​School Board Revises Internet Use Policy

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 9 meeting at Clark Memorial Elementary School, the Franklin County School Board approved a revised internet use policy. At the December meeting, Sewanee school board representative Adam Tucker expressed concern the Internet Use Policy recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association was “overly broad.” Tucker drafted a revised policy more specific in terms of permitted and proper social networking by school district employees both during school hours and non-school hours.
In keeping with school system-wide policies already in place, the revised policy prohibits internet activity which constitutes discrimination or harassment of students or other employees, as well as prohibiting internet activity which violates confidentiality as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The policy also prohibits employees from posting as representatives of the school system unless authorized to do so by the director of schools or the director’s designee and discourages employees from engaging with students on social networking sites.
Regarding internet use during school hours, the policy prohibits social networking on school computers except for instructional purposes and prohibits social networking on personal devices during school hours except during breaks.
Board Chairman CleiJo Walker praised the revised policy for setting “clear parameters” for internet use.
In other business, board member Lance Williams asked the board to endorse a resolution supporting a new sewer system for Huntland School which is currently served by a septic system. The Huntland Board of Mayor and Alderman is considering applying for a state loan to install a city wide sewer system, Williams explained.
Board member Gary Hanger asked about the cost of public sewage service and expressed reservations about obligating the school system to use the service.
“The cost would depend on water usage,” said Director of Schools Amie Lonas.
The resolution did not place the board or district under any obligation, according to Williams. The resolution was circulated among the board members for their signatures.
In December, the Tennessee Department of Education released the 2015–16 State Wide Report Card with data on achievement, graduation rates, academic growth and other criteria making possible comparisons between state averages, districts and individual schools. Last year Lonas commented extensively on the result, putting them into context, but has no plans to do so this year.
“The only test scores were from high school level subjects that give end of course tests,” Lonas said, explaining the assessment mechanism was different from the previous year so it was difficult to make comparisons. Last academic year the state decided not to precede with the proposed Common Core testing, so many subject areas were not assessed.
The mechanism for counting disadvantaged students also changed, Lonas said. Previously, all students who received free or reduced lunch qualified as disadvantaged, but in the 2015–16 assessment, only students certified as disadvantaged were reflected in the total. In Franklin County the percentage of economically disadvantaged students dropped from 57.7 percent to 31.9 percent. Grundy County statistics showed an even more dramatic decrease from 81.2 percent to 7.8 percent.
Lonas expressed concern about the effect on Basic Education Program funding which is linked to economic factors.
At the suggestion of Walker, the board changed the meeting time from 6:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The board meets next for a working session on Feb. 6.