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home : news : news July 22, 2017

12/10/2013 12:21:00 PM
Social Media guidelines started at Hayfield School

By Tara Lindquist

Students who participate in extra curricular activates through Hayfield High School, have been put on notice, what they say and do on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram outside of school will now have in-school consequences, if they post or share something that the school deems inappropriate.

According to school board member, Lisa Bungum, who helped create the new guidelines, they were put in place after some ongoing incidents of negative posts on social media during the fall sports season. "We're not trying to deny anyone their right to freedom of speech," Bungum said. "But playing sports and being a part of extra curricular activities is a privilege so we wanted to come up with a code of conduct, to set the stage for those students to be respectful." She said when the issues arose this fall, the school had no policy in place, no code of conduct to fall back on, they didn't have a way to address the situation.

She added if an athlete said some of the things that were posted on social media on the basketball court, they would be removed from the game. "I think personally, kids need to learn, instead of tweeting something negative when they have an issue with someone, they need to learn to confront the problem personally and not through social media." Bungum said she hopes the guidelines get kids to think before they post.

"Social media isn't going away," she said. "And we need to teach kids that what they post on social media now can have adverse effects on their future, whether it's not getting into a college or getting a job because of something they had posted." She does agree that the policy is very broad in what is not allowed. "We wanted to keep it reasonable," she said. "These code of ethics in the guidelines gives us a cushion to fall back on if we have issues in the future."

The district rolled out new Social Media Guidelines at the beginning of the winter sports season. Hayfield High School is the first school in southern Minnesota to adopt such guidelines, although they won't be the last. "We've given the policy to schools in the HVL conference and I know a few are looking into to adapting the same or similar guidelines," superintendent Ron Evjen said. "We're being proactive instead of somewhere down the line having to be reactive."

Before the winter sports season began, school board members that are part of the school's policy committee, athletic director Chris Pack and coaches sat down and designed the social media guidelines for the students.

Athletic Director Chris Pack, started searching online for schools that had social media policies and he found one, from a school on the east coast, Lisa Bungum found one from the west coast but that was all the district could find.

"We took the two policies and made our own guidelines," Evjen said. "It's short, it's simple and it basically says, you do have the freedom of speech but your freedom of speech does not equal freedom of consequences." Which is in part exactly what the policy says.

All students that participate in winter sports or activities were required to sign the guideline agreement, as were their parents. "The coaches explained the new policy to parents and students, so they know what is expected of them," Evjen said. Bungum added that the few parents she spoke with saw the guidelines as a positive thing. "I hope students realize that it's a privilege to participate in school activities and with that, comes the responsibility of representing the themselves and the school positively."

Evjen said the school will not be actively patrolling what students do on social media or take their phones and demand to see its content. "We'll investigate by report," he said. "We can't monitor it all and we know that. The violations we find out about will come from being reported to school personnel." He added that student participants are held to a higher standard than a regular student, because they step up and choose to be a leader.

The guidelines are designed to be a teaching tool for students to define what is and isn't appropriate for them to be posting online. Evjen pointed out, that once something is online it's public information and it may reflect poorly on the student and the school district.

Students that violate the social media policy will face repercussions for their actions under the school's code of conduct policy. The policy is not specific to what students receive for punishment if they violate the code of conduct; it is based on the circumstance. A violation of the social media guidelines will be handled the same way. "When a student violates the code of conduct there's three people that meet, that's the teacher, principal and athletic director," Evjen said. "In this case, when a violation occurs, the coach or leader of the group will meet with the athletic director and principal to decide if a violation even occurred and what to do about it." The code of conduct disciplinary actions range from a student being talked to about their behavior to expulsion of the student.

Guideline examples

The school lists examples of inappropriate and offensive behaviors, though this list is not mean to be all inclusive.

• Photos, videos, tweets, re-tweets, comments, or posters showing the personal use or possession of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.

• Photos, videos, tweets, re-tweets, comments, or posters that are of a sexual nature. This includes links to websites of a pornographic nature and other inappropriate material.

• Photos, videos, tweets, re-tweets, comments, or posters that condone drug- related activity. This includes, but is not limited to, images that portray the personal use of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

• Content online that is unsportsmanlike, derogatory, demeaning, or threatening toward any individual or entity (examples: derogatory comments regarding our school, another school, coaches, or teammates; taunting comments aimed at a student-participant, coach, or team at another school and derogatory comments against race and/or gender).

• No posts should depict or encourage unacceptable, violent, or illegal activities (examples: hazing, sexual harassment/assault, full or partial nudity, inappropriate gestures, stalking, gambling, discrimination, fighting, vandalism, academic dishonesty, underage drinking, and illegal drug use).

The guidelines also state: "In short, do not have a false sense of security about your rights to freedom of speech. Understand that freedom of speech is not unlimited and does not equal freedom from consequences. The online social network sites are NOT a place where you can say and do whatever you want without repercussions. The information you post on a social networking site is considered public information. Protect yourself by maintaining a self-image of which you can be proud for years to come."

"We really hope in being proactive with this, kids will think before they print," Bungum said. "We want them to think - are you going to create a problem with what you are about to print?"

The school plans on finding a social media expert to come into the school this spring and talk to all the students about social media and how they should conduct themselves online. The school will also continue to work on the guidelines for the next year.

"We know we'll probably have to make amendments to it and continue to work on it, it's new it's not something that has been done in Minnesota before - that we can find - so I'm sure we'll have to make changes," Bungum explained.

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