Vernon Parish SB hesitant over social media policy

Panel expected to make final decision at today’s board meeting

Social media – bullyStock photo

A new policy that could potentially give school officials the authority to take action against students for certain social media posts is under scrutiny by the Vernon Parish School Board.

During the May 3 agendasetting meeting of the panel, director of the district’s child welfare and attendance, Hub Jordan, updated board members of new policies being introduced by the state. One such policy pertained to the already existing Use of Electronic Devices and gave school officials the ability to enforce disciplinary action against students who use “the internet, cameras, cell phones, iPods and/or any other electronic systems on or off campus that subsequently causes substantial disruption to the educational environment, interferes with the rights of others or can be considered a threat”.

Jordan said that he felt the board should take the item under serious consideration if they wished to adopt the policy with the “off campus” specification.

Jordan defined the off campus verbiage with the scenario of two students getting into an argument on social media and threatening one or the other while off campus outside of school hours.

“It’s something that is done off campus, but eventually works its way back into the school and disrupts our educational process,” Jordan stated.

He said in the past, if a parent brought screenshots of messages sent from one student to another in a threatening manner then the administration passed the situation on to local law enforcement.

Board member Doug Brandon said that he had “reservations” about accepting the policy with the off campus specification and referred to the policy’s wording as “vague”.

Superintendent James Williams supported Brandon’s objection and said he felt that others in the district would have similar feelings.

“I can tell you that school officials and administrators would agree with Dr. Brandon. We have our plates pretty full trying to spend as much time as we can on accountability of test scores and I just think that the general consensus of school personnel would be that the last thing that we need to do is regulate or worry about controlling something else,” Williams stated.

He said that so far, there have been no problems with referring any issues to the Sheriff’s Office or local police.

Jordan said that he had presented the new policy during a meeting of district principals earlier this week, and that their reaction mirrored that of Williams and Brandon.

A separate policy also up for acceptance from the state included a similar electronic device policy for teachers and faculty, but board members said they felt more comfortable accepting the “on or off campus” specifications for that designation.

“That’s a little difference in my opinion because this applies to employees now,” board member David Detz stated. “If one employee is making a threat against another employee that’s under our jurisdiction.”

Jordan told the panel that if they chose to amend the policy to omit the “off campus” reference, they could be differentiating the district from others across the state who have already begun to accept the policy with out amending it.

The panel is expected to make its final decision during today’s May 8 board meeting.

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