School Board set to limit employee use of facebook

Among other business to come before the St Johns County School Board tomorrow, attorney, Frank D. Upchurch III, will request approval to publish notice of a public hearing on two proposed new rules related to electronic communications and employee use of social media websites such as facebook and twitter.

If approved, notice will be given of a public hearing to be held at the May 8, 2012, School Board meeting.

Tim Forson, Deputy Superintendent of School Operations, says that adoption of Rule 6.83, will address personal use of the School District’s electronic voice and data communication system; which provides internet, e-mail, telephone access and other electronic digital communication services.

The more provocative of the two proposed rules, Rule 6.84, addresses School District employees’ use of social networking websites — on campus, or otherwise.

Upchurch recognizes in his draft that social networking websites have become a widely used means for people to share personal views in many forms, including photographs, text, podcasting (audio files) and videos.

“Such media reaches millions of public viewers over the Internet in seconds after publishing,” Upchurch wrote. “Personal websites, public blog websites, podcast websites, online chat rooms and video sharing websites (like Youtube) also provide instant Internet access.”

Language in Upchurch’s proposed version of Rule 6.84, decrees that the School Board finds publication of “inappropriate or unbecoming material” on publicly accessible websites or electronic media by an employee has the potential to disrupt the educational process, damage the reputation of the District, its teachers and staff, damage the District reputation and stature, and subject the District, its teachers and employees to ridicule.

Ostensibly, the proposed personnel rules are offered in furtherance of the School District’s expectations that employees will be “professional, civil and appropriate in all their communications with students, parents, fellow employees and the public, including in their electronic and on-line communications.”

According to Upchurch, the proposed Rule has been written to provide guidelines for employees to follow in using the Internet and other forms of publicly accessible electronic communication. “The purpose of this rule is to protect the reputation of the School District and its employees; to assure the continued effectiveness of District employees in the performance of their duties; and to prevent disruption of the educational process.”

It also informs employees that displaying material in violation of this rule will be cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal.

If you plan to attend, school board meeting will be held in the auditorium located at 40 Orange Street in St Augustine on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 beginning at 9:00 a.m.

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