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Burgess panel looks to control Facebook, bullying

November 07, 2010
STURBRIDGE — Burgess Elementary School students and faculty may soon be governed by new regulations aimed at controlling use of social networking sites and bullying.

On Thursday, Nov. 4, the Sturbridge School Committee participated in the first readings of two newly created documents: the Social Networking Websites Policy and the Bullying Prevention Policy.

Committee members had several questions about the Social Networking Websites Policy, most of which involved the definition of various terms listed within the document. A few members were unsure about what constitutes social networking, as this term generally pertains solely to computer-related activities, although the document did refer to cell phone usage as well.

"I have a lot of questions about the specific language in this policy, but it is an important policy to have in place," said school committee Chairman Katherine Alexander.

The Social Networking Websites Policy also listed rules for teachers and administrators regarding technology in the classroom, most notably their expected conduct when using social networking sites like Facebook.com. Members of the school committee discussed whether the limitations should be further defined to include specific behaviors on social networking sites, such as "friending" students. If the new policy bans this act, then teachers would no longer be able to conduct classroom exercises through Facebook or similar websites.

Potential out-of-classroom problems involving social networking websites were also discussed. An example would include pictures of a teacher or administrator drinking alcohol or partying that surface on another user's profile. Similar circumstances have resulted in the firing of teachers in other public school districts, and the school committee wants to ensure that its rules involving social networking websites are comprehensive before finalizing this policy.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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