Iberville Parish School Board debates social media policy for members

Iberville Parish School Board debates social media policy for members
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Social media can be a very useful tool, a quick and easy way to share information and updates, especially for public groups like school districts. In the Iberville Parish School District, all employees, volunteers, and vendors have to follow a social media policy that outlines proper posting for public and personal pages.

The school board members, who approved the policy in 2014, are not included in the policy because the members are elected and therefore accountable to voters, not the district. Now, some members want that to change. The topic was discussed at length during Monday's board meeting.

"I personally feel I should be held to the same standards as an employee is, should be held liable for no matter if someone is going to police me or not," said school board member Chris Daigle.

A proposal to make school board members follow the social media polices goes back to when the board agreed to spend $1.5 million dollars on artificial turf for Plaquemine High School. Some members disagreed with the decision and posted their frustrations to Facebook. As comments grew, so have concerns over Facebook etiquette.

"I think it's important as a public official to be transparent," said board member Darlene Ourso.

Ourso is very outspoken on social media, sharing everything from school updates to her thoughts on spending. She does not agree with any restrictions of posting for private accounts.

"It's a first amendment right. As long as you're not defaming someone or slandering them, just get out the truth," said Ourso.

However, the school board president Polly Higdon said the policy is about protecting students and the district.

The personal social media guidelines are brief, mostly preventing employees from sharing confidential information or making inappropriate contact with students. It also prohibits the "tagging" of employees or school vendors without permission. Only one section of the current policy implies using caution when sharing content.

"Private communication published online can easily become public. Caution must be used when posting any comment and/or images online that may reflect negatively on a person's professional image."

Board members who want the policy extended said the district's public Facebook page and social media accounts should be the primary platform for sharing important information about the schools, such as closures.

The board did not make and decision on extending the social media policy. However, Higdon said the topic will be decided at a later date.

"It's about respectability," said Higdon.

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