PLAQUEMINE — It remains unclear whether the Iberville Parish School Board will include board members under the school system’s social media policy, which regulates how school district employees can use websites like Facebook.
What did become clear Monday night was that the board members who feel targeted by the effort have very little intention of following the rule if the policy is amended to include board members.
“If one of us breaks this rule, who’s going to chastise us?” board member Darlene Ourso said at Monday’s board meeting. “What’s going to be the punishment for us? We’re elected officials. We answer to the people. As long as we’re not defaming someone — I just see this as something we can’t police.”
“When an article is published in the newspaper and I share it on social media … I have (board members) coming up and getting upset with me because of the comments people make under it,” board member Pam George said. “I can’t control that, but that’s happening.”
Monday marked the second time a fiery discussion about social media dominated an otherwise tame School Board meeting agenda.
The board last month tabled the proposal to include School Board members in the district’s social media policy after Ourso argued doing so would also restrict board members from sharing information with the public.
The first discussion indicated that a post Ourso made in January regarding a board-approved measure to spend $1.5 million for artificial turf at the Plaquemine High athletic field — an expenditure she opposed — is what ignited the effort to amend the policy.
School officials said several board members were tagged in Ourso’s post, which encouraged Iberville Parish residents to contact the board members in their respective districts.
Board members pushing the effort to amend the policy previously said they felt bullied by what Ourso did.
George said she has also shared items that board members didn’t like. In an interview with reporters after Monday’s meeting, she said she doesn’t intend to stop using social media even if the policy is changed.
The administration Monday night was in the middle of a comprehensive overview of the district’s policy, which was also presented to employees in August, when George questioned why the review was even taking place.
“I understood it being the problem of adding School Board members to the policy. I was expecting you to come here and tell me the changes (the executive committee) made to this policy,” George said to Personnel/Instructional Coordinator Brandie Blanchard. “I’m ready to discuss the policy we are trying to pass or vote down.”
But Blanchard explained that committee members thought it was important she review the policy first with the full board since so many questions concerning what people could and could not post on social media were brought up during the first discussion.
Several board members on Monday expressed interest in having the policy also cover board members because they feel they should be held to the same standard as the district’s employees.
“Because I’m a School Board member that makes policy, I think it’s important for us to follow them, too,” board member Chris Daigle said. “Who’s going to police us is not the issue.”
“I don’t know why we’re spending so much time on this when we need to be educating our kids instead of talking about what’s being posted on social media,” Ourso said.
Board President Pauline “Polly” Higdon, in an interview before Monday’s meeting, said she didn’t know when the item would come back up for a vote.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.