Proposal would mandate school social media policies

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Capital News Service
LANSING–Social media is one of the communication ways between teachers and students.
Now a pending bill would require all districts and charter schools to have a social media policy that would regulate e-contacts, especially one-on-one contacts between staff and students.
Aaron Keel, assistant director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the organization thinks it is good to have such a policy because a lot of school districts don’t have one.
Education experts such as Terry Abbott, the former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, have linked sexual misconduct to social media.

“Two things have become popular and had a massive effect on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools: social media and text messaging. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist 15 years ago, and the number of teenagers with their own cell phones has ballooned,” Abbott wrote in a column for the Washington Post.
The bill would focus more on how staffs are using social media and not the students.
“The social media policy is more aimed at staff use of social media, something that specifies how those relationships are supposed to be conducted,” said Jennifer Smith, the organization’s director of government relations.
Keel said the association encourages local school districts to adopt such a policy. Some districts already have their own policies, and the association has a model policy it provides to districts, he said.
One provision in the model policy says, “Teachers may not list current students as ‘friends’ on individual, personal social networking sites.”
Another provision says, “All individual (one-on-one) e-contacts with students should be through the district’s computer and telephone system or a classroom social networking website that is exclusively used to discuss classroom assignments, homework, projects or other topics that relate to the subject matter of the class. There is no expectation of privacy in these communications.”
Reps. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who introduced the bill, said his proposal “doesn’t talk about any of the nature of the use of the social media. We did that purposefully because we didn’t want to restrict the use–we wanted to start a discussion.”
Among the other sponsors are Reps. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, Amanda Price, R-Holland, and John Kivela, D-Marquette.
Zemke said the bill is broadly written to require districts to have a social media policy.
“They must let everyone know what the policy is, for the purpose of clarity.”
The bill is awaiting action in the House Education Committee.

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