A policy amendment limiting what employees of Bulloch County’s public schools may include in the signature line of emails took effect Friday.
The amendment, which applies only to the “.k12” email accounts supplied by the school system, was proposed during the controversy about teachers’ religious expression that occupied much of two Bulloch County Board of Education meetings in December. Superintendent Charles Wilson then introduced the new policy at the Jan. 9 meeting, but members did not vote on it until Thursday evening.
Again there was no discussion, and the vote was unanimous, on a motion by board member Mike Sparks, seconded by member LeVon Wilson.
The new passage in the board’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy asserts that the .k12 accounts are property of the school district and are not employees’ personal accounts.
The policy further states: “The school account should be used for school matters. In using these accounts, employees should use an email signature block that includes only the employee’s name, title, assigned school, mailing address, email address, phone number and fax number. Employees should not include quotes or other personal messages as part of the signature block.”
In a Dec. 11 letter on behalf of the Board of Education, attorney Susan Cox told Jeremiah Dys of the Liberty Institute that “such a policy will ensure that no particular viewpoint is expressed by anyone using the (.k12) email system.”
The Liberty Institute, a legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in the U.S., had threatened legal action over perceived discrimination against teachers’ expressions of Christian faith. At the time, Dys told the Statesboro Herald that Cox’s letter satisfied the legal issues he had raised. But he also said he was disappointed that the board was willing to close down the forum for expression offered by the email signature block.
Also Thursday, the board unanimously approved the purchase of a computer software package, called a benchmark assessment system, from Illuminate Education for $107,320 for the first year. The system includes a databank of test items for use in creating student assessments, as well as functions for scoring the tests and tracking and analyzing students’ progress. Training for teachers is also included in the first year’s price, and continuing the service will cost $82,320 a year for years two through five.
The board discussed the system at length at its Jan. 23 workshop meeting, and administrators had reviewed several different proposals.
Thursday evening’s school board meeting lasted about 15 minutes and followed two days when the schools were closed because of the ice storm. The schools reopened Friday.
The school system had also cancelled two class days because of an ice storm warning two weeks earlier. But the state allows the schools to miss four days due to emergencies, and no makeup days will be needed at this point, said school system public relations specialist Hayley Greene.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.