Albuquerque Public Schools has created new social media guidelines to help staff and students use platforms like Facebook and Twitter at school in a responsible fashion.
Those who violate the guidelines will be subject to discipline, although the rules don’t spell out what that might be because there are too many scenarios to cover, APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said Monday.
“We’ll have to take it on a case-by-case basis,” Armenta said.
She said the district’s communications department, which she heads, has been working on a social media policy for several years. The department fast-tracked its efforts after the controversy that erupted last fall when former superintendent Winston Brooks tweeted “Oink oink, Moo moo” in a derogatory reference to Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, Armenta said.
The school board disciplined Brooks by placing him on three days’ unpaid leave and putting him on an improvement plan.
Brooks resigned on Aug. 15 with a $350,000 buyout because of what school board members have called a serious personnel issue. No details have been released.
“What’s going to happen is teachers and support staff will have to complete training for social media,” Armenta said, explaining that it will be similar to training on sexual harassment and other workplace issues.
The training will help employees “make wise decisions regarding interactions with students, families, members of the community and colleagues in a digital/cyber environment,” according to the district’s website.
Meanwhile, the guideline for students states they will be expected to use social media in a “responsible, ethical and polite manner.” The guideline is detailed in a technology agreement that outlines acceptable use of devices and the school’s networks, which students must sign along with their parents. It does not attempt to govern students’ use of social media outside of school.
“Student use of social media or social networking that disrupts the instructional day may result in disciplinary action,” the agreement reads.
The rule should help school officials deal with cyber-bullying, school board member Kathy Korte said.
“It’s another protection we’re putting in place,” Korte said. She added principals now have to be aware of not only what’s going on in their school’s hallways, but also on social media.
“I know that principals are having to deal with Twitter and Facebook,” Korte said.
Meanwhile, the code of conduct for staff members will be extended to “digital, cyber or non-face-to-face environment(s),” according to the code of conduct posted on the APS website.
Ellen Bernstein, Albuquerque Teachers Federation president, said so far she’s heard of no complaints from teachers regarding the guidelines. Carrying over expectations from the classroom to the world of social media isn’t going to bother teachers, Bernstein said.
A “social media task force” made up of students, parents, teachers, principals, counselors and district personnel reviewed social media policies from other school districts, as well as private businesses, to help create the guidelines, according to the district’s website.
The APS school board approved the changes in July.