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updated: 5/17/2012 3:03 PM

Fremont District 79 staffers get guidelines for social media usage

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  • Video: Schools and social media

 
 

Fremont Elementary District 79 officials have developed new employee guidelines for interacting with students using social media.

The two-page document, titled "Expectations for Communicating Electronically with Students," supports a social media policy adopted by the Mundelein-area school board in November.

It recognizes that educators have turned to email, websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging to communicate, but it warns that using such technology may not "meet the public and professional standards for communicating with students that we set for ourselves in our district."

District 79 Superintendent Jill Gildea acknowledged today's students prefer electronic communication.

"The faster, the better," Gildea told the Daily Herald.

But staffers must provide a professional atmosphere for communication, whether on campus or the Internet, she said.

The district's social media policy was based on a model recommended by the Illinois Association of School Boards, a state group that advises local boards on policy matters. Some -- but not all -- Lake County school districts have adopted similar rules.

District 79's social media rules and other board policies can be found online at fsd79.org/Page/2037.

The separate guidelines were publicized this week. They don't require board approval.

The guidelines split communication technology into two categories: "acceptable methods" and "less acceptable methods."

Use of the official District 79 electronic grade book and student-information systems to communicate with students and families is considered acceptable. So is using the official District 79 email system.

Using the district email system allows the messages to be accessible to supervisors and creates a "trail" that can be followed if needed, Gildea said.

The use of nondistrict email accounts is discouraged. Playing online games or participating in other online recreational activities with students is not acceptable.

The guidelines offer stern warnings about using Facebook, Twitter and the Internet in general.

Staff members who use Facebook should set privacy settings to ensure only friends can view their profiles, the guidelines state. Additionally, staff members should never befriend current District 79 students on Facebook or accept their friend requests.

The guidelines also warn employees never to publish photograph or content online that "compromise the professionalism, integrity and ethics" of their roles as District 79 staffers.

A clause that appears in other school districts' social media policies closes the document.

"A good question that staff members should ask themselves before posting or emailing a message is, 'Would I mind if that information appeared on the front page of the local newspaper?'" the document reads. "If the answer is 'yes,' then do not post it."

Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials were the first in the area to forge a social media policy for employees, adopting rules in 2010.

Policies have since been drawn up for employees in Mundelein High School District 120, Lake Zurich Unit District 95, Barrington Unit District 220 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 among others.

Disciplinary options in the various policies range from a ban on personal technology on campus to dismissal.

Last month, a dean at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire resigned following a police investigation into text messages he exchanged with a student.

No criminal charges were filed, but police described the messages as odd and inappropriate.

A social media policy is being developed at Stevenson, officials said.

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