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11.6.P.1 School-Sponsored Information Media
PROCEDURE PROCEDURE

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Section 11.6 - Policy

 


Dysart Unified School District values the ongoing commitment to public information about our schools, programs, and activities.  Since the media plays a key role informing our students, families, and the community, the following procedures are structured to ensure an ethical and transparent relationship with the media that respects all stakeholders.

Official Spokespersons

The Superintendent serves as the official spokesperson for the Dysart Unified School District regarding significant matters of policy and public interest.  Depending on specific issues, the Superintendent or his/her designee may designate another member of the administration or staff from the Communications and Public Relations (CPR) Department to serve as an official district spokesperson on a specific issue.

The Communications and Public Relations Department is responsible for the distribution of all news releases and official statements. As part of the District’s communications policy, staff should not distribute news releases independently and should report any media inquiries to the Communications and Public Relations Department. 

Working With the Communications and Public Relations Department

The media frequently contacts Communications and Public Relations with requests for information about the Dysart Unified School District, individual school sites, or members of the district or school communities. Often, those requests require Communications to contact various faculty and staff members to obtain that information. The Communications and Public Relations Department will work in cooperation with the staff member in responding to those requests in a timely fashion.

Faculty and Staff

Reporters should always be referred to Communications and Public Relations.  If administrators, faculty or staff are contacted by the media on any story that can be linked to the district or to an individual’s position in the district, the individual is expected to refer media inquiries to the Communications and Public Relations Department (CPR).  Faculty and staff should also notify the site/department administrator.  If appropriate, CPR will coordinate with the appropriate staff about speaking to reporters on matters related to their areas of expertise, events, and teaching or professional experience. Notifying CPR is important if follow-up requests are made with district staff or students to ensure a coordinated response. Additionally, such notifications allow the District to track media placement and promote newsworthy events to the community. 

It is critical that administration, faculty and staff notify Communications and Public Relations immediately about issues that have the potential to generate media inquiries or interest.

Privacy

Personnel records and proceedings as well as student records and health care information remain confidential as prescribed by law and, thus, are not subject to public disclosure. Employees should direct all questions about confidentiality of information to their site administrator or the Director of Communications and Public Relations.

Media Guidelines

The following guidelines provide best practices for working with the media:
 
  • Request the name of the reporter, his/her media organization and contact information. Notify Communications and Public Relations by calling 623.876.7196 or emailing publicrelations@dysart.org. 
     
  • When contacted by a reporter, one should be aware that:
     
    • Nothing is ever “off the record.” Anything you say could be quoted. Avoid sharing “off the record” or “background” information if you do not wish for such information to be published or attributed to you.
       
    • Limit your responses to areas within your area of expertise or responsibility.
       
    • Be collegial with regard to colleagues or other institutions or organizations.
       
    • When contacted by telephone unexpectedly, you can ask for time to prepare a response.
       
  • When participating in a district sanctioned interview:
     
    • Be sure you understand a reporter’s question before answering. If you feel you cannot answer or are uncomfortable, tell the reporter that someone who can provide the information will contact him/her as soon as possible. At that point, contact Communications and Public Relations with your concerns and the contact information for the reporter. 
    • Never answer with “no comment.”
       
    • Remember that in responding to the media, you can be seen as representing and speaking for the District. Personal opinions should be clearly and carefully identified as such.
       
    • Never “guess” or speculate when asked a question. While it is important not to underestimate a reporter’s intelligence, make sure the reporter understands your responses. Be willing to provide the Communications and Public Relations phone number and/or e-mail address for follow-up questions.

Crisis Communications

Accuracy when communicating in a crisis situation is critical to preventing over reaction, high anxiety and confusion.  Additionally, a crisis situation can have a lasting impact on a school or department. Therefore, it is important that we relay information to the media in a crisis situation with extreme care.
 
When information is released, every effort must be made to avoid misunderstanding, misinterpretation or panic. Once a misconception takes root, it is difficult and often impossible to make a full correction. 

In the event of a major crisis on campus, it is essential that an effective communications plan be put into effect to disseminate timely, accurate information and to ensure that inquiries are routed to the appropriate sources.

Communications and Public Relations and Student Services, working in conjunction with district leadership, is responsible for developing and distributing all Dysart Unified School District communications during a campus emergency. Such communications may include internal communication with students, faculty and staff as well as interactions with the media. During a crisis, Communications and Public Relations will place priority on communicating with the media and will provide complete, accurate and confirmed information about the emergency situation and the District’s response. 

In the event of an emergency, the district website will be used to update the public with details about the situation and the district's response. All communications on the website will be replicated for staff, parent, and community updates through email, autodialers, social media, and text messaging.

During a campus emergency faculty, staff and students have a right to not speak with the media. The media has access only to the public areas outside of our school sites and must remain off campus unless access is coordinated with the Director of Communications and Public Relations. Any situations where individuals feel a reporter has abused their rights should be reported to the Director of Communications and Public Relations.