The online behavior policy leads to a dispute with the school board of Montgomery Co.

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CHRISTIANSBURG — The Montgomery County School Board last week approved revisions to a policy that covers employee behavior in “online environments,” but the issue has led to a spat between board members elected on whether they should have waited for the decision.

The policy itself has been updated to include distinctions between personal and professional use of social media channels, particularly with regard to posting photos from inside a school building” and/or the publication of information to which an employee has access only because of his employment”, according to a brief description of the measure on the agenda of the recent work sessions of the school board.

“Adjustments to this policy provide an additional layer of clarity and protection for staff, in addition to providing the District with a way to manage social media posts by staff members,” reads the recent description of the board’s agenda.

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The case, however, led to a dispute between several board members over when to make a decision on the revisions.

A point of contention was recent correspondence from newly appointed Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Bragen regarding how the board should handle certain agenda items.

While one group of board members argued that the recently selected district manager had asked them to consider immediate action only on critical and urgent measures, the other group argued that communication on items on the agenda did not include specific requests.

Board member Marti Graham said she got some clarification on the communication. She said she didn’t see anything specific about how to handle items that aren’t urgent.

“There’s nothing specific he wanted to say about it,” said Graham, which drew disagreement from school board president Sue Kass.

Kass said she spoke at length with Bragen about it. She said the board had been asked to suspend voting on certain issues unless they were “emerging”.

“Marti, you can get all the clarification you want, but who’s the chairman of the board?” Kass said.

Board member Penny Franklin responded by asking Kass if she thought the board chair could make all the decisions.

“It sounds like that’s what you’re trying to do right now,” Franklin said.

Kass said she wasn’t suggesting she could make all the decisions and continued her comment towards Graham. Kass said she didn’t think Graham could speak with the superintendent and say “” that’s what he said so I’m sorry you were wrong and that’s what it’s gonna be because I I said so, because I spoke to Dr . Bragen.’”

“But I thought that was what you just said too?” Franklin told Kass, who denied making such a suggestion.

Kass reiterated that they received an email from Bragen asking the board to suspend anything that was not crucial. If that’s not what the new district leader meant, then the council needs to clarify the matter with him, the chairperson said.

Board member Mark Cherbaka said the clarification should then be sent to the full board or through the chair, who he described as the appropriate channel.

The disagreement continued, with Franklin at one point describing the email they received as “very vague”. Kass, however, said he specifically asked them to postpone decisions that did not warrant immediate action until Bragen takes office in December and instead have the matter discussed at a board retreat. ‘administration.

The board debate last week began after the group including Kass, Cherbaka and board member Linwood Hudson expressed some hesitation to take action on behavior policy revisions. employees online.

Although he made it clear that he was not necessarily against the policy or all of the changes, Cherbaka said he had reservations about the wording.

“I’d like to see us possibly table it for now,” said Kass, who added that she didn’t necessarily want to vote no on the measure.

Graham described the request to drop the question as disrespectful.

“We cannot continue to wait. I understand the big decisions, and we have a new superintendent coming,” board member Jamie Bond said, “but this is business. This is why we were elected.

Bond pointed out that they sometimes have to make tough decisions about issues that they may not all agree on.

“This is second reading on this. I call for a vote,” said Bond, who took a second from Franklin.

Kass said she took issue with comments saying she was rude and disrespectful.

“Yet I speak and you both speak above me. So who is rude and who is disrespectful? Just me when I do? said the president.

While Kass said she was trying to ask MCPS spokeswoman Brenda Drake a question about some of the process involved in passing the measure in question, Franklin said other colleagues were speaking in done before the president.

“Penny, would you like to be president?” Kass told Franklin, who answered no to the question.

The policy revisions narrowly passed by a vote of 4 to 3. Bond, Franklin, Graham and board member Dana Partin each voted in favor of the article. Kass, Cherbaka and Hudson each did not vote.

Among the additions to the policy are two sections titled “Personal Use of Social Media” and “Professional Use of Social Media”.

The personal use section states that an employee’s use of personal social media may not disrupt the work and school environment, interfere with their ability to perform district duties effectively” and/or compromise labor relations” within the schools and division offices.

The business use section emphasizes that MCPS social media accounts are the property of the district, including official accounts for each school.

“Employees who wish to use social media to showcase their work inside a classroom, office or building should notify their manager and the communications department, including providing the name of the employee. ‘user and/or account access,’ read part of the section. . “Employees who wish to showcase their work inside a classroom, office, or building must have the social media account connected to their divisional email address. Employees who posting photos of students must verify the directory information permission of the student’s parent/guardian.”

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