PCSSD rolls out new employee social media policy

PULASKI COUNTY (KATV) - Times are changing and many school districts across the state are keeping up with the times when it comes to social media. For many districts, a staff social media policy is a must, especially dealing with more human resource issues stemming from social media follies. Pulaski County Special Schools rolled out their own social media policy this summer.

It's not just kids using social media anymore - most everyone, even teachers, are hopping online to use Facebook, Twitter - the list goes on. But is it appropriate for those teachers to interact with students on social media?

"I am friends with some kids on Facebook because I work with a lot of kids," said Vivian Harris, literacy instructional facilitator for PCSSD.

Harris mentions that sometimes she mentors students using social media and the district mentions that's okay according to their new policy - within reason.

"There's nothing that says you can't do it," said Deb Roush, communications director for PCSSD. "As the communications director I encourage [not friending students on social media] because it can only get you into trouble and I've seen people get into trouble."

But the new policy rolled out in July reminds staff that they have the responsibility to maintain appropriate employee-student relationships.

"Some of those need to be clearly explained so that people understand how to stay out of trouble and follow the rules," said Rachel Stevens, math instructional facilitator at PCSSD.

It's why school districts like Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Benton & Cabot have policies that specifically outline social media guidelines for teachers.

"It gives the human resources department a little more teeth when it comes to disciplining related to infractions that have to do with social media that are adversely related to our students," said Roush.

Not all social media interaction is frowned upon. PCSSD, along with many other school districts, utilize social media to keep in touch with parents and let them know what is going on at school and with their students.

"I created a Facebook page for To Kill a Mockingbird," commented Harris. "Students can go there and blog. I figured they're [students] going to use it anyway, so why not put a twist to it."

But a blog like Harris' literature blog will now have to be approved by school administrators in regard to the new social media policy.

Conway & Bryant Public Schools currently don't have policies that specifically relate to social media. Conway said much of those interactions should be covered under their teacher ethics policy. Bryant school officials say it's something they're deeply considering.