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Jefferson City school board considers technology policies

Jefferson City school board considers technology policies

April 24th, 2019 by Phillip Sitter in News

Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS)

The Policy Review Committee of Jefferson City Public Schools' Board of Education worked Tuesday to keep the district's guidelines and rules up to date with the digital age.

The committee briefly discussed media guidelines for school board members and students' use of electronic devices, among other policies. The committee does not approve any proposed rules or guidelines, leaving that authority to the seven-member board as a whole at its monthly meetings.

The media guidelines for school board members propose suggestions for board members on how to "operate within appropriate guidelines when they are contacted by media representatives or communicating online about school district business."

According to the guidelines, "In all media communication about school district business, a school board member agrees to: 1) Clarify that you are communicating as an individual member of the board, and not speaking on behalf of the board or that they are not an official district spokesperson; 2) Make online post of content that the district, or one of its entities, has already released to the public; 3) Avoid making public statements or posting content that indicates that you have already formed an opinion on pending matters; 4) Direct concerns to the appropriate administrator or Director of Communications; 5) Conduct themselves online in a manner that reflects well on the district; avoid posting any unverified information; and never post anonymously about school business."

Each numbered guideline goes into a bit more detail. For example, board members are advised to have separate personal and board-related social media accounts to avoid "potentially offensive, harassing or defamatory content on a board member's account."

"Board members are free to speak about non-confidential school matters, but should clarify their statements reflect their own views, not necessarily the official position of the board. If the board designates an officer or member to speak on their behalf, the statements they make should be agreed to by a majority of the board as its official and formal position, and that statement should be shared with JCPS' Director of Communications," according to the guidelines.

The full guidelines, as well as the other policies discussed Tuesday, are available at boarddocs.com/mo/jcschools/Board.nsf/Public. Click on the meeting, click to view the meeting's agenda, and documents can be found under each agenda item.

Board policy committee Chairman Ken Enloe said social media policy is something "a lot of companies and organizations are dealing with."

Enloe said the awareness of social media's prominence, including use by board members, prompted a recent look "at the need to make sure we weren't representing positions or opinions that were individual opinions (that were) not reflective of the board as a whole making a final, formal decision" or being inconsistent with the messaging of the district.

"The goal was to try to help establish some parameters," Enloe said.

The proposed guidelines are exactly that, he added — not state laws with any legal consequences.

"Every board member is an elected board member," he said, and the media guidelines are not intended to be held over someone.

Enloe said JCPS Director of Communication Ryan Burns was involved in crafting the policy and Burns asked some of her peers for sample policies.

The committee also heard about the proposed adoption of a Missouri School Boards' Association policy on students' use of personal electronic devices.

"It's a good starting point," JCPS Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf said of the non-required MSBA policy.

Shindorf said he's working on handbook rule language for a cellphone use policy for JCPS students and he will present those handbook procedures to the board and have the rules in place for the coming school year.