- A new social media policy introduced before the Cape Henlopen school board would require teachers to unfriend students on various social media sites.
School board members received drafts of new social media policies April 26, which includes sections on emailing students from personal accounts, posting blogs and information on personal accounts, using private social media outlets to contact students and using personal social media during work hours. Violations of the proposed policy could result in discipline resulting in termination.
“Social media can be a very productive tool, but it can also be destructive,” Superintendent Kevin Carson said.
The new guidelines cover Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Wordpress, Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and other user-generated content sites that allow the user to post comments or blogs.
Teachers caught using social media during work time would face the same consequences as those engaging in face-to-face personal activities or nonwork-related communications during school time.
Carson said teachers have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a professional manner when engaging in online activities. The policy does not prohibit employees from maintaining personal accounts on their personal equipment, but it establishes guidelines.
The policy suggests teachers use a good-judgement test and understand that anything they post online could become public or permanent.
“It’s a fine line between rights and what’s appropriate behavior, and we realize that,” Carson said.
Policy guidelines for student/teacher relationships, both online and through electronic devices, are specifically laid out by the policy.
Administrators, employees and coaches are encouraged to use district and school-based websites or the Department of Education Home Access Center for class or school related communications.
In the event a teacher or coach wants to use another media site, the policy states the employee must receive written approval from the building principal.
Teachers who need to contact students through email should do so through their Cape Henlopen School District email account, the policy states. But in instances where school access is unavailable, the policy allows communication from a personal device as long as the building principal is copied, Carson said.
The only exceptions for employee/student contact through personal accounts or social media involve an employee who has a personal relationship with a family of a student or is a youth group leader or in a position of leadership over the student in a nonschool-related organization. In these cases, the policy states a signed permission form must be given to the building principal and placed in the student’s file.
Parent Laura Brittingham of Milton, whose daughter attends Mariner Middle School, told the board she knows of teachers who have texted students after school hours. Some are friending students on Facebook, which she said is inappropriate.
She said she feels such behavior by teachers has resulted in bullying of students and that social media exchanges between teachers and students should be stopped.
“I want to see you address the texting of students by teachers,” she told the board.
If the policy is adopted, employees who violate the policy could face disciplinary action resulting in termination.
The board will discuss the new social media policies at a meeting yet to be determined.