Social media policy prompts further concerns

2012-11-08T06:38:00Z Social media policy prompts further concernsBy Jennifer Moody, Albany Democrat-Herald Albany Democrat Herald

SWEET HOME — A proposed policy meant to tighten controls on after-hours communication between teachers and students is continuing to prompt free speech concerns in the Sweet Home School District.

Members of the Sweet Home School Board decided Monday to take no action on the third reading of the proposal, which was written and recommended by the Oregon School Boards Association.

They asked Superintendent Don Schrader to draft a district proposal instead that makes it clear all teacher-student communication, whatever form it takes, must be professional and about school-related matters only.

The policy is under consideration by school districts statewide and already approved as written by the Lebanon School Board. It is meant to restrict the use of personal communication devices by teachers while on duty and to discourage contact between teachers and students while using such devices.

Several mid-valley school districts, including Sweet Home, faced heat last year because of police charges involving improper contact between a student and a staff member. Cell phone messages and pictures played a role in most of the cases.

But some Sweet Home board members said the proposed policy is too vague and doesn’t take into account actual communication needs.

Jan Sharp said she didn’t like a section of the policy that states texting students while off duty is “strongly discouraged.” “Is it OK or isn’t it?” she asked.

What happens, she asked, if a student were to text a teacher about an assignment? Should the teacher not respond?

“Is the directive not to text reasonable?” Sharp asked. “We live in a texting world. That’s how they communicate.”

Schrader pointed out he had made some changes to the proposed policy before Monday’s board meeting, including eliminating a definition that had caused concern.

One section of the policy allows staff members to be disciplined if they write a blog, comment on a website or use other social media in any way that causes a school disruption. The policy defined “disruption” to include parents threatening to remove their children from a particular class, along with a “threatened or actual negative impact on the learning environment.”

Eliminating the definition was a good start, Sharp said. “I think it’s kind of unmanageable.”

Jennifer Moody is the education reporter for the Democrat-Herald. She can be reached at 541-6113 or jennifer.moody@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. Sonja
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    Sonja - November 17, 2012 8:18 am
    Los Angeles Unified School District addresses it this way in their "Code of Conduct with Students": http://ethics.lausd.net/FTP/Code_of_Conduct_with_Students.pdf

    A summarizing paragraph states: "Even though the intent of the Employee/individual may be purely professional, those who engage in any of the above behavior(s), either directly or indirectly with a student(s) or in the presence of a student(s), are subjecting themselves to all possible perceptions of impropriety."

    Texting is considered a social means of communication. It is not a standard practice of business. It gives the appearance of "casual relationship" which should be avoided in a school situation. Students must learn proper ways to communicate with adults or lines will be blurred. There is appropriate conduct in business that students need to understand in order to be able to utilize similar appropriate behaviors. If we model this causal, undocumented approach, it will be more likely for a student to claim "inappropriate" behavior in a teacher.

    Written communication or classroom webpages for email exchanges would be acceptable as there is a trail to follow if any problems. If a student needs to know about an assignment s/he can look for it on a web page or call a classmate.

    Teachers are not "friends". Parents should be aware of any correspondence between a student and teacher outside the regular classroom standards. Texting between students and teachers could open doors to lawsuits.

    Common sense seems to be lacking these days. Just because texting is an easily available method of communication, doesn't mean it's appropriate.
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