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Port Jefferson school board looks at social media policy


December 14, 2012 | 09:50 AM
The Port Jefferson Board of Education approved the first reading of a new social media policy for district employees that would establish guidelines for staff's personal and professional use of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Superintendent Ken Bossert said at the board meeting on Dec. 11 that the policy was adapted from a New York State School Boards Association draft policy after Trustee Jim Laffey had inquired about the district creating a set of social media guidelines.

"While we had a policy in place for Internet use and things like that for students, we really didn't have a policy that spoke to the issue of social media use within the schools and it's appropriate use among faculty, staff and students," Bossert said.

The new policy would prohibit district employees from "friending" students — sending requests to connect with them on the social media network — and would discourage them from friending parents of students. The policy also provides a suggestion for staff members for how to respond to a friend request from a student or parent, guidelines for employees who use social media sites as part of their official duties and a set of other "Facebook rules of engagement."

Bossert said the district's counsel reviewed the policy.

Trustee Mark Doyle raised concerns about the policy being Facebook-centric and Bossert said he too had similar concerns when he went over the original NYSSBA policy. He said that led him to include mention to other networks, such as Twitter, Instagram, Instant Messenger and MySpace, in the Port Jefferson policy's introduction.

But Doyle suggested making the policy even less Facebook-specific. He also recommended establishing the suggestions for staff on how to behave — for example, in response to a friend request from a student — in a district regulation instead of a board policy. Doyle said he felt a regulation would be easier to modify than a board policy, which would have to be voted on.

President Kathleen Brennan disagreed, saying she felt those guidelines were best suited to be included in the policy, and that revising it would not be burdensome.

She also said the administration could enforce the guidelines in a board policy just as it would in a district regulation.

"So I think putting it in the policy puts everyone on notice," Brennan said.

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