Cedar Rapids school board reviews social media policy

According to the policy, personnel shouldn't accept current students as “friends”

CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids school board members had the first reading of two proposed policies that regulate how district staff use social media and interact with students.

“This has been a developing issue for education,” Superintendent Dave Benson said at Monday night’s board meeting.

A committee of district stakeholders worked on the proposed policies for several months, studying similar policies in and around the state for guidance. Benson called both policies a continuing work-in-progress.

“We understand that this is a developing area of the law,” Benson said. “But I feel we need to give our employees some sort of guidance.”

According to the social media policy, district personnel should refrain from accepting current students as “friends” on personal social networking sites. They should also set and maintain privacy settings at the highest level, but be aware that anything posted to a social networking site remains available online, even when deleted.

Staff also are expected to not use social networking sites to discuss students or staff, and to not post images that include students.

Social media includes MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, personal web pages or blogs, educational networking sites and electronic messaging.

District staff and other non-district staff/volunteers providing services to the district are expected to maintain appropriate professional boundaries, according to the second proposed policy of the evening.

The policy provided some examples of behaviors that could be misconstrued, including singling out students for favors and being alone with a student outside of public view, and behaviors that are inappropriate, unless specifically part of an education, co-curricular or counseling program.

Board members will be asked to approve both policies at a future meeting.

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Here are the proposed policies school board members reviewed at Tuesday’s board meeting:

Proposed Regulation 506.12

Employee Use of Social Media

The District recognizes the prevalence of social media used for personal and educational purposes and acknowledges that its employees have the right under the First Amendment to speak out on matters of public concern. However, the District also has the right to regulate the speech of employees in certain circumstances. Accordingly, it is essential that employees conduct themselves in such a way that their personal or educational use of social media does not adversely affect their position with the District.

The purpose of this regulation is to establish protocols for the use of social media by staff and to outline expectations for its use regardless of whether access to any social media is through a District-owned computer. Social media includes social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, personal web pages or blogs, educational networking sites and electronic messaging.

Expectations for the use of personal social media

District staff should:

  • Refrain from accepting current CRCSD students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.
  • Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  • 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.
  • Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.
  • Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.
  • Not post images that include students.

Expectations for use of educational networking sites

District staff must:

  • Notify your supervisor about the use of any educational network and discuss with your supervisor the need for notification
  • to parents and other staff.
  • Use District-supported networking tools when available
  • Be aware that all online communications are stored and can be monitored
  • Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.
  • Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.
  • Not post images that include students without parental release forms on file.
  • Pay close attention to the site's security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

Expectations for all networking sites

District employees should:

a) 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 (FERPA) 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.

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

c) Not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.

d) Consider whether a particular posting puts your professional reputation and effectiveness as a District employee at risk.

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

f) Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your personal computer.

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

Proposed Regulation 506.13

Staff Interaction with Students

District staff and other non-District staff/volunteers providing services to the District are expected to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.

Behaviors that may be misconstrued include but are not limited to:

  • Singling out students for favors
  • Spending a majority of time with assignment
  • Overly personal communications
  • Being alone with a student outside of public view
  • Giving gifts or money to students

Behaviors that are inappropriate unless specifically part of an education, co-curricular or counseling program include but are not limited to:

  • Touching students frequently
  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Sharing personal situations with students
  • Inviting current CRCSD students to one’s home for social purposes
  • Commenting on students’ bodies in an overtly sexual manner
  • Making sexist comments
  • Being alone in a locked room with a student unless it is an emergency situation
  • Talking about student sexuality
  • Meeting students during out-of-school hours and away from school grounds
  • Teasing that is flirtatious or has the potential to demean a student
  • Sending notes, letters, e-mails or texts to students unless an administrator, and parents as appropriate, is copied on the communication
  • Transporting student(s) unless authorized by an administrator

If a staff member encounters any inappropriate behavior or any other behavior that is concerning, it is the responsibility to notify their immediate supervisor or the Executive Director - Human Resources.

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