By Greg Amos
Special to The Pioneer
Use of Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, email and more is in the crosshairs of a comprehensive new policy being proposed by Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 one that would apply to the entire school community, except for students.
Policy No. 6200 – Social Media Use received first reading at the school board meeting on February 10th, and is slated for a second reading during the board meeting on Tuesday, March 10th.
The encouragement of the policy is to be mindful of the nature of online communication, which is the same thing we teach our kids, school district superintendent Paul Carriere told The Pioneer. The appropriateness of online communication is very important to maintain, and so is the reputation of the school district.
For example, teachers are generally familiar with their professional obligations regarding social media, and do not become friends with students on Facebook, said Mr. Carriere.
The policy is not about Big Brother, he said. Its not about the school district seeking out information to find out (what) people are doing.
Mr. Carriere and Windermere Teachers Association president Doug Murray recently met face to face to discuss the policy, which is similar to many other social media policies now being enacted in school districts across B.C., and neither saw cause for concern. The draft policy was vetted by legal counsel prior to being circulated, and so far the school district has received no formal feedback on the policy.
My job is to look for red flags and go through things like this policy; its pretty well standard, said Mr. Murray. Its always said that teachers are held to a higher standard; anyone working with kids or vulnerable people has to be accountable.
The policy would affect nearly 100 teachersranging from Golden to Kimberley, as well as all other school staff, administrators, and school board trustees.
Asked whether members of the school community will need to be concerned about curating their online presence to always meet professional standards, Mr. Murray noted you (school community members) are in the public, and youre always kind of conscious of the way you portray yourself.
After getting first reading, the draft policy was shared with schools, principals, union leadership, and parents through various Parent Advisory Councils.
Weve specifically asked principals to give this some focus with staff, such as at staff meetings, making sure people are aware of and can engage with this so it would generate some feedback as necessary, said Mr. Carriere. This policy is generating conversation out there. At this point, its not generating feedback, but it is generating conversation, and we see that as a very healthy and good thing.
The policy applies broadly to virtually all forms of electronic communication, but focuses on aspects not already covered by the school districts Information and Technology Management Acceptable Use policy (Policy No. 6190), which has been in effect since June 1997 (but has been amended three times since then, most recently last April).
Employees should be aware that there is not an expectation of privacy in social media use and electronic communications, reads a section of the draft social media policy obtained by The Pioneer. Breach of this Policy and Regulations may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Anything posted online by employees or communicated electronically to third parties may be perceived to be representative of the School District, reads another section. The draft policy also notes that social media and electronic communications are subject to review by the Board of Education as reasonably required, including to investigate complaints of inappropriate use, and characterizes social media as an extension of the workplace.
The Tuesday, March 10th meeting will be held simultaneously at three different school district offices by videoconference, and starts at 7 p.m.
Members of the public can attend the meeting at the school districts administration building in Invermere on 4th Street, a block north of Sobeys. The board office can accommodate about 20 people, but the board will make room if needed, said Mr. Carriere.
At third reading, given theres been the opportunity for the school board to incorporate any feedback as necessary, the policy can be approved and incorporated into the School District No. 6 policy manual.
To review the policy in detail, visit www.sd6.bc.ca/agendas.php where it will be found as part of the March 10th meeting agenda once it gets posted.