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Public sounds off on Barrow school boards proposed rules
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Amid concern from the community as well as a lawsuit involving Barrow County schools and a former teacher’s Facebook page, Barrow County Schools Superintendent Ron Saunders has removed from consideration a proposed policy that would regulate teacher/student relationships and employees’ online conduct.

He plans to rework the policy and bring it in for approval later.

Originally, the policy prohibited teachers from “personal relationships with students that are unprofessional and thereby inappropriate.” Examples of inappropriate relationships included texting or calling students, discussing personal matters and engaging in sexual dialogue.

The second paragraph of the policy stated that educators “who post information on Facebook, MySpace or similar Web areas that include personal information, provocative photographs, use of alcohol, drugs or anything students are prohibited from doing ... will be disciplined up to and including termination.”

Board of education members thought the wording in the second paragraph was too vague, so it was reworded to specify that the personal information posted must be “inappropriate” in order for the employee to face discipline, and that “their case will be investigated by school and district officials.”

With the new wording, the policy was put on hold for a 30-day period during which members of the community could respond — and respond they did.

Most comments dealt with the second paragraph regulating social networking sites. Others were concerned about provisions in the first paragraph, which forbid communicating with students about nonschool-related topics or exchanging personal information with students.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators wrote in at the request of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Claire Miller, and agreed with many of the concerns expressed by the community.

“Although we recognize that the PSC has already been investigating charges involving the use of Facebook and has taken action in some of the more egregious cases, we feel your policy may be a bit broad,” general counsel Jill Hay wrote.

“Some attorneys in our office have expressed concerns regarding the broad language and the school’s ability to punish teachers for having pictures on Facebook — specifically teachers using alcohol or provocative pictures.

Conceivably, a teacher could be punished if a picture gets out of them drinking Champagne at a wedding, or in a bathing suit on vacation? Teachers that are over 21 should be allowed to use alcohol when done so responsibly, and they shouldn’t be punished for doing something they are legally allowed to do.

In addition, extending your policy to include the phrase ‘anything students are prohibited from doing’ clearly makes it vague and overly broad.”
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