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FIRST ON 3: Teachers Warned About Facebook, Twitter, MySpace

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By David Carroll

dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Hamilton County School Board members may soon add a warning to employees, in response to advances in social networking technology.

The district's director of communication, Danielle Clark, asked Board members to amend its policy on "staff-community relations" with this addition: 

"Employees have a right to express their views on any issue, but must in each case make clear that the view expressed is not the official view of the Board or school system.

 Communications between employees and the community, electronic or otherwise, should be appropriate and professional and in accordance with state law. All communication shall relate to the purpose of providing educational services and information.

Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace that contain information relating to Hamilton County Schools and/or the classroom shall be considered an extention (sic) of the workplace and comments and actions in these spheres are subject to district policies and procedures."

In a memo to Board members, Clark said she drafted the language with Board attorney Scott Bennett.  She asked Board members to pass the amendment on first reading.  Although the issue was discussed Thursday, there was no vote.  The proposal was strongly criticized by District 1 Board member Rhonda Thurman.   It will be brought up for a second reading at the Board's March meeting.

There is also an amendment concerning "staff rights and responsibilities" regarding the use of electronic communications.  The amendment states:

 "The Hamilton County Board of Education considers any electronic media that an employee might use to communicate with students to be an extension of the classroom. Accordingly, the Board expects employees to use professional judgment and appropriate decorum when using any such media.

In view of this expectation, the superintendent reserves the right to inspect an employee's use of any such electronic media and to require any employee to disclose his or her use to secure enforcement of the Board's expectations."

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