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School Committee reviews employee social networking

Date: 11/15/2010

Nov. 15, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW -- At its Nov. 8 meeting, the School Committee discussed an employee policy model regarding social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, but Chairman William Fonseca said that the committee has no plans to create a policy at this time.

According to Fonseca, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) recently released a model policy to school committees statewide. While he and Superintendent of Schools Gordon Smith felt it was worthy of discussion, Fonseca said it was not a sign of anything on the horizon in terms of policy changes.

"[The MASC] sends us policy models all the time. It was put on the agenda as a talking point, but nothing else," Fonseca said. "In the near future, we plan on updating many of our policies, but this had nothing to do with that."

Fonseca maintained that the School Committee will not attempt to regulate what teachers and faculty within the school district do outside of school hours and off school property.

"We are not going to start policing the schools' employees use of time outside of school and we're not going to start policing the internet," Fonseca said.

The main concern the school committee has with even approaching an actual policy is the implications it can have regarding employees' rights.

"We may put out something in the future along the lines of recommended behavior," Fonseca said. "But when you start talking about a policy that tells people what they can and can't do, you're really running up against first amendment rights."

Fonseca also indicated that even if such policies existed in East Longmeadow, monitoring and enforcement would be very challenging.

He added he and the committee have confidence that school district employees will use discretion should they choose to use social networking sites.

"We have to be mindful of our teachers and their professional standing," Fonseca said.

The East Longmeadow School District does have a policy regarding electronic communication with a focus on email, which was written in 2003, before social networking hit the mainstream.

Facebook originally was designed in 2004 for use by Harvard University students and though it expanded rapidly, only college students were granted membership until 2006, when high schools were included. Facebook is now open to anyone 13 years of age and over.

MySpace, another popular social networking site, was launched in 2004 for public use.

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