Sometimes school districts deal with sensitive issues that attract the media's attention. Students, teachers and principals often get caught up in that attention.
But is that attention good?Alpine School District officials say not when it interrupts the learning process or violates the privacy of students. That's why the Alpine School Board has passed a new procedure establishing guidelines for media representatives in the schools.
"The district is committed to being cooperative and helpful with the news media so long as the basic rights of students are protected and the educational function of our schools is not compromised by the news-gathering activities," the policy states.
Jack Reid, administrative assistant, said the policy gives principals some direction in dealing with the media. He said several district principals requested a policy because of uncertainty about when access should be denied and when it should be encouraged, especially when media coverage involves sensitive issues.
"Basically, this just lets the principals know what procedures to follow in dealing with the media," Reid said.
Alpine, like many other school districts, has been caught up in the school prayer issue. A couple of years ago the district was involved in a controversial sex survey. On issues like these, some principals and parents have expressed concern over media coverage - especially when it involves interviewing students.
"What we're really concerned about is a student's privacy. We don't want to encourage anything that will violate that privacy or embarrass the student," Reid said.
The policy says access to the school can be denied or granted by the principal. The media may be allowed in the school when students are in a public setting. School activities and classrooms are considered public settings. Special-education and handicapped classes are not considered public.
The policy says media representatives should be denied access if it will disrupt classroom activities or cause students embarrassment and emotional stress.
"Interviewing specific students on sensitive issues may also be considered a violation of the right of privacy," the policy states.
Before interviewing students, media representatives must first meet with the principal to discuss the interview topic and questions to be asked. The principal will then contact the parents for approval or denial of the interview. If approved by the parents, the students will then have the chance to agree to or deny the interview.