Policies Reviewed in Light of Teacher’s Blog

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Jesse Reilly & Jeff Werner
The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

Following news reports that a Central Bucks School District English teacher was recently suspended for posting unflattering comments about her students in an online blog, it seems several local school districts already have policies on the books for similar situations.

Natalie Munroe of Feasterville was suspended with pay and could lose her job pending an investigation by the district, according to reports.

In the sometimes profanity-laced blog, which has since been taken down, Munroe writes, “My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

Although none of the school district policies specifically reference blogging or social media sites, Lower Moreland and Hatboro-Horsham School districts have identical policies regarding freedom of speech in non-school settings.

“The board acknowledges the right of administrative, professional and support employees as citizens in a democratic society to speak out on issues of public concern. When those issues are related to the school district and its programs, however, the employee’s freedom of expression must be balanced against the interests of the district,” the policy stated.

It goes on to say that employees must refrain from comments that would interfere with the maintenance of student discipline and refrain from making public statements about the district known to be false or made without regard for truth or accuracy.

It does not address how or if that translates for the use of technology.

Upper Moreland School District has two Internet safety policies, but both reference only district-owned technology. They do not include the use of personal computers.

According to the district’s policy, “employees are prohibited to use technology resources to cause harm to others or communicate hate mail, terroristic threats, discriminatory remarks, harassing communications or other offensive or inflammatory communications.”

Centennial School District has a similar policy that also only applies to district computers and other forms of technology.

It does not address blogging or posting on other sites, it focuses on chat rooms, e-mailing and unlawful activities such as pornography.

Although the districts begin to address what is acceptable and unacceptable in regards to technology, it is unclear whether they will edit current policy to include the increasing popularity and use of social media sites and actions taken using personal computers.

“It hasn’t come up yet, but our policies are only for what happens in the district,” David Hakes, president of the Upper Moreland School Board, said. “We can’t regulate against stupidity.”

Rather than changing policy, Hakes said administrators should discuss the issue with faculty and make sure guidelines are clear about what is and is not appropriate online content.

“People just need to think before they post,” he said.

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

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