Tag Archives: law

Are these Illinois students getting the wrong lesson about Twitter and free speech?

[UPDATE: The high school principal is now threatening to suspend students who protest this situation. Never mind that the administrators' decisions are arguably illegal for many of the suspended students. And apparently also never mind the First Amendment and students' Constitutionally-protected speech rights. The quote from the Supreme Court at the bottom of this post? It's worth reading again...]

If a student calls a teacher a MILF on Twitter, should he be suspended? If other students retweet his tweet – or give it a thumbs up – should they be suspended? The school administrators at Granite City High School in Granite City, Illinois think so. They’ve suspended multiple students for 5 to 10 days apiece (the longer suspensions were related to a student’s tweet that she should blow up the school so that she wouldn’t have to attend).

Unsurprisingly, online reactions have been quick and fierce (as has been the conversation on Facebook). Here are a few tweets since the suspensions:

Freejustice01

Freejustice02

Freejustice03

Freejustice04

Freejustice05

Freejustice06

Freejustice07

Courts have ruled that there is no First Amendment protection for speech that constitutes a ‘true threat.’ When a student says that she should blow up the school so that she doesn’t have to go, is her speech a ‘true threat?’ Arguable at best, but it’s hard to say without knowing more. But when her classmates forward that on, is that worth a suspension? Or maybe just a conversation?

Courts have consistently upheld students’ rights to have personal opinions. And they have repeatedly affirmed students’ rights to express themselves off campus as long as it doesn’t cause a ‘material and substantial disruption’ at school. And they have stated that for many controversies – for example, defamation (i.e., ‘you ruined my reputation’) – public schools should not insert themselves into what essentially are private lawsuits between individuals. So when a student says that his teacher is physically and/or sexually attractive, is that worth a suspension? Or maybe just a conversation? And when his classmates forward it along because they agree and/or think it’s funny, is that worth a suspension? Or maybe just a conversation?

The Granite City High student handbook says that inappropriate language/behavior includes ‘disrespect to a staff member off campus.’ But who defines this? And how much leeway do we give them? And is saying that a teacher is ‘hot’ even disrespectful? Students say every day that teachers suck, are terrible, are fat, are ugly, or whatever. Does that mean that they all should be suspended? And when kids write or say these things at home – electronically or vocally – do we want schools to have the right to reach that far into our neighborhoods, our homes, and our children’s lives?

Just because a school has a rule doesn’t mean it’s legal. School rules get overturned for illegality all the time. But of even greater concern are the messages that we send our students. As the Supreme Court said in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette:

That [schools] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.

What lessons do you think these Illinois students are learning about the law, personal responsibility, power, ethics, adult arbitrariness, and/or schools’ responsibility to uphold children’s legal rights?

Internet safety talking points: IT pushback

Internetpadlock

A lot of people found value in my Internet safety talking points for school leaders, including Cory Doctorow, Bruce Schneier, and Tim Cushing. The post now has been tweeted, liked, pinned, and shared over 1,000 times. I shared a PDF version with superintendents earlier this week. But a school IT employee in Eastern Iowa thought it was ‘adversarial’ and ‘hateful.’

I spoke with her yesterday on the phone for about 30 minutes. She was extremely offended by B, spoke vociferously against Google and Facebook (although her school system is not blocking them), couldn’t wrap her head around E or F, thought G and H were untrue (and didn’t want to hear about the research done by danah boyd and the Berkman Center that is behind those statements), and stated that the Bonus was insulting. Needless to say, our conversation didn’t result in a meeting of the minds. I encouraged her to voice her concerns in the comment area so that we all could have a dialogue but she didn’t think that school IT people read my blog and believed that she would not get a fair shake. Her final statement to me was that she was now worried that her school administrator would be breathing down her neck and asking her more questions about the decisions that she’s making. I responded that I thought that was a good thing since we all need to be regularly reconsidering and reexamining our policies and decision-making in light of both learning and teaching considerations and the rapid changes that are occurring in our information landscape. That’s when she thanked me for the call and decided it was time for us to be done.

The transcript of her voice mail message is below. Any thoughts or reactions to this?

Dr. McLeod, I had hoped I could speak with you directly. You don’t know me but I just read your article on administrators and how they should think about Internet safety and, as a 25-year veteran of IT, I want to say that I’m completely offended. This is just sad that you’re setting up this adversarial relationship between administrators and IT with the tone of your letter here and if you think that’s going to help the situation by getting IT departments angry, because that’s what this article will do. Obviously you’ve got some issues there with filtering. I would be surprised if the University of Kentucky is blocking. We don’t block any of the sites you mention but you’re leaving out a lot of very important things regarding the CIPA law with K-12, regarding E-Rate funding, regarding attacks of viruses, malware – it’s just a really simplistic approach when I look at this. I’m really disappointed in that but I don’t think my voice mail’s probably going to change your idea, I just think that you’d be doing everyone a service to not be having such an angry, resentful type of article like that which does nothing more than put a divide between two departments that, by the way, don’t work for each other, they partner with each other. So I would say you might want to rethink that and maybe even present a different article that’s a little less hateful. Thanks.

26 Internet safety talking points

[UPDATE: A PDF version of these talking points is now available.]

For Leadership Day 2012, I thought I would gather in one place many of the talking points that I use with principals and superintendents about Internet safety…

  1. InternetpadlockEven though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.
  2. The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.
  3. Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy.
  4. You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.
  5. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.
  6. You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.
  7. The ‘online predators will prey on your schoolchildren’ argument is a false bogeyman, a scare tactic that is fed to us by the media, politicians, law enforcement, and computer security vendors. The number of reported incidents in the news of this occurring is zero.
  8. Federal laws do not require your draconian filtering. You can’t point the finger somewhere else. You have to own it yourself.
  9. Students and teachers rise to the level of the expectations that you have for them. If you expect the worst, that’s what you’ll get.
  10. Schools that ‘loosen up’ with students and teachers find that they have no more problems than they did before. And, often, they have fewer problems because folks aren’t trying to get around the restrictions.
  11. There’s a difference between a teachable moment and a punishable moment. Lean toward the former as much as possible.
  12. If your community is pressuring you to be more restrictive, that’s when it’s time to educate, not capitulate. Overzealous blocking and filtering has real and significant negative impacts on information access, student learning, pedagogy, ability to address required curricular standards, and educators’ willingness to integrate technology. It also makes it awfully tough to prepare students for a digital era.
  13. ‘Walled garden’ online environments prevent the occurrence of serendipitous learning connections with the outside world.
  14. If you’re prohibiting teachers from being ‘friends’ with students online, are you also prohibiting them from being ‘friends’ with students in neighborhoods, at church, in volunteer organizations, at the mall, and in other non-school settings?
  15. Schools with mindsets of enabling powerful student learning usually block much less than those that don’t. Their first reaction is ‘how can we make this work?’ rather than ‘we need to keep this out.’
  16. As the lead learner, it’s your responsibility to actively monitor what’s being filtered and blocked and to always reconsider that in light of learning and teaching needs.
  17. If you trust your teachers with the children, you should trust them with the Internet. Addendum: Mistrust of teachers drives away good educators.
  18. If you make it too hard to get permission to unblock something, you might as well not have the option in the first place.
  19. Unless you like losing lawsuits, remember that students and staff have speech and privacy rights, particularly off-campus. Remember that any dumb decision you make is Internet fodder and has a good chance of going viral online. Do you really want to be the next stupid administrator story on The Huffington Post?
  20. When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law.
  21. Never make a policy you can’t enforce.
  22. Don’t abdicate your teaching responsibility. Students do not magically gain the ability at the end of the school day or after graduation to navigate complex, challenging, unfiltered digital information spaces. If you don’t teach them how to navigate the unfiltered Internet appropriately and safely while you have them, who’s going to?
  23. Acceptable use and other policies send messages to students, staff, and parents. Is the predominant message that you want to send really that ‘the technologies that are transforming everything around us should first and foremost be feared?’
  24. Imagine a scale with two balancing pans. On one side are all of the anxieties, fears, barriers, challenges, and perceived problems that your staff, parents, and community members put forth. If you want effective technology integration and implementation to occur in your school system, it is your job as the leader to tip the scale the other way. Addendum: It is difficult to understand the learning power of digital technologies – and easy to dismiss their pedagogical usefulness – if you are not familiar enough with them to understand their positive affordances.
  25. In a hyperconnected, technology-suffused, digital, global world, you do your children a disservice – and highlight your irrelevance – by blocking out our present and their future.
  26. Educating is always, always more powerful than blocking.

BONUS 1. Elsewhere in your state – perhaps even near you – are school districts that have figured this out. They operate under the same laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that you do. If they can be less restrictive, why can’t you?

A huge thanks to everyone who has influenced my thinking and my writing in this area, including folks like Doug Johnson, Sylvia Martinez, danah boyd, Will Richardson, and Tina Barseghian. I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few talking points that I’ll just add later. Which one is your favorite (or least favorite)? What would you add to or change on this list?

For other Leadership Day 2012 posts, see the complete list of submissions and/or #leadershipday12.

Image credit: Bigstock, Internet security

I think I’m going to be on NPR’s All Things Considered today

I think I’m going to be on NPR’s All Things Considered today as part of its All Tech Considered segment. I was interviewed last week about the New York City Schools’ new social media policy for employees. Regular readers know that I’ve written about this in the past. If I am featured on the show, I’ll add the link here afterward. If you hear me, let me know what you think!

UPDATE: Here is the NPR All  Things Considered story and the New York Times SchoolBook story.

My thoughts on a proposed social media policy for school employees (Part 2)

freedomisfragile

[In Part 1 of this conversation, I asked for others' input and received numerous online comments plus some additional emails. In this post I offer my own thoughts. Warning: Long post ahead.]

Dear Iowa superintendent and school board members,

As founding director of the nation’s only university center focused on P-12 technology leadership issues, I am writing to offer my admittedly-unsolicited thoughts regarding your recently-proposed social media policy for employees. I have had the opportunity to work with educators in your system on multiple occasions. I once spoke to the board about student laptop programs. You have a long history of excellence and are a much-admired district by others in the state. You are known for being pedagogically progressive and, when you rescinded your cell phone ban for students, we held you up as a model for other districts in our statewide technology leadership training sessions for Iowa principals and superintendents. You’re a fantastic school system and we all respect you greatly.

I state this context up front to explain why many of us were so disappointed to see your proposed employee social media policy. I put this policy before my 28,000+ educational technology-savvy readers to solicit their reactions. While some of them thought parts of the policy were okay, many concerns were expressed as well. My overarching issues are listed immediately below. My point-by-point concerns and those of my readers are listed at the end of this message.

  • The policy reads as if you don’t trust your educators. Instead of it feeling proactive, progressive, affirming, and empowering (as we expected), it feels reactive, regressive, and disabling. As it currently reads, this policy feels very distrusting and – sometimes – demeaning instead of resting on a foundation of trust and recognition that nearly all of your educators will use social media tools appropriately. If you trust your educators every day to act as professionals with your community’s children within school, you should trust them to act as professionals outside of school as well.
  • For those occasional instances of inappropriate use, I don’t believe that you need a separate ‘social media policy.’ You already (should) have policies regarding inappropriate teacher communication and behavior with both students and other staff, plus there are state laws that reinforce and extend these expectations. All you have to do as a district – like for student cheating, bullying, and sexual harassment – is enforce your current policies instead of creating tool-specific policies. Your policies should target underlying substantive behaviors, not the mediums in which those behaviors occur.
  • You’re alienating your most technology-savvy educators. I already have heard from multiple technology-fluent educators, both in and out of your district, that they do not want to work in a school system that has a restrictive policy such as this one. Given the confining and directive language in the policy, it is understandable why they feel that way. Most school districts suffer from shortages of technology-knowledgeable faculty. I am guessing that you can’t afford to disenfranchise the ones that you have. There’s a big difference between a highly-constraining policy such as this one and policies that gently remind staff (Example 1; Example 2; Example 3) that social media are powerful communication tools that also should be used appropriately just like telephones, email, text messages, and handwritten forms of communication. The current policy basically says no, no, no (and get permission) instead of yes, yes, yes (and be smart and careful).
  • The policy is unwieldy and partially illegal. If you enact this policy as currently written, I believe that you will find parts of it to be unwieldy and unenforceable – and thus unworkable over time. As a school law instructor, I’m pretty certain that parts of it are illegal as well. Policy that is unenforceable is not good policy.

Please take the comments here and below in the spirit in which they’re given. Neither I nor the various commentators believe that you are intentionally trying to handcuff your educators’ ability to communicate and connect with students and families. As individuals and institutions, we are ALL learners in these new, complex information spaces. We are ALL struggling with how best to formulate rules, policies, and laws that best accommodate both our new affordances and our new responsibilities. As we work together to try to figure out this new, often challenging, information space, the dialogue is usually what’s most important.

I hope that my and others’ comments and annotations are useful to your thinking about this proposed policy. I would be happy to speak with you in person about this if so desired.

With good will and support,

Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Educational Leadership
Founding Director, CASTLE
University of Kentucky

—–

Distrust

[My comments are in red; others' comments are in blue.]

SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

How can we teach children about what is the proper and appropriate use of technology in the 21st century if we are totally cut off from interacting with and modeling that behavior for our students?

I hate this policy, and I could never work at a school that thinks this way about managing its teachers. I can’t budge on this. My teaching flows through my ability to connect with students around content. This is the wrong way to handle it. . . . I find it sickening. I find it damaging to the teacher-student relationship. And I find the dichotomy it presents to a teacher’s life false, and inauthentic. . . . These policies aim directly at preventing a teacher from unifying their classroom persona with their everyday soul. The boundaries are to be clear, and never the twain shall meet, unless through the director of communication. (what could be more inauthentic?)

I want my students to know me, and I want to know them, because our work is not simply the transmission of knowledge and technique; It’s their development – it’s their education, as a crucial component of their one life. I aim to know that life and partner in building it. Should I not want this? Is this bad teaching somehow?

What is their objective? Keeping kids safe and info about them private? Keeping district “safe” from lawsuits? Hard to find that in here. They should start from their objectives. And start over.

I think the policy sees social media as something to be avoided rather than just another tool that can be used for either good or bad.

This would concern me if I was a staff member. One of the reasons listed for this policy is “A lot of the policy is drafted to protect our staff.” I am not sure that is a good reason for the policy. I will not proclaim to understand the dynamics of the [district] when I compare it to my district. Our systematic approach to a more open non-restrictive environment is that we would expect appropriate modeling and proper use of social media. Things will go wrong, but keeping those issues as “teachable moments” and not immediately going to the discipline / consequence model. Times are changing, are we hoping we can regulate social media through policy? I am not sure that is possible. I also think it would be fair to understand the rationale of the policy before passing judgment. The [school district] does a lot of great things, and perhaps in a district of this size, it is the only way to begin to wrap their arms around it. Unfortunately, I believe that it may stifle both teachers and students.

Being strict with technology policies makes it harder and scarier for teachers to use technology in *good* ways.

I would love for this to be a best practices guide. Unfortunately, it is a policy proposal.

Schools simply want to avoid liability and it’s easier to switch off social media than deal with it. When dealing with large districts, it’s easier because every topic that comes is potentially a polarizing one. . . . Furthermore, while a teachers’ perspective of social media may involve a reciprocal dialogue, or conversation that leads to learning, . . . . poor choices by [some] educators and students incline district administrators in a different direction – towards top-down control, closed systems, and eliminating risk that is rampant in social encounters.

Will this need to be edited in the near future to cover the next “tech tool” in schools? Is this student-focused? Teacher-focused? Leader-focused?

What do these policies mean also for teachers who live where they teach and have school age children? The last of mine graduated last year, but if I’m reading this correctly, I could not be FB friends with my own child? In my house, that was a pre-requisite for getting a FB account.

What I think is really missing is any encouragement of community-building in social media. I don’t know if that type of thing would go elsewhere, but it’s pretty much entirely restrictive (you can’t do this or that) rather than co-creative.

This proposed “policy” is awful. I could not work in this type of environment.

This is a classic flaw. Trying to create an exhaustive list of the the things you should or should not do is doomed to failure, because you can never account for all the contingencies. Much better to instead have a set of general principals to guide people in decision making and then trust that professionals will do the best they can. If you can’t trust the people working for you to do that, then why are they working with you? They are trusted enough to work with kids but not to make decisions about social media? Doesn’t make sense.

Do they have an e-mail policy or a phone policy? Is there a policy forbidding you to share or say certain things when you are texting someone?

“Let’s get rid of the distractions, leave “social” at home.” . . . This is foolish. There is no leaving social. It pervades the human consciousness. Denying that is asking your students to leave their selves at the door. I find THAT more unacceptable than anything in this policy.

We are told to always provide rules and guidelines to students framed in a positive manner. For example: Instead of “Don’t run!”, post “Please walk.” I saw none of this style of respectful tone in this draft.

1. Expectations for the use of personal social media

District staff should:

  1. Refrain from accepting current school district students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.

    Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from being “friends” with current students in other realms such as neighborhoods, church, scout groups, volunteer organizations, and the like? Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from using telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms to be friendly with students? Is it your expectation that – just as you appear to expect for online interactions – that employees should refrain from formally and/or informally interacting with students offline? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)?

    This would be similar to requiring teachers and staff to never greet any student while out in the community
  2. Refrain from providing personal contact information to students.

    Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with students? Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from ever giving to students their phone number, home address, and the like? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate and/or make contact)?

  3. Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.

    This is confusing because the first two items read like directives (i.e., it sounds like you will penalize those educators who do those things). This third item reads more like a reminder. Is it your intention to penalize educators whose ‘friends’ download and/or share their information with others? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to have their information downloaded and/or shared with others (i.e., that’s why it’s called “social” media)?

    These don’t sound like policy points at all.

  4. Remember that once something is posted to a social networking site, it may remain available online even if you think it is removed, and it may be far-reaching.

    This also reads more like a reminder than a directive. Is it your intention to penalize educators who don’t remember this? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to have information remain available online and be far-reaching?

    These don’t sound like policy points at all.

  5. Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate what privacy settings your employees utilize in their off-campus speech (whether that speech be traditional or electronic). Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

    The most restrictive level on Facebook is “only me,” so that would prevent any use of Facebook.

    Just plain vague. Does it imply I can never post anything publicly? Can I post a missing cat poster with my name and phone number on it? On a street light post? On a public website? On my neighborhood blog?
  6. Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.

    This is so very broad. If a teacher says on Twitter “I had a disagreement with a colleague today” or says on Facebook “My students were particularly tough today,” is that teacher in danger of being disciplined? Are you applying similar restrictions for non-electronic speech, including, for example, live conversations over the back fence or at the grocery store or on the sideline of the soccer field? Is it your expectation that educators be silent about their work lives outside of school? Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. I believe you’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching. What if the teacher is saying positive things about other students or employees? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to discuss students or employees online?

    Here is a classic case of trying to rein in free speech
  7. Not post images that include students.

    Under any and all circumstances? Are there any exceptions to this? If so, what are they? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to post images that include students?

2. Expectations for the use of educational networking sites

District staff must:

  1. Notify your supervisor about the use of any educational network and discuss with your supervisor the need for notification to parents and other staff.

    This sends messages of distrust to employees and will be perceived by some as demeaning. Is it your expectation that educators also notify supervisors about the use of non-electronic learning tools and communication channels and discuss with supervisors the need to use them? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other learning tools and/or ways to communicate)?

  2. Use district-supported networking tools when available.

    How proactive will the district be in terms of providing social networking tools? I am skeptical that the district will somehow – unlike every other organization – be able to provide the breadth, depth, and robustness of social networking tools that exists out ‘in the wild.’

  3. Be aware that all online communications are stores and can be monitored.

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be aware, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  4. Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.

    Is this saying that an educator who wishes to use social networking tools must have an explicit statement of purpose and outcomes that must then be given to someone as justification? Does the district have similar expectations for all other educators’ choices regarding instructional materials and/or communication mediums? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other learning tools and/or ways to communicate)?

    I have desired outcomes, of course, but they are quite vague and allow for student growth in unexpected areas. I can never predict where the course of a conversation will take us (unless I stop potentially-fruitful tangents) and, likewise, I can never predict what fruitful discussion I will have on Facebook with my students! My objectives are broad and honorable. I need a policy that allows for that.

    We need to have a clear sense of purpose about what we’re doing with social media (free and open as that purpose may be) but that doesn’t imply we need to be restrictive. . . . Some people also teach very badly. That doesn’t mean we should hand everyone a script, or take the chalk out of the classrooms. . . . These guidelines aren’t “clearly defined expectations.” They’re a set of handcuffs.

  5. Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.

    Is it your expectation that your educators only will use ‘walled garden’ social networking tools that disallow participation by outside individuals and/or organizations? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators and students to interact with outside individuals and/or organizations? Will the district be providing substantive and procedural assistance regarding these ‘codes of conduct?’ How should educators require participating outsiders to abide by these required ‘codes of conduct?’

  6. Not post images that include a student who does not have permission from a parent to have his/her image displayed.

    Under any and all circumstances? Are there any exceptions to this? If so, what are they? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to post images that include students? Do you have similar expectations for traditional media (e.g., newspapers, television)?

  7. Pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

    Is it your expectation that your educators only will use ‘walled garden’ social networking tools that disallow participation by outside individuals and/or organizations? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators and students to interact with outside individuals and/or organizations, including those that are not pre-approved?

3. Expectations for all networking sites

Much of section 3 is about security risks on personal devices – no one’s business but mine.

I find the entire third section a bit problematic, as some of the language blurs the boundary between personal social media use and district social media use. Is it the intent of the policy to regulate personal social media use? I think that can be kind of a slippery slope

District employees should:

  1. Not submit or post confidential or protected information about the district, its students, alumni or employees. You should assume that most information about a student is protected from disclosure by both federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and state law (Iowa Code Section 22.7(1)). Disclosures of confidential or protected information may result in liability for invasion of privacy or defamation.

    This sounds okay to me, although I’m guessing it’s redundant given other extant laws and policies.

  2. Report, as required by law, any information found on a social networking site that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines.

    This sounds okay to me, although I’m guessing it’s redundant given other extant laws and policies.

  3. Not use commentary or post pictures or video deemed to be defamatory, obscene, profane, or which promotes, fosters or perpetuates illegal discrimination of any kind. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions and derogatory remarks or characterizations.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? If educators use profanity or exaggerate or engage in guesswork or technically violate what often is draconian copyright law, are they in danger of being penalized? Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. I believe you’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  4. Not identify yourself as a representative of or spokesperson for the district, unless you have been approved to do so by the superintendent or the communications coordinator. This includes using school logos, mascots, photographs or other such graphic representations or images associated with the district.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? Is it your expectation that educators be silent about their work lives outside of school?

  5. Not create an alias, false or anonymous identity on any social media.

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate whether or not your employees utilize aliases in their off-campus speech (whether that speech be traditional or electronic). This is particularly true since you also expect educators to not identify themselves publicly (it appears as if they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t). Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  6. Consider whether a particular posting puts your professional reputation and effectiveness as a district employee at risk.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)?

  7. Be cautious of security risks when using applications that work with the social networking site. (Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games).

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be cautious, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  8. Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your personal devices (a computer or other device not issued by the school district).

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate whether or not your employees protect themselves against malware on their personal computing devices. Educators have certain public and private behavior rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  9. Be alert to the possibility of phishing scams that arrive by email or on your social networking site.

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be alert to the possibility of phishing, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  10. Anyone who wishes to establish a social media account for specific school district offices, initiatives, schools or programs must first contact the communications coordinator. Social media may be used for school-related purposes only with the approval of the communications coordinator. If you have questions, would like to start a social media initiative on behalf of a district entity, or have content you would like posted to the district’s Facebook page, please contact the district communications coordinator.

    Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with students? This sends messages of distrust to employees and will be perceived by some as demeaning. Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with others? Must all educator communication – traditional or electronic – be filtered through the communications coordinator? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? How proactive will the district be in terms of providing social media tools? I am skeptical that the district will somehow – unlike every other organization – be able to provide the breadth, depth, and robustness of social media tools that exists out ‘in the wild.’ As social media usage by your educators proliferates (despite this policy), the communications coordinator is going to be an awfully busy gatekeeper.

Image credits: Freedom is fragile, We trust you with the children but not the Internet

Are educators courageous enough to be social media renegades?

the entire scene just reeks of regression. That’s why the future of education will take a brand of forward-thinking educator (teachers / principals etc.) with enough deft and savvy to advocate for technology use in the classroom and enough courage (for lack of a more appropriate word) to wrinkle [districts'] social media guidelines and them into the recycle bin.

Digitally and physically.

Jose Vilson via http://future.teacherleaders.org/2012/05/social-media-renegades


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