If you’re a teacher in Norwich, Connecticut, your free speech may be compromised. The local Board of Education plans to regulate what teachers and staff can say or do when school lets out. While social sites are already blocked on district computers, teachers and staff will have a code of conduct they must adhere to when using social media on personal time, reports WFSB. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are targeted, but the regulation would likely extend to almost anything written or posted online.
The new policy will regulate the use of social media when it “interferes with the work of the district,” creates a “hostile work environment,” or harms the “goodwill and reputation of the school district.” In other words, the board hopes to stop employees from badmouthing school management and prevent children from viewing their teachers in a negative light.
“What this policy really is intended to do is make sure that people keep a boundary between school issues and personal ones,” said Superintendent Abbey Dolliver.
Under such vague rules, teachers and employees may be forced to tiptoe through cyberspace. If a teacher posts a picture where he/she is drinking a glass of wine, does that constitute painting the school in a bad light? What if she only posts it to friends that do not include students? What if the teachers are picketing during off hours for higher wages and one teacher posts a picture of the picketing on Twitter. Does that interfere with the work of the district?
We do not know what incident, if any, led to the proposal of this Orwellian policy. Was there really so many issues that the School Board faced too large a problem to deal with conduct issues on a one-off basis? Perhaps Norwich teachers are boozing it up online and talking smack about the district. Judging from what I saw on the Norwich, Conn. Facebook page, there might be a few bad eggs in that corner of New England.
Do you know of any other school districts with a similar policy?