Lodi Unified School District’s social networking policy has drawn criticism this week from some who believe it infringes on First Amendment rights. Under the policy, students can be suspended from an athletic team or club activity for online bullying or making inappropriate comments about students and staff. Upon multiple offenses, they can be suspended for the entire season.

In response to concerns raised at this week’s school board meeting, two trustees, Bonnie Cassel and George Neely, asked concerned students to help them clarify the policy.

Dawn Vetica, assistant superintendent for middle and high schools, responded to a News-Sentinel questionnaire regarding the policy. Here are her responses:

What was the reason this policy was developed? Were there any particular incidents that triggered the development of the policy?

The social networking guidelines and contract were developed when school officials realized that athletes, who are high-profile student representatives of the school, were getting involved in cyberbullying and/or inappropriate and slanderous comments about other students and staff. There was not one particular incident that triggered it, but it is an ongoing issue. The policy is meant to be preventive, not reactive.

Was there input from students, teachers, coaches or parents while this policy was being developed?

The policy was researched and developed by Lodi High administrators, shared with administrators at our other high schools and shared with the board of education, which wholeheartedly supported it. Everyone believed that there was a huge need for such a policy.

Who investigates the validity of a tweet, Facebook or other post accused of being inappropriate? Rumor has it that some say it’s the individual coach, while others say the school administration and others say the district office.

These posts are brought to school administrators’ attention by offended parents and students. As in any disciplinary issue at a school, administration would determine the consequences of the student’s actions. School personnel determine what inappropriate behavior and comments are on a daily basis.

This policy doesn’t cover students who are not involved in extracurricular activities. I understand that other students are covered by the district’s anti-bullying policy. What does that policy include, and how is it enforced? What are penalties for those not in extracurricular activities?

This policy is an extension of the 24/7 alcohol and drug policy for athletes in their season of sport, which is approved by the California Interscholastic Federation and the district.

In the 24/7 drug and alcohol policy, it states that posting inappropriate alcohol/drug messages or pictures on social media can be used as evidence of a violation. Penalties are levied on a progressive scale, from a warning up to and through suspension.

Some say the policy is too vague, especially in determining what constitutes an “inappropriate comment.” How is it determined what is and isn’t appropriate?

School personnel determine what inappropriate behavior and comments are on a daily basis. Other students are covered in the district’s anti-harassment policy. Visit www.tinyurl.com/ kybp843 and scroll to policy No. 5145.5.

Are there plans to work with concerned students about clarifying the policy, as board members George Neely and Bonnie Cassel requested at Tuesday’s board meeting? Are there any plans to return the policy, at least as for discussion, at the Aug. 20 board meeting?

Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer and I will meet with high school principals to clarify and possibly adjust some of the language of the policy. If changes are made, we will present it to the board of education at our next meeting on Aug. 20. The community is welcome to send any suggestions to us before Friday, Aug. 16. Emails may be sent to dvetica@lodiusd.net.

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