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Developing Social Media Policies for Faculty and Staff

Schools and school districts are developing guidelines as reference points for faculty and staff personal use of social media. Guidelines frequently reiterate state laws and school policies relating to faculty conduct and responsibilities while reminding employees social media is not without risk, both personally and professionally, if used in the absence of an appropriate level of discretion and intent.

Many schools do not take a position on an employee’s decision to participate in blogs, wikis, and social media pages for personal use on personal time. Many schools do ask that staff not communicate with students and families regarding topics pertaining to school business and to not friend, follow, or otherwise interact with students from their personal social media accounts. Some schools have district-provided devices or district-supported technology that staff should use to communicate with students or parents, and thus avoid giving out their personal phone numbers, especially cell phone numbers.

The purpose of the policies and regulations on social media use is to prevent unauthorized access and other inappropriate activities by staff online, to prevent unauthorized disclosure of or access to sensitive information, and to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and other applicable laws. When social media postings violate the law or school policies or create a substantial disruption to the educational community and environment, administrators usually have an obligation to respond and take appropriate action, including but not limited to investigation, removal of posts, discipline, or referral to law enforcement.

Social media use policies serve as a reminder that all existing policies and behavior guidelines that cover employee conduct on school premises and at school- related activities similarly apply to the online environment in those same venues. Schools often warn that they reserve the right to monitor users’ official online activities and to access, review, copy, and store or delete any electronic communication or files and/or disclose them to others as deemed necessary. Typical policy statements cover a wide range of circumstances, including

  • ? Keeping personal social network accounts separate from work related accounts.
  • ? Not accepting invitations to non-school-related social networking sites from parents, students, or alumni under the age of 18 years old.
  • ? Not posting threatening, harassing, racist, biased, derogatory, disparaging, or bullying comments toward or about any student, faculty, or staff members.
  • ? Not posting any identifying student information including names, videos, and photographs on any school-based, personal or professional online forum or social networking website, without the written, informed consent of the child’s parent/legal guardian and the principal.
  • ? Not sharing confidential or privileged information about students or personnel (e.g., grades, attendance records, or other pupil/personnel record information).
  • ? Take any threats seriously that may be subject to law enforcement intervention, including but not limited to formal threat assessments or injunctive relief.
  • ? School employees are responsible for the information they post, share, or respond to online, and they should post a disclaimer on their website or social media pages stating that the views on the page are personal and do not reflect the views of the school where they are employed.
  • ? School employees should use privacy settings to control access to personal networks, web pages, profiles, posts, digital media, forums, fan pages, and so on.
  • ? Employees should think twice about the value of the content and consider whether or not it may potentially malign or polarize any person or group.
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