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It’s all in the words used

Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Change can be a good thing.

So can responsibility and appropriateness. Add accountability.

Generally, we would also agree cyberbullying – or just bullying – is not a good thing.

However, control in the guise these terms that dictate speech without common definitions and legal framework is not responsible and not appropriate. It is not acceptable. It is not reasonable, another favorite word of control. It is just not acceptable.

And that’s the problem being played out in California’s Lodi School District as debate rages over an imposed social media policy that could remove students from their extracurricular activities for inappropriate expression.

Of course, inappropriate is not defined.

As Bear Creek High’s newspaper editor said, as reported  by the Student Press Law Center, “The district has decided that they are allowed to remove me from my extra-curriculars if they do not approve of my opinions,” Williams’ statement reads. “What vexes me most severely is that this contract is not a threat but an ultimatum: students must choose either their rights or their passions and personality. The district has made some foul errs in the past, but this time, they have gone way too far.”

The SPLC also reports California Senator Leland Yee, who authored legislation protecting student expression, wrote in support of student actions.

“While the problem of cyberbullying must be addressed,” Yee said in the SPLC report, “we must do so in a focused manner.” Yee wrote. “The policy of punishing students for saying anything deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ goes too far in restricting student speech. Policies regarding cyberbullying must be carefully and specifically written.”

Not only should cyberbullying and bullying policies be written precisely, with protecting student expression in mind, so should use of terms like inappropriate, responsible and acceptable.

Part of the solution in Lodi’s situation is what seems to be a board move to involve students in the decision-making process. Enough eyes and minds, from students to board members, from the ACLU and senator Leland Yee, might guarantee the policy is reasonable, appropriate and responsible, all with terms precisely definable and agreeable to all.

That would indeed be meaningful change in the learning process.

See here for more information.

 

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A model social media policy

Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 in Blog, News | 0 comments

As an educator in Missouri, I was going to have to live under the thumb of SB54, now known as SB1, which Gov. Jay Nixon just signed into law. The new law eliminates the provisions that were offensive to so many teachers and First Amendment advocates in SB54, but still requires districts to enact some sort of policy by March 1, 2012 regarding employee-student communication.

So, at the urging of John Bowen, I have written a model social media policy for educators in our state. The text of it is below. I wrote this bill based off the following premise: that educators who fail to use social media as a teaching tool are not serving the best interests of their students or themselves.

Social media is so pervasive amongst our students that to ignore teaching students how to use it in forthright ways is tantamount to not properly doing our jobs as educators. Interacting via social media is a form of communication that should be governed just as any other communication an educator has with their students. Discussions in the classroom, after class, in a hallway or on Facebook, should be governed by the same rules, end of discussion.

Here is the policy. I’ve included a link to a Google Doc. If you find things you disagree with, let’s talk. If you have resources I don’t – and let’s face it, some of you do – then please share and add them to the doc. Social media moves so quickly; this Doc must continue to evolve with it.

If you believe this is a policy that would be useful in your school district, please feel free to share it with the powers that be in your district. I only ask two things if you do. First, please let me know you intend to do so (I’d like to keep a record of where this is going). Second, be passionate about the impact social media can have in our classrooms and upon our students. Don’t just offer it up to your principal. Persuade them to your point of view.

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