Schools Debate Facebook Conduct Policies

MUSKEGON, Mich. — School districts in Michigan are debating whether and how to demand a certain decorum from teachers and other staff on social media sites without infringing on the employees' free speech rights, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

In Reeths-Puffer Public Schools, for example, a proposed policy would allow disciplining of staff who post photos that advocate alcohol use, The Chronicle reported. It also would prohibit teachers from having students as "friends" on social network sites without advance approval from the district, the report said.

Court cases have been brought by teachers who say online restrictions amount to a violation of their free speech rights, Brad Banasik, legal counsel for the Michigan Association of School Boards, told The Chronicle.

Teachers need to expect public scrutiny that comes with the job, Banasik told The Chronicle. “For better or for worse teachers have to understand they are in the public eye.”

The Muskegon Chronicle, "Teachers' Facebook pages face scrutiny in Reeths-Puffer," March 12, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, "Superintendent: Teacher behavior 'deplorable,'"Oct. 16, 2009