Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 10, 2012

Kokomo-Center rewriting media use

One proposal bans student, staff ‘friendships’ on social websites

Students and teachers at Kokomo-Center Schools soon may face new rules for using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Officials Monday unveiled the first draft of a revised social media use policy that could set parameters for accessing certain public websites on school computers or through the school’s network.

It’s been years since the policy has been updated, said Dave Barnes, director of communications for Kokomo-Center Schools.

“Facebook and MySpace didn’t even exist then,” Barnes said.

Rules need to be tweaked or added to keep up with the changing technologies, he said.

One proposed rule would forbid personal “friendships” between students and school personnel on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Google+.

“As long as you’re a student, and I’m a teacher, it’s just not appropriate,” Barnes said.

He was quick to point out the rule applied to all school personnel, including coaches and custodians.

According to the drafted policy, special exceptions could be made for relatives and in situations where a student’s parent has given approval.

The proposal offered at Monday night’s school board meeting also forbids any use of social media sites on school equipment.

Barnes said that’s important because all staff members have laptops they can take home, and some students do, too. No one would be able to use a school computer to access Facebook at home, he said.

“That’s as much for their protection as ours,” Barnes said. “You don’t want them on those sites.”

The policy’s first draft would allow students to “follow” or “like” a district-sponsored or sanctioned social media page or blog after school hours.

The draft states the school corporation will deny technology or Internet access to students who don’t follow the rules.

And users “must adhere to ethical and responsible behavior” when using the school’s computers or computer network, the policy states.

Barnes said the policy would not apply to students using social media sites on their own computers on their own time.

Kokomo-Center Schools Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the policy will likely be re-drafted several more times before it’s voted on by the school board.

• Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8585 or lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com

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