Social media and student vehicle use spark long debate

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    GUILFORD — Is Facebook a valuable teaching tool or a waste of students’ time?
    If kids can ride snowmobiles to school, why can’t they bring ATV’s?

    These two questions prompted a lengthy discussion at the Oct. 4 meeting of SAD 4 as directors wrestled with two proposed changes in school policies.
    One proposal would eliminate this sentence from the Student Computer and Internet Rules policy: “Use of chat rooms, Internet Messenger, blogs, social networks, email systems rather than First Class or creating and posting personal websites is prohibited without direct supervision of a teacher.”
    Joe Chadbourne cited several other area school handbooks that had a similar provision and said he didn’t see any reason why SAD 4 should delete theirs. “I don’t see where it (social media) has any educational value. I see it as more of a distraction,” Chadbourne said.
    Niki Fortier said that she thought “long and hard” about the current policy because it’s hard to enforce because many students are using their smartphones to bypass the school’s Internet filtering system. “I think it’s hard for teachers to police the use of cellphones during school hours, but I think there is some way it can be done,” she said.
    Board Chair Cinthia Hoak told her colleagues to remember that “we’re dealing with a whole new generation. We didn’t grow up with this stuff. This is what they know and what they do. I could guess that most kids aren’t flunking at school because they’re using Facebook during class.”
    PCSS Principal John Keane pointed out that some employers not only encourage the use of Facebook “but require it. If we shut down Facebook, we shut down part of our educational process and the opportunity to teach what the proper use of it is.”
    One of the strongest proponents of eliminating the restriction was Bruce Priest, who described Facebook as a tool “and these kids need to know how to use as many tools as they can.” Priest added that as a business owner, “I want future engineers working for me. If I need them to research some kind of beam or something, they need to use that (Facebook) to contact somebody.”
    But Chadbourne asked if there was any proof that using Facebook during the school days “was doing anything to improve our math or science scores. In my opinion: very little.”
    The proposed changes to the Student Automobile and Parking Policy would delete the sentence: “ATVs, dirt bikes or other off-road vehicles are not allowed on school grounds” and add “used according to school procedures” to the paragraph on parking regulations.
    The original ban on ATVs came about several years ago because of concerns over damage to the school grounds and athletic fields.
    Keane said that some confusion arose this year because the latest student handbook says that ATVs are allowed, which conflicts with the board policy. “There is a four-wheeler (ATV) trail that comes down near the Shell station and it’s close enough to the SAD 4 entrance that we could allow them to come in,” he said.
If the board changed the policy, Keane said that ATVs would be required to park in a designated area. “I’m neither for nor against the policy,” he added.
    Some directors were concerned about adding more types of vehicles to a sometimes-congested intersection, but Fortier said that existing policy already requires all vehicles to obey speed limits and other traffic laws. “They’d have to follow the rules of the road and park in a designated area,” she said.
    Both policies did pass the first reading and will be up for a vote at a later board meeting, traditionally held on the second Tuesday of the month.

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