Dayton school teachers no longer allowed to “friend” students on Facebook www.privateofficer.com
Teachers aren’t permitted to instant message or text their students either, or “respond to student-initiated attempts at conversation through nondistrict approved media, whether personal or professional accounts.”
Many area districts, including Kettering and Northmont, have Internet safety policies, but nothing specific to online relationships between teachers and students on Facebook.
DPS spokeswoman Jill Moberley said the policy sets parameters for use on social networks.
Dayton Public took direction from the Ohio School Boards Association, which is seeing more interest from school districts on the issue.
Kettering City Schools launched a district Facebook page this summer. Spokeswoman Kari Basson said “we do not have anything specific to Facebook and ‘friending,’ but that may be something that will evolve.”
Other districts such as Beaver creek, Hamilton, Lakota and Middletown prohibit staff members from accessing social network sites during school hours and on district equipment.
Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the OSBA, said school districts cannot ignore the use of social media as a tool of communication, but “as with any medium of communication, it can be misused.”
In Missouri, lawmakers banned teachers from having private conversations with students over Internet sites after 87 Missouri teachers had lost their licenses between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct, some of which involved exchanging explicit online messages with students.
Missouri’s governor wants lawmakers to repeal the controversial law after a judge, concerned about the impact on free speech rights, issued a preliminary injunction blocking it from taking effect.
Many teachers there are protesting the new restrictions, complaining the law will hurt their ability to keep in touch with students.
But here in Dayton, the teachers’ union president welcomes the district’s updated social media policy.
“I think in this age of all this media out there, that’s probably a safe thing for our teachers,” said David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association. “We hear stories all the time about kids who, for various reasons, (retaliate) against teachers on social media.”
OSBA’s updated sample policy has four sections that districts can choose to adopt or customize, but nothing is mandatory. Suggested language includes:
• District staff who have a presence on social networking websites are prohibited from posting data, documents, photographs or inappropriate information on any website that might result in a disruption of classroom activity. The superintendent/desginee has full discretion in determining when a disruption of classroom activity has occurred.
• District staff is prohibited from providing personal social networking website passwords to students.
• Fraternization between district staff and students via the Internet, personal email accounts, personal social networking websites and other modes of virtual technology is also prohibited.
• Access of personal social networking websites during school hours is prohibited.
The policy further states that violation of the listed prohibitions will result in staff and/or student discipline and that nothing in the policy prohibits district staff and students from using education websites and/or social networking websites created for curricular, cocurricular or extracurricular purposes.
Reedy said OSBA offers options in its policy to allow access through district-sponsored or district-created websites.
For instance, a coach may use it to announce that practice has been canceled.
“Sometimes that’s a one-way communication where the teacher is saying ‘Hey, do chapter 4 for tomorrow.’ It can be two-way, but what it’s doing is separating personal” from business, she said. “It protects the district, it protects the teacher and it protects the students.”
Beavercreek City Schools Superintendent Nick Verhoff said the district’s updated policy includes defining social media as Internet-based applications such as Facebook and Twitter that turn communication into interactive dialogue between users.
“The board authorizes the instructional staff to access social media from the district’s network, provided such access has an educational purpose for which the staff members has received the prior approval from the principal.
“However, personal access and use of social media, blogs, or chat rooms from the district’s network is expressly prohibited and shall subject students and staff members to discipline in accordance with board policy,” Verhoff said.
Patrick Gallaway, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said there is a professional behavior code that teachers are to adhere to, and part of the code states “using technology to intentionally host or post improper or inappropriate material that could reasonably be accessed by the school community.”
“While it doesn’t express that you can’t do this or say this,” Gallaway said, “people should use common sense. … You’re not friends in the classroom. You’re instructors. Your one purpose as an educator is to provide quality instruction for students.”
Source:Dayton Daily News