Talk of social media policies seems to be increasing in districts around the state. You may have heard about the social media policy Glastonbury is considering. CEA staff invited Glastonbury Education Association President Josh Steffenson to write a guest post for BlogCEA and contribute his thoughts on the issue. Thank you Josh! Please share your take in the comments.
Guest post by Josh Steffenson
As President of the Glastonbury Education Association, I had the opportunity to be involved in the drafting of the Social Media Policy our board of education is now formally considering. Having had this experience I welcomed the opportunity when asked to utilize this blog as a means of sharing my experience with fellow educators who will inevitably be forced to address the use of social media in their own districts.
One thing I must emphasize is that, although it is easiest to have a knee jerk reaction whenever any new policy is proposed, especially one that may walk a fine line adjacent to our constitutional rights, I do believe a well constructed Social Media policy is critical for all school districts.
In Glastonbury, we were fortunate to be included in a process where our Board of Education drafted a policy and then reached out to all collective bargaining units to solicit input on the proposal. Much of the initial policy was simply an extension of existing laws and professional codes of conduct. The ‘common sense’ stuff, if you will. Other areas addressed the often ambiguous questions that have inevitably arisen as this new technology has become so ingrained in our lives.
In reading the Courant (online of course), or watching local newscasts, much attention has been given to Glastonbury teachers not being able to ‘friend’ students or parents. The proposed policy is certainly not this rigid. If a student or parent is a close family friend, a relative, or someone who existed as a ‘friend’ in the Facebook context before they became a student in the professional sense, then the policy does not, as a digital scalpel, set to surgically separate our personal lives from our professional ones.
Clarifications like these were made possible because, as an association, we were able to review the policy locally and with the help of our UniServe Representative and the CEA legal staff, and then make recommendations that addressed our concerns. In this sense, I truly believe that a socially created, social media policy emerged. What has now been proposed is a policy and regulation that is able to provide clarification and understanding to our teachers and does so while maintaining both our professional and personal rights.
In the creation of any social media policy a partnership must exist between the local association and the administration so that the creation itself can be a social experience. Each year greater expectations are placed on us as educators, and we need to be especially mindful of protecting and maintaining our rights as both highly qualified professionals and as citizens at large. Use of social media requires finding the balance between professional expectations and personal rights. When a policy is created as a partnership, rather than a mandate, it has the opportunity to preserve both facets and do so in a manner that provides clarity, definition, and understanding which are all characteristics that are beneficial to us as employees.