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Lodi Unified School District releases revised guidelines for social media conduct

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Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:00 am

A new set of guidelines for social media and networking has been released by the Lodi Unified School District. The changes make the rules apply to all students, not just student-athletes, and removed a large segment discussing the specifics of inappropriate behavior on social media by students.

Expanding the rules to apply to all students — not just athletes or club members — came up at the most recent school board meeting, said Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer.

“Speakers and board members expressed an interest in informing all students about social media issues,” she said. “We agree that this is something all students see.”

Trying to clarify every potentially harmful behavior cluttered the message too much, Washer said, and confused the main intent.

“When you try to explain things too much, it makes it more confusing,” she said.

On Tuesday, members of the Lodi Unified Board of Trustees will review the new guidelines and consider approving the document if they decide its purpose has been clarified.

The guidelines have been tightened from a three-page document to two pages. It is no longer a contract, and does not require a student or parent signature. The same six best practices are still listed, including awareness of how privacy settings work, avoiding posting illegal or confidential photos and information and staying away from bullying, lying, cheating and threats.

The guidelines have been rewritten to refer to all students in Lodi Unified and is no longer tailored to name each school. References to coaches, teammates and athletic administrators have been removed.

Instead of listing individuals that students shouldn’t make negative remarks about, a section has been added to reflect on how the online environment has changed the nature of bullying and that students should consider how their words will affect others. The guidelines ask students to avoid posts that make threats of emotional or physical injury.

Throughout the document, references to consequences have been removed. Instead, potential forms of discipline are outlined in the final few paragraphs.

Instead of reacting to “inappropriate” online content, the guidelines now refer to investigating online content that “violates student discipline laws, rules and regulations.” The list of specifically inappropriate online behavior has been removed.

Jana Van Os, parent of a 16-year-old on Lodi High’s cheerleading squad, was pleased with most of the changes the new document represents.

“That’s awesome. That’s what I wanted,” she said. “We were told it was a bullying contract. If you’re taking a stance on bullying, then this needs to be in every kid’s packet on the first day of school.” Another change is that reviewing misconduct on social media will be up to school officials, not coaches, which Van Os was looking for.

“I’d much rather have the assistant principal or vice principal making these decisions,” she said. “Leave it up to the people who see this every day and really know how to deal with it. I hope it will be fair and consistent across the board.”

These changes are subject to review and approval by the trustees. The guidelines that were approved in March have been suspended until further notice.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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