For a few years now, I’ve been describing how social media policies are moving into the mainstream.
No longer can employers simply cover their eyes and ears to what is going on with Facebook and Twitter.
Example No. 592: West Hartford, Connecticut is considering a policy that would place certain restrictions on what school employees say, according to a report in today’s Hartford Courant.
While the exact language of the policy is being re-worded, presumably to satisfy First Amendment concerns, the overall concern being addresses is whether the social media usage is having a detrimental effect in the school:
[B]oard Vice Chairman Terry Schmitt, a member of the committee that proposed the policy, said Tuesday that even if the language is tweaked to satisfy district lawyers, the focus would be the same. Whether it’s an unhinged manifesto or a scandalous, public Facebook photo, the question for employees is: "Does it have a negative, or compromising, impact on your ability to teach in the classroom?"
If a middle or high school teacher is shown in a "wildly inebriated state," and students see it, that answer might be yes, Schmitt said.
And what should such a policy say? Well, there are hundreds of examples now available to view on the internet. I like the list compiled by Doug Cornelius over at Compliance Building.
But the challenge for the school district remains the one identified: How do you balance the need for a school district (or any public employer) to maintain decorum and minimize the impact to the town or school, with the First Amendment right to free speech? That is a balancing act that I suspect we’ll continue to hear more about.