Lower Merion School District Ponders Social Media Presence

The district is considering expanding its Internet presence beyond a website and a district Twitter account to the most popular social media website, Facebook.

For technologically savvy students like Robbie Warsaw, a Lower Merion High School sophomore, keeping up with school news isn’t an issue. Taking advantage of the computer provided by the school’s 1-to-1 laptop program, Warsaw says he gets most of the school news from the Lower Merion’s school website, which, by default, is configured as a homepage on all 1-to-1 laptops. In addition, the school’s Twitter account @LowerMerionSD has attracted over 500 followers since it launched last year and is used to communicate district activities, sporting events and student club announcements.

[LMSD School and Community Relations Director Doug] Young said the account has been helpful since a multitude of key communicators stay in-touch via Twitter. The community relations director added that the number has plateaued somewhat, which is why the policies are undergoing review.

Aside from announcements, current policy bans abusive, defamatory and obscene messages, orders the upholding of students’ privacy regarding legal information and requires employees to refrain from making jokes.

Still, the Lower Merion School District is struggling with the question of how to keep in touch with community members less technologically savvy than students like Warsaw.

The question is an important one the district’s policy committee is currently exploring. LMSD School and Community Relations Director Doug Young says the district is looking into new policies concerning social media as it gets ready to update its website. Initial guidelines were created under the district’s communication policy last year when the school launched its Twitter account.

The new social media policy initiative arose out of the desire by the district to expand its Internet presence. One of the proposals being considered is creating its own Facebook page. However, the discussion on this was temporarily shelved to give the district’s communication department an opportunity to study the ramifications further. The issue mainly seems to be the one of relevance. Does the district have the resources to maintain the page with up to date information in order to keep it relevant? As Young explained, if the students don’t see it being updated for three or four days, they won’t consider it useful.

”You have to use it in an appropriate and consistent manner,” Young said. “It becomes a full time commitment on some level for someone on staff.”

Young added that monitoring a Facebook page for derogatory comments, making sure no one is breaching privacy or posting inappropriate content are also concerns in terms of consistency. For example, when staff members are occupied with writing the curriculum or dealing with everyday duties for running the school district, Facebook maintenance could become a lower priority.

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