Schools' social-networking policy tweaked
Published 5:53 am, Thursday, September 13, 2012
By Paul Schott
The changes do not alter the scope of the district's policy. Instead, they essentially revise some of the policy's structure and wording, with the intention of making the district's social media regulations clearer and more specific for Westport educators. The new version, for instance, updates the policy's list of regulated social media to include Instagram, a photo-editing and sharing app whose popularity has exploded since the board approved the original social networking policy in April 2011. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and MySpace were already covered in the first version.
"There was no intent to change the scope of the policy; it is to be more specific," acting Board of Education Chairman Jim Marpe told the Westport News on Tuesday, a day after the board approved the revisions. "It's an attempt, I believe, to make it easier for our employees to read and see what we're talking about."
The approved changes constitute the first update to the school district's social-networking policy since it was adopted last year. Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon recommended updating the policy in an Aug. 13 letter to the board to "address the changing landscape with regard to social networking."
Landon expressed satisfaction Monday with the adopted version of the updated policy approved by the school board.
"This will probably become a policy that is recommended to districts throughout the state," Landon said. "Its message is clear. It protects the rights of the individuals who exercises their First Amendment rights and it also protects kids.
Education board members said they expect the district's policy to be periodically updated in the future.
"We're going to have to see where society and technology goes," said board member Mark Mathias. "It's better than it was. I think it improves and clarifies it."
No audience members commented on the policy at Monday's meeting.
Among the key provisions of the district's social-networking policy, teachers or administrators cannot "friend" a student or his or her parent or guardian on Facebook. Education employees also cannot mention, discuss or reference the Board of Education, the Westport school district, individual schools, programs or teams on social networking sites unless they state that such communication is a personal opinion and not representative of the views of the district or the Board of Education. The social networking policy also states that education personnel may be sued by other employees, parents or other individuals who considers an employee's social media communication to be defamatory, pornographic, proprietary, harassing, libelous or "creating a hostile work environment."
Westport's social-networking policy also includes a number of stipulations for district-sponsored social media activity. Educators who use Facebook, for instance, to communicate to members of a school club must set up that organization as a "closed" and "monitored" group list, which limits the social media participation in that group to students, parents and school personnel and allows an education employee to supervise the group's social media communications.
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