School board approves technology security policy; pushes back vote on social media

The Howard County Board of Education last week approved an updated policy on technology security, but pushed back a vote on two other technology policies in order to combine them.

At its meeting June 13, the board sent the policy on acceptable use of technology and the new policy on social media use back to school system staff to combine and prepare the two documents for a vote on June 27.

Board members argued that, for efficiency purposes, a policy regulating the acceptable use of social media in the school system should be included in the larger policy on acceptable use of technology.

"I recognize the point that if it's all in one, there's less likelihood of having conflicting information, but taken to the extreme, everything should be in one policy," said Board Chairman Frank Aquino. "That's not going to work either."

While Aquino said he was "on the fence" about splitting or combining the policies, the majority of board members in a straw poll supported the combination.

One point of discussion on the social media policy was brought up by student member Cole Rosenberg, who took issue over a clause that allows for staff to monitor student online activities, including social media use, "to the extent practical." Rosenberg was concerned that meant staff could monitor students' personal social media accounts outside of school.

"I'm worried about student speech created outside of this," he said.

The board conceded that online monitoring of student social media should only take place on technology and devices provided by the school system for school-related social media accounts. Personal social media accounts fall outside of the policy.

Having separate policies, board member Cindy Vaillancourt said, may make it easier for the school system to combat cyberbullying. The school system already has a cyberbullying policy, and when school system staff drafted the social media policy, language compliant with several laws, including the state's recently adopted cyberbullying "Grace's Law," was included.

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