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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021 10 months ago

Orange County Public Schools no longer will allow comments on its Facebook page

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School district officials say the measure is meant to eliminate 'contentious dialog.'
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

Orange County Public Schools officials today announced it will be disabling users' abilities to comment on the district Facebook page

OCPS officials said the decision comes after an increase in "contentious dialog" that has "devolved during the pandemic."

"While social media has never been free of contentious dialog, the level to which it has devolved during the pandemic, in particular the comments here on Facebook, has become problematic for sharing information with our core audience, the parents and guardians of our 209,000 students," OCPS officials stated in the announcement. "Therefore, starting today, we will be disabling comments."

District officials said they have received inquiries from residents asking why the district would allow behavior — including insults, anger and name-calling — on its social media accounts.

The questions caused OCPS to re-evaluate its use of social media platforms, district officials said.

Until now, other than keeping the vulgarity filter set to high, the district has not limited free speech debate or bickering on Facebook, OCPS officials said.

"We do not make a practice of deleting comments but have, on very few occasions, deleted ones that are particularly egregious," district officials said in the statement. 

OCPS also added that civil engagement is crucial to their mission, as is transparency and accountability. 

"We are grateful to parents and community members who bring questions and concerns to our attention," OCPS officials said. "However, engagement in comments has largely ceased to be civil. Individuals often encounter belligerence from others. Informational posts are taken far off topic. Vitriol is viewed as entertainment. Sincere questions and thoughtful feedback are drowned out. The tone has become unproductive at best, shameful at worst. 

"Our page is not a place for arguments or bullying, and certainly not for hostility toward other commenters who could be parents of your child’s friends, employees who work hard to educate, feed, transport and otherwise care for your child, or someone suffering a loss due to this pandemic," officials said. 

Members of the community still are invited to express their views at School Board meetings, as well as by contacting their elected officials directly. However, this policy change regarding Facebook comes one day after OCPS also changed its guidelines for attending and speaking at School Board meetings

For the complete updated guidelines and the OCPS Code of Civility, click here. 

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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