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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco School Board member still has concerns about classroom photos

After months struggling to come up with an adequate policy on photos taken in schools, the Pasco School Board this week quietly adopted language in its code of conduct that still didn't sit well with all the members.

A proposal that would have required students to get consent from each person who might appear in a picture before taking or publicly using it failed to win support. The board sent staffers back to the drafting table to make revisions.

The latest language simply states: "The use of cameras in any type of electronic device is strictly prohibited in specific areas where privacy or confidentiality may be compromised, including but not limited to locker rooms, restrooms, and clinic."

Board member Alison Crumbley was less than impressed. She called for more controls.

"I am uncomfortable still with the wording," she told her colleagues. "I would prefer that we don’t allow the cameras to be used in the classrooms. I just don’t see the place for it."

Technology can enhance education, Crumbley continued. But let teachers make specific assignments for photos and then allow cameras in those given instances, rather than leaving the door open for abuse, she suggested: "We just don’t know where all of this is going."

Other board members pointed to a different section of the "personal electronic devices" rule and said it should suffice. It reads: "Personal Electronic Devices (PED’s) (which includes any electronic device with a power button and/or battery, but are not limited to, cell phones, text messaging devices, MP3 players, computers, tablets, PSPs, radios, electronic games, cameras, etc.), which are deemed to be potentially disruptive, shall not be activated or used during or at any District School Board of Pasco County school or campus, at any school function, or on any school sponsored transportation, unless the student is given explicit authority to do so, by a school official."

"I do think we have the control there," board vice chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said, sounding unwilling to implement a photo ban. "I know of numerous instances where it is appropriate to use the camera."

Board attorney Dennis Alfonso offered faint support for the rule, saying it gives the district some latitude in enforcing the use of electronic devices while leaving some permissiveness intact. Still, he cautioned, regulating such use could remain problematic.

On that, board member Allen Altman agreed. He suggested that the entire policy appeared unenforceable from a practical standpoint, and proposed that the district have all students and parents sign a document indicating they understand that if they inappropriately post or use photos or other content from school on sites such as Facebook, consequences could follow. At the same time, he added, they must acknowledge that the district cannot control social media.

District staff said they would work on a usage agreement for parents and students.

Despite such efforts, Crumbley remained unconvinced. She said she would monitor what happens and push for continued amendments to the code of conduct language as needed.

"I think we still are asking for trouble on this," Crumbley said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 5:17pm]


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