Hillsborough School Board makes social media policy

FILE - In this May 21, 2013 file photo, a view of an iPhone in Washington showing the Twitter app, right, among others. Think of it as tweeting for dollars. The social media service Twitter on Tuesday introduced a feature that enables political candidates and advocacy groups to raise money directly via its mobile application, making it quicker and easier to harvest small donations from followers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Your students could soon be allowed to get messages from their teachers through texting and social media. Previously teachers could only talk to students through school sponsored Facebook pages. A new policy in the works opens up the communication to a more personal level, as long as it sticks with the guidelines. The “employee Use of Social Media Networks” Policy is not finalized and is still subject to public input.

As the draft stands now the regulations include: messages must be voluntary, the communication must be initiated by the teacher/staff, it must stick with board policies, no personal student information can be exchanged, and the communication must be archived. 8 on Your Side showed the draft to Kelli Burns, a social media expert and Associate Professor at USF, to get her take on it. She agrees there need to be guidelines for this type of communication, but isn’t necessarily comfortable with back and forth text messages.

“All communication should be professional,” Burns said. “Even though students don’t use email as much as they used to the problem with texting and social media is it’s such an informal outlet. We use to to send messages and pictures to our friends. So it’s easy to be speaking informally and get something misconstrued.”

The district assures 8 on Your Side the messages aren’t meant for back and forth but instead to inform students that a practice is canceled etc. Burns says she appreciates the idea of archiving messages. “The one thing that is really important is the messages can be retrieved. If there were any issues or questions they could be pulled up and anyone can review the messages.”

Students in Hillsborough County already have access to Edsby, a place to exchange class information with teachers. Students we talked to outside of Plant High School say they want even more instant communication with teachers.

“If you text or call or even post something on Twitter, they’ll see it directly and respond right away,” Tenth Grader, Samanth Franco, said. Franco believes there should also be regulations about what times teachers and students can communicate. “You shouldn’t be posting at 1 o’clock in the morning.”

Plant High School dad, Craig Behrenfeld, thinks texting is the easiest way to reach kids.

“I don’t know how I feel about teachers using social media but I think texting is fine,” Behrenfeld said. “As long as it’s appropriate and school related I think texting is fine.

The Hillsborough County School Board will take a final vote on the policy Dec 15.

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