By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board of Education approved changes to its Internet policy last week, adding guidance for teachers using social networking sites.
"We're not prohibiting teachers from having social network pages," Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative and chairman of the policy committee, said. "Many teachers have two Facebook accounts, a personal one and one for teaching. But the policy does set up a couple of standards."
The Internet use policy will add a social networking section that states district staff are prohibited from posting data, documents, photographs or inappropriate information that is likely to create a material and substantial disruption of classroom activity. Also, staff are not to access their personal social networking sites on school computers or during the school day.
The policy also discourages staff from socializing with students online.
"The same relationship, exchange, interaction, information, or behavior that would be unacceptable in a non-technological medium is unacceptable when done through the use of technology," the policy states.
The policy committee approved the change at its meeting Oct. 23. As a committee recommendation, the policy change did not require a motion or second in order to be considered by the board, and was unanimously approved on first reading.
Also approved on first reading was a change to the substitute teachers policy to reflect a change in state law. The policy now allows for employment of substitute teachers through a third party public or private employer, such as a temp agency.
"That's not something we're planning on doing," Janeway said. "It's a very expensive proposition and to use a temp agency would cost considerably more."
However, Janeway noted state law had changed and the policy needed to reflect that.
Policy changes require two successful readings before they become effective.
In other business, the board approved creation of an ethics committee.
Policy 1.106 allows for the creation of a school district ethics committee comprised of two school board members and a third member. The committee would address questions and complaints of violation of the code of ethics or any violation of state law governing ethical conduct. The committee can investigate any credible complaint against an official or employee that involves a possible violation, make recommendations for action or seek retribution for any activity that constitutes a violation of the code of ethics.
Janeway had requested the board form the committee during its September meeting, and Thursday he moved to approve the committee. Josh Stone, 4th District representative, supported the motion.
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, asked, "Are we in a situation where there's something for this committee to do in the immediate future, or will they be standing there in case something does come up and we need a committee?"
Janeway said the committee would be formed and ready should there be questions or complaints regarding ethical violations.
"A committee needs to be formed to take those complaints," he said.
The motion passed 7-2, with Tollett and Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, voting no.
Blalock asked for time to contact a third individual, not a board member, to serve on the committee.
"I hate to put a person on a committee without talking to them first," he said. Once appointed, the committee is to elect a chairman and a secretary. Complaints would be made to the chairman in writing.