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Grand Rapids Public Schools get new social media policy

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The Grand Rapids School Board unanimously adopted yesterday a new policyto regulate employees’ use of social media.

The policy holds employees accountable for posting inappropriate content on social media and includes a list of examples.

The policy encourages employees to not “friend” or otherwise communicate with students using personal social media and personal email accounts.

“We wanted to make sure that our staff members know we are public servants, that what is posted on social media is something we need to be very sensitive to,” said John Helmholdt, spokesman for the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“Employees shall use social media in a way that represents them and GRPS in a professional manner. Employees shall exercise caution and sound judgment when using social media sites. An employee’s online activities, even while off-duty or off-site, has the potential to result in disruption to the educational environment or workplace. Such disruption may be a violation of GRPS policies or the law,” the policy states.

“Our lawyers drafted this so it was a catch-all,” Helmholdt said. “And that as incidents may arise and a concern that’s raised, we have a policy that captures everything, and then at that point, we would address every incident on a case-by-case basis.”

Penalties for violation of the policy would be the same as in any disciplinary action, Humboldt said, and could include the full range of discipline, including termination.

According to Helmholdt, there is a bill pending in the state Legislature (H.B. 4791) that would mandate school districts to adopt social media policies.

“We wanted to get out  front of it,” Helmholdt said. “And so we researched the best practices, the best policies, and this is how we developed this policy.”

The School Board was not motivated by any specific problem incidents, according to Helmholdt.

Hemholdt said that the policy has not been controversial and that the district has not received any objections or expressions of concern about the policy.