Social media policy approved for Darien public school employees
DARIEN — The online relationship between student, teacher and parent will be changing, thanks to a new social media policy.
The Darien school board unanimously passed the policy on Nov. 22. It was written by board member Kathrine Stein and human resources director Marjorie Cion. According to Cion, the policy is the first of its kind for the district, but a wise investment considering the widespread use of social media both in and outside the classroom.
“It’s really best practice to have a social media policy,” Cion said. “There’s much wider usage and it gives guidelines of what’s appropriate and inappropriate. It’s a minimum standard of what’s appropriate with students, parents and teachers.”
The policy applies to any employee of the school system who has regular interactions with students, meant to include coaches and other coordinators of after-school activities. The policy also clarifies the difference between personal and professional social media accounts and sets guidelines under which employees can use social media accounts for professional purposes. Professional accounts can be used under several conditions: staff members must use their school email for these accounts and parents should be able to have access to the pages.
The policy also protects employees’ personal social media accounts and prevents them from “friending” students and parents of students, barring an already existing relationship. This issue was a particular point of contention when the policy was first presented to the board, as certain members expressed concerns about personal relationships outside the school and what would happen if teachers started unfriending students. But Stein said the restriction on friending students and parents is not meant to hurt anyone.
“As a parent, I can say I went through and checked my Facebook to make sure I wasn’t friends with any teachers,” Stein said. “If you have a prior relationship, that’s one thing. I think it’ll be good for parents to go through and look at their account. It’s sort of protecting all of us.”
Other school board news
The board also passed a new class-size policy on Nov. 22, after months of debate. The policy sets new guidelines for minimum, ideal and maximum class sizes across all grades. The policy was passed after Superintendent Dan Brenner, who created the guidelines, added an amendment saying smaller classes would be run in lower grades and in special education classrooms. The guidelines can also be tweaked for the sake of creating more electives at the high school level.
Teachers will be informed of the new policy during after-school meetings. Though the policy went into effect immediately, employees will be given time to read up on it and implement any necessary changes to their social media accounts.
“We’ll make sure all of the staff knows about the policy,” Cion said. “We’re not trying to catch any body. We want to educate them and it’ll be a professional rollout.”