Social Media Transgressions Covered Under JPS’ Conduct Policy

Technology is moving faster than ever, which may make it harder for school administrators to keep up with the policies that regulate these technologies and one classification in particular: social media.

In accordance with the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), Jamestown protects students civil rights and ensures a healthy and safe educational work place.

“DASA is the umbrella,” Bret Apthorpe, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools. “Much like the First Amendment, (which) originated in the 1800s, (yet) it takes on things in 2017. It’s a similar thing with DASA.”

Apthorpe referenced how DASA was signed into law in 2010, just before social media garnered national attention and use but still protects students under its requirements. He said a similar case occurred with transgender issues in schools, while DASA was signed before there was nationwide coverage, DASA protects transgender students from discrimination.

“That’s exactly why (DASA) is so important, it’s a policy that is meant to protect kids no matter what the popular technology is of the month or the civil rights issue of the month is,” Apthorpe said. “The whole purpose of the DASA policy is to protect children, both today and for the things that we know violate children’s civil rights but also for the future things that we don’t know that may come into play.”

At Jamestown Public Schools, social media use is addressed in their student and staff codes of conduct as required by DASA. The Student Code of Conduct defines inappropriate social media use as use that causes direct disruption to the school day. The policy lists Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as example of such social media that could be used inappropriately. The policy falls under Section VIII, Prohibited Student Conduct.

Also prohibited is the use of a computerized information system to engage in defamation, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, hazing, bullying, selling obscene material, using vulgar language, gambling, indecent exposure, initiating false 911 reports or causing a false fire alarm or bomb threat.

Legally, schools, have the jurisdiction to discipline students for social media use outside of schools if it affects the environment inside of school.

“Schools are responsible to deal with any issue that occurs outside of a school that impacts the environment of the school itself,” Apthorpe said.

Social media is also regulated for faculty and staff positions. The policy states that while the school can’t regulate faculty and staff social media use outside the realm of district time. Faculty and staff have free range to use social media for personal use on personal time, so long as it isn’t used on district time.

“I’m sure, sadly, there’ll be other mediums down the road or other issues down the road,” Apthorpe said. “The bottom line to all this is children have the legal right to feel safe in schools.”