A Must-Read Article: Board debates ethics of blogging
Board debates ethics of blogging
Friday, March 30, 2007
By Jacqueline Rabe
The vice chairwoman of the Charles County school board vented her
frustration Monday that another board member has been posting school
system information on Internet journals commonly known as blogs.
``I have a really difficult time accepting that what goes on in
these meetings is ending up on these blogs before it is made public
by us," said Vice Chairwoman Roberta ``Bobbie" Wise during a board
work session. ``When a member sends out that information without
being the spokesman to me, that is totally unethical."
While Wise never directly indicated which board member she was
referring to, Jennifer S. Abell is the only member who has her own
blog and actively participates on other blogs, including the
Delusional Duck and Charles County Cafe.
A blog is a Web site that can display a journal, photos and links to
other sites on a range of issues.
Abell's blog posts information and her thoughts on a range of
topics, including year-round school, board meeting summaries,
truancy solutions and the parent visitation policy.
Wise said she was ``offended" that during the Jan. 9 board meeting,
information was posted on a blog during the meeting on who was voted
as the board's new chair and vice chair. Abell said that during a
recess at the Jan. 9 board meeting, she posted the results of the
election for board leadership on the Delusional Duck blog via her
``It's expected for the media to report this information. But we
have a spokeswoman for the school system and a chairman acting as
the spokesman for the board," Wise said.
Board member Charles E. Carrington said he has no problem with
individual members blogging as long as it is done in a respectful
``Once a decision is made, it is our decision and we need to stand
by it," Carrington said, who believes a member would not be acting
as a team player if they vent on a blog after the board makes a
Board member Collins A. Bailey said since every member campaigned
last year on being more open and transparent to the public, he does
not understand how blogging is any different from televising
meetings. The school board's meetings are not televised now, but a
majority of members supported the idea during the campaign.
Abell responded by reminding members that the National Education
Association and the National School Boards Association recommend
school board members and superintendents blogging.
On Abell's blog, www.abell4edu.blogspot.com, she wrote, ``[I] want
my supporters and the general public to know exactly where I stand
on issues. It also is a vehicle for me to obtain their input."
The Education Association of Charles County, the local teachers
union and affiliate of the NEA and the Maryland State Teachers
Association, does not support blogging by members, said Bill Fisher,
the group's president.
``When you are a publicly elected official, you need to have some
decorum and be professional. ... You have a right to say how you
feel at a meeting not privately on your own blog that can be
misinterpreted," Fisher said.
For factual material being posted on a blog, Fisher said board
members already have a vehicle for getting information to the
public the school system's Web site.
Abell said she got the idea to start blogging during an NSBA
conference in Chicago last April.
``I was totally fascinated by the idea and attended a short session
on the how-to's. What a wonderful way to reach out to the public,"
Abell said in an interview Thursday.
Don Marston Jr., who unsuccessfully ran for a spot on the Howard
County school board during the last election, keeps a blog on Howard
County educational issues.
Marc Borbely, a former Washington, D.C., teacher, maintains a blog
to draw attention to the deteriorating school buildings in D.C. by
featuring photos, discussions, Web site links and a guide on how to
Wise and Fisher believe it is the right of private citizens to blog,
but board members should not be participating since the school
system already has a method of releasing information to the public.
Board member Pamela A. Pedersen asked for legal clarification from
staff attorney Eric Schwartz on a member's rights and blogging.
Schwartz told the school board that the First Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution protects a member's freedom of speech.
The local board can publicly disapprove of a specific member's
actions, but only the state superintendent can remove a member from
a school board.
``There is no way to censor a member," Schwartz said.
And since it is Abell's First Amendment right to blog, Abell said
she plans to continue with her Web journal.
E-mail Jacqueline Rabe at jrabe@....