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TCSS updates acceptable use internet policy

The Troup County School Board voted Thursday to approve an update to its internet acceptable use policy.

The last time the document had been revised was in 2013, and there were several outdated references. For instance, in the update, a specific mention of MySpace as a social media site was replaced with mentions of TikTok and Instagram.

The policy was first discussed Monday during the school board’s work session. 

“A lot of things have changed in technology since 2013,” said Derek Pitts, chief human resource officer, on Monday. 

Pitts said that he reviewed the policy of other school systems, plus had Board Attorney Greg Ellington review it before approaching the board with the changes. 

Pitts said he’d had a few issues to deal with since taking on the human resources position, and an update to the policy was overdue and needed. 

“I think sometimes staff members don’t understand the severity of what they post,” Pitts said. 

“They may say it’s private, but everything is really public. It can end up out there. We want to make sure they know that, that they are aware of that and that they know this policy.”

The old policy also said that employees should keep their personal social media pages private to prevent students and parents from accessing their pages, but that was struck from the policy.

“Why would you want to remove that?” asked Board Member Becky Grubbs.

Pitts said it would be impossible to monitor every single employee’s personal social media pages.

“When we have a policy, we want to make sure what we have in there we’re able to monitor,” Pitts said 

“There’s really no way to monitor everybody’s personal pages.” 

Superintendent Brian Shumate said leaving that sentence in the policy would also be against reality.

“So many of our teachers are using their personal pages to post things for their classes,” Shumate said. “So, a lot of kids are signing in and their friends on Facebook for school purposes, so to say we don’t allow that would be contradictory of what’s actually happening right now.”

The new policy added several lines that go over the importance of employees realizing that their posts will likely be viewed by students and parents.

“Employees who post information on social networking sites are responsible for those posting and must recognize the likelihood that any posts will be viewed by students, parents, other staff members and the community,” an addition to the policy reads. 

“Thus, any posting that contains content that reflects unprofessional conduct or unethical conduct may be evidence to support disciplinary or corrective action. Any social media activities must comply with all applicable laws including, but not limited to, student and employee privacy, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, bullying, copyright, trademark, defamation, securities, and any other applicable laws and regulations.”

A sentence involving electronic communication devices was updated to include text messaging as well.

“Electronic communication devices, i.e., two-way radios, or cellular phones, text messages, may not be used by employees in a way that distracts or interferes with instruction or guidance of students,” the sentence reads.

During discussion on Monday, Board Chairman Kirk Hancock specifically asked if the policy was clear enough about text messaging, as he said texting often leads to more issues than social media. 

The board ultimately decided to leave the policy the same for its vote on Thursday, outside of a couple of grammatical changes. 

In other action on Thursday, the school board did the following:

4TCSS approved the purchase of 811 ACT tests at a cost of $35,684. This will cover the cost to administer the test to all juniors.

4TCSS adopted resolutions proclaiming Oct. 12-16 at National School Lunch Week and Oct. 19-23 as 2020 School Bus Safety Week.

4TCSS also approved a contribution of $41,250 to Communities in Schools. CIS serves 4,500 students in five Troup County Schools:  Berta Weathersbee Elementary, Callaway Middle, Gardner Newman Middle, Long Cane Middle, and Callaway High. This is an annual contribution by TCSS.