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School Leaders Revise Social Media Policy To Avoid Classroom Disruptions

Superintendent Kim Chrestman describes changes in the district’s policy manual to school board members at their meeting last Thursday. Listening as he read the policy are (left) trustee Bryan Gilley and below (from left) District Business Manager Randy Goodwin, trustees Taylor Trusty, Pierce Epes and Lamar Burgess. – Photos by Jack Gurner

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – The school district has revised its social media policy to “avoid disruptions within the school environment.”
    The new policy states that all employees, faculty and staff of this school district who participate in social networking websites shall not post any data, documents, photos or inappropriate information on any website that might result in a disruption of classroom activity.
    Social media is defined, but not limited to, social networking sites and apps such Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and YouTube. Access of social networking websites for individual use during school hours is prohibited, according to the policy. And, employees, faculty and staff are not allowed to give social networking website passwords to students.
    Social media policy changes are not unique to the Water Valley School District. Published reports from around the country include numerous incidents involving social media abuse from posting of inappropriate material to bullying. According to The National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens are subject to some form of cyberbullying.
    Fraternization via the internet between employees, faculty or staff and students is also prohibited and violation of any of these policies may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
    But, nothing in the policy prohibits employees, faculty, staff or students from the use of educational websites, like, since educational sites are used solely for educational purposes. And, it recognizes the importance of social media for its employees, and acknowledges that its employees have the right under the First Amendment, in certain circumstances, to speak out on matters of public concern.
    However, under the new policy the school board will regulate the use of social media by employees, including employees’ personal use of social media, when such use interferes with the work of the school district; is used to harass coworkers or other members of the school community; creates a hostile or intimidating work environment; breaches confidentiality obligations of school district employees; disrupts the work of the school district; harms the goodwill and reputation of the school district in the community; or violates the law, board policies, and/or other school rules and regulations.
    The policy was among several changes to the district’s policy manual adopted during the December meeting of the district’s board of trustees held last Thursday at noon.
    Superintendent Kim Chrestman explained that each year the Mississippi School Board Association updates school policies to match changes in the laws. Other changes approved last week include text book purchases, public records access, duty times for teachers and administrators, sexual activity on campus and access to epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens).

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