Our View: Hayfield's social media policy sends strong message

When officials at Hayfield Community Schools decided to craft social media guidelines for their students, Athletic Director Chris Pack inquired about policies in neighboring districts. While most have guidelines against the inappropriate use of school computer systems or Internet access, he learned that none of them had rules about students' use of personal Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts.

Peck then took the lead in creating Hayfield's new social media policy, one we hope will be emulated by other school districts in the area.

The new policy extends to all students involved in extracurricular activities, not just athletes. Photos, links and comments that are sexual, involve drugs or alcohol, or that are insulting or harassing of teammates, classmates, faculty or coaches will not be tolerated. Those who violate this policy will face suspensions from games and performances.

"Freedom of speech doesn't necessarily mean freedom from consequences," said Hayfield Superintendent Ron Evjen. And the opening sentence of the school's social media policy capsulizes the issue: "Playing and competing for Hayfield High School is a privilege."

In other words, kids might have a "right" to speak their minds online, but extra-curricular activities are a privilege that requires adherence to a code of conduct.


There will be some people who mention "Big Brother" or even the First Amendment, but we believe Hayfield is doing its students a favor. This is a lesson they'll need to learn — and the sooner the better. They'll hit the job market someday, and they won't be able to make critical comments about their co-workers or their employer without repercussions. There are situational limits to free speech, and students today who figure out the line between harmless banter and potentially offensive or hurtful remarks will have an advantage over those who do not.

We're glad that school officials won't go out of their way to actively monitor students' social media behavior, but instead will respond if something is brought to their attention. With millions of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr users, school officials won't have to be the watchdog. A student who posts a snarky comment, thinking this is "just between friends," will be woefully mistaken.

Still, the success of the policy will depend on the cooperation of parents. If they support school officials by telling their children to follow the rules — or to accept their punishment and be accountable for their behavior if they do not — then this could be a very positive move for the district.

On the other hand, there almost certainly will be some bumps in the road, especially when a star athlete, actor or musician is suspended and a disgruntled parent challenges the policy. Legal challenges even could be possible.

We'll watch with great interest to see how this plays out, but right now, we commend the Hayfield School District for taking an aggressive stance to protect its students, coaches and teachers from the kind of online harassment, bullying and complaining that can be downright toxic to a team, club, choir or even an entire community.

The Hayfield School District is implementing a new policy that will penalize student athletes, musicians and other participants in extra-curricular activities if they use social media in inappropriate ways, such as criticizing coaches or teachers or harassing teammates or fellow students. Content that is sexual or related to the use of drugs or alcohol would also violate this policy.

What's your take? Is this a policy that other schools in southeastern Minnesota should adopt? Or has Hayfield overreached its authority and intruded too deeply into students' media-driven lives?


Send your comments to Please limit your remarks to 200 words or less, and include the author's name and city of residence. We'll publish these responses Dec. 28, but anonymous comments will not be published.

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