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Lodi Unified School District trustees postpone new guidelines for social media

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:00 am

Lodi Unified School District trustees postponed a revision of the district’s controversial student social networking policy after Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer handed out two alternatives to the board at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

One of the revised guidelines was posted on the district’s website late Friday afternoon, but trustees were surprised to see two additional versions at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“I wonder if the audience has difficulty understanding versions 2 and 3,” trustee Bonnie Cassel said. “I’m not particularly comfortable with speaking about this right now.”

The board agreed with trustee Ron Freitas’ recommendation that all three proposed versions be posted on Lodi Unified’s website, www.lodiusd.net, for the public to read and study the differences. The board will then consider new guidelines at a future board meeting.

“This is not a time-sensitive issue,” Nichols-Washer said.

The superintendent said that students need to be aware through district guidelines that they must be careful about what they say via social media, especially when it comes to bullying of other students and staff members. That includes the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

“Our society has a very significant problem (with social media bullying), and Lodi Unified is no exception,” Nichols-Washer said.

San Francisco attorney Thomas Burke, representing the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center, said in a letter to Nichols-Washer and the seven school board members that the first version of the revised guidelines posted on the district website on Friday is an improvement, but it still exceeds the school district’s authority to punish students.

Burke previously threatened to sue Lodi Unified, claiming that the original policy — which was adopted in March — violates students’ First Amendment rights.

“We will not stop trying because of opposition or the threat of a lawsuit,” Nichols-Washer said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Bear Creek High School student Hannah Jobrack acknowledged that the social networking controversy is “a very touchy topic.” She thanked the board for considering changes to the guidelines.

Ken Cross, the father of a Bear Creek student, said that student discipline should be limited to activities on campus, school-sanctioned events and students going between school and their home.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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