New social media policy concerning staff and students

OPUSD Board alters policy on student/teacher interactions on social media.

With the introduction of various forms of online social interaction, there has been a new policy implemented by the OPUSD Board to regulate the manner in which teachers and faculty can communicate with students.

Board Policy 4119.24 begins by discussing the district’s goals to create a safe, welcoming and appropriate environment for staff and students.

“The Board expects all adults with whom students may interact at school or in school-related activities … to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards in their interactions with students both within and outside the educational setting,” OPUSD Board Policy 4119.24 states.

The new policy provides a clear boundary for student-teacher online connections and outlines what is deemed appropriate, and by extension, inappropriate.

“Teachers need to have specific written approval from their site administrator prior to communicating with students using a social media channel,” Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Leslie Heilbron and Director of Information Technology Enoch Kwok wrote in a collaborative email.

According to the policy, teachers are held at a standard to maintain appropriate communications with their students online, and that should they utilize these platforms, it is expected of them to use them solely for academic purposes.

Though the policy has several aspects to it that can be perceived as progressive, there are teachers, like Social Sciences teacher DJ Cook, who views the policy as unnecessary.

“A policy like this just makes most teachers want to remove all the technology and modern forms of communication from their classes that they were encouraged to use a few years ago,” Cook said.

Students around campus are also aware that there are two sides to this policy and have begun to formulate their own opinions on the matter.

“[In] utilizing technology [that] appeals to the audience and their multiple intelligences the student [has] more freedom over their learning,” junior Ashlynn Reid said.

Junior Zoe Berger also mentions the utility of an additional form of communication on social media with English and Academic Decathlon advisor Jessica Wall.

“[For a class project] a lot of people utilized an Instagram account as a project option, and I think it was nice to feel connected to [Wall in that way],” Berger said.

Though policies regarding student and teacher interactions have been implemented, this policy regarding social media connections specifically, is new.

“[The policy] was recommended by [the California School Boards Association] for adoption and after reviewing it the District and the Board of Education decided to adopt it … Teachers need to have specific written approval from their site administrator prior to communicating with students using a social media channel,” Heilbron and Kwok wrote.

Rules and regulations are constantly being updated and created to keep up with the digital age in which social media is constantly improving.

“I think it reached a tipping point, where there were so many ways for a teacher to interact with students. So you have to find that balance, and the district, by doing this, I think raises the awareness for teachers that what you put out there matters. We have to make those judgment calls and respond accordingly,” Science Department Chair Winnie Litten said.