School officials struggle with criticism in blogs

One way to handle it, as one NY trustee did, is to go to court to unearth the identity of nasty blogger. Perhaps a more fruitful approach is to engage the blogosphere.

P>The Internet gives birth to a million opinions and facts everyday in the form of blogs. Some blogs are erudite and well-written, others on the level of schoolyard taunting. For better and for worse, school officials in the public eye often bear the brunt of criticism from unnamed and unaccountable bloggers, reports eSchool News.

One New York school board trustee recently asked the Manhattan Supreme Court to force Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who made persistent derogatory comments because the trustee refused to support funding for private, religious schools.

The suit allowed what would have been a local dispute to morph into national news stirring up the issues about blogging and free speech.

"Public debate and the fostering of open communications--particularly in the forum of public education--is not only useful, but absolutely necessary," said a recent post on the Community Alliance blog. "Though unfortunate that some would stoop to name-calling and ad hominem attacks, those in the public's line of fire must learn to either take the heat or stay out of the kitchen."

Dismissing blogging as unimportant is not the way to handle these types of issues, according to James E. Lukaszewski, chairman and president of the Lukaszewski Group, is to respond by creating "corrections and clarifications" fact sheets or web pages.

Lukaszewski recommends putting the inaccurate information and clarifying statements side-by-side, without any editorializing. A speedy response challenges false information statements, and school leaders can help keep myths from becoming accepted as fact.

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