Area school board members learn about technology, relationships and boundaries

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 9:57 am on Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CARSON CITY — Local boards of education are being advised to look at policies regarding technology, relationships and boundaries.

During the semi-annual Montcalm County School Board Association (MCSBA) general membership meeting Monday night, the members received a presentation from Derrick R. Fries, an expert witness for United States School Liaison Cases.

“(The presentation) will have area boards looking at policies and has made them aware of issues,” said Janet Ralph, president of the MCSBA.

Fries started his presentation in Carson City by talking about social networking sites such as Facebook and the difference between teachers and students using them.

In a survey question regarding how many contacts a person should have on Facebook, Fries said students answered they have about 1,000 “friends” while veteran teachers said generally less than 100 “friends.”
Fries said teachers generally use Facebook for occupational and family use, while students have an account for lifestyles and communication.

On average, school districts in the United States have no dialogue in student handbooks focusing on how social networking relates to the elevation of student outcomes or the appropriate use of technology devices as it relates to bullying, harassment and other inappropriate student behavior, Fries said. The same goes for faculty handbooks.

“Most likely, there is zero dialogue on how to appropriately communicate with students using social networking platforms,” Fries said.

Because of minimal or no guidelines in place, each teacher is left to their own decision and set of internal ethics, Fries said.

Outside of technology, Fries advised schools to look at boundaries and relationships between teachers and students as well.

Fries told the attendees about local situations regarding relationships between teachers and students.
One case included sex in the student’s home while the parents were sleeping upstairs and another incident included a teacher and student having sex in a hotel during a band festival.

“The number of cases is increasing all through the U.S.,” Fries said.

Fries said the best way to address issues such as these and preventing them from happening is when there is very little room for interpretation.

Areas that should be clearly identified include teacher to student issues, student to teacher issues, false pretense issues, technology and privacy issues, teacher behavior on and off school grounds, what is positive reinforcement and more, Fries said.

“We need to start prepping for the future,” summarized Scott Koenigsknecht, Montcalm Area Intermediate School District superintendent.

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