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LAUSD Can Now Spy on Teachers' Online Activity, Punish Them for Facebook Comments

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Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 1:15 PM
click to enlarge The Nikki Tsugranes effect.

A new policy bulletin out of Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters tells teachers -- and any other adult associated with the district -- that they'd better keep their social-media persona in check.

Actually, the new policy was put in place almost two months ago. But until the news wire mentioned it in an article today on LAUSD's hot new social-media director, it seems to have passed quietly under the radar.

Anyway -- it's about time. The need for a new social-media policy became apparent last April, when El Sereno Middle School teacher Nicole Tsugranes called a student "fat" in a typo-riddled Facebook post (ouch), and added "STOP raising lazy ass freaking kids!" as an aside to parents.

Employers have launched a war on employees' Facebook privacy the nation over. And LAUSD's new social-media guidelines, too, fall definitely on the harsher end of online policing.

A couple of the more alarming bits:

  • Users should have no expectation of privacy regarding their use of District property, network and/or Internet access to files, including email. The District reserves the right to monitor users' online activities and to access, review, copy, and store or delete any electronic communication or files and/or disclose them to others as it deems necessary.

  • Posting inappropriate threatening, harassing, racist, biased, derogatory, disparaging or bullying comments toward or about any student, employee, or associated person on any website is prohibited and may be subject to discipline.

In the bulletin, the district warns personnel about how confusing it can be to maintain one's privacy settings (LOL), and says that "postings of a serious nature" can be subject to the same punishment as "violence, bullying and threats" in the workplace.

Aka, "removal from the premises, disciplinary action and/or criminal penalties."

Damn. United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, posted a memo in response to the new policy. "Educators are held to higher standards than the rest of the working world," it says, somewhat passive-aggressively. Also: "UTLA professional staff and legal counsel are reviewing the memo."

(Today, a UTLA spokeswoman tells the Weekly that the union "does not have any comment about LAUSD's new social media policy.")

Ever since Superintendent John Deasy took over, the school district has been waging a long-overdue war on UTLA. In the aftermath of the massive Miramonte sex scandal, he has blamed the union for protecting teachers with a possible past of abusing children.

These social-media restrictions are clearly another step in Deasy's admirable quest to hold teachers responsible for misconduct. But do they go too far?

The strict new regs don't merely apply to teachers. They can also crack down on...

"... parents, parent-elected leaders of school committees, representatives and volunteers, consultants, contracted employees, walk-on coaches, child care/enrichment program providers, vendors and after-school youth services providers."

Now if only the Los Angeles Police Department would update its own policy on Tweeting photos of dead bodies and the like.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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