishing classes of confidential records. Over the years, public agencies have developed records retention policies designating how long their paper documents will be retained in the files before disposal or destruction will be permitted. Under FOIA, electronic files are subject to the same legal requirements as paper documents, so it is important for an education agency to maintain an archive or archives of e-mail and other electronic documents as they would paper documents.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552

11.0 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.


The following is a general explanation from http://www.ed.gov:

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

  • Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
  • Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
  • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
    1. a. School officials with legitimate educational interest;
    2. b. Other schools to which a student is transferring;
    3. c. Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
    4. d. Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
    5. e. Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
    6. f. Accrediting organizations;
    7. g. To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
    8. h. Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
    9. i. State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

The School District of Philadelphia defines the following as “Pupil Directory Information”:
The pupil’s name; address; date and place of birth; photographic likeness; major field of study; dates of attendance; degrees and awards received; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; the most recent school attended by the pupil; and weight and height of members of athletic teams. Please make note: As stated above pupil directory information may be disclosed only under the condition that parents and students have been given notice and a reasonable amount of time to request this information not be disclosed.

It is the policy of the School District of Philadelphia as set forth in section 13 of this document not to disclose the personal information of a student or their parents or guardians.

For more information you can find the full text of the Family Education Rights and Privacy act at the following URL.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99)


The primary goal of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule is to give parents control over what information is collected from their children online and how such information may be used.

The Rule applies to:

  • Operators of commercial Web sites and online services directed to children under 13 that collect personal information from  them;
  • Operators of general audience sites that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13; and
  • Operators of general audience sites that have a separate children’s area and that collect personal information from children under 13.

The Rule requires operators to:

  • Post a privacy policy on the homepage of the Web site and link to the privacy policy on every page where personal information is collected.
  • Provide notice about the site’s information collection practices to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children.
  • Give parents a choice as to whether their child’s personal information will be disclosed to third parties.
  • Provide parents access to their child’s personal information and the opportunity to delete the child’s personal information and opt-out of future collection or use of the information.
  • Not condition a child’s participation in a game, contest or other activity on the child’s disclosing more personal information than is reasonably necessary to participate in that activity.
  • Maintain the confidentiality, security and integrity of personal information collected from children.

For more information on the COPPA rule the Federal Trade Commission maintains full documentation on their website, www.ftc.gov, some of which is tailored specifically for Educators. A few resources are listed below:

The information above is from the Federal Trade Commission’s website and can be found there at http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/privacyinitiatives/childrens.html


13.1 Personal information

No personal Information about students or their parents/guardians, including phone numbers, home addresses or email addresses, shall be published on an SDP web page.

13.2 Displaying Student Photos or Student Media

Photographs of students shall be used only with written permission from the students’ parents or guardians. Before publishing any student media including but not limited to a student’s picture, name, or reproduction of their work for display on an internet page, the school must have on file a parent/guardian release form authorizing publication.

13.3 Displaying Student Work

No student work shall be published without the written permission of the student and parent or guardian. Publication of student work on a school website does not constitute the student relinquishing the ownership of the work.

14.0 Coordination with AUP

All office/school webmasters will comply with all rules written in the SDP Acceptable Use Policy.

The School District has the right to place reasonable restrictions on the use of equipment, resources and material students and employees access or post through the system.

Students and employees are also expected to follow the rules set forth in the District's rules and regulations governing conduct, disciplinary code, and the law in their use of The District's equipment and network. All access and rights are privileges granted by the District, and users should expect no privacy rights.

The complete text of the AUP can be found at: http://www.philasd.org/aup/