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A Must-Read Article: Board debates ethics of blogging

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  • Kristine
    From: http://www.somdnews.com/stories/033007/indytop190231_32120.shtml Board debates ethics of blogging Friday, March 30, 2007 By Jacqueline Rabe Staff Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2007

      Board debates ethics of blogging
      Friday, March 30, 2007
      By Jacqueline Rabe

      Staff Writer

      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
      take action.

      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@....
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